The Penn Fund organized a new campaign this week to educate students about the impact of alumni donations on student life.
The weeklong campaign, "Penn It Forward," is an extension of previous fundraising campaigns targeted at Penn seniors. It featured the Thank Penn Alumni Day on Monday, Oktoberfest for seniors on Tuesday, and Quaker Quest on Wednesday. Every class that reaches a 5% participation rate across the Penn It Forward events will receive $250 towards its Class Board budget, Penn Fund Executive Director Emily Kernan said.
The Penn Fund, which is separate from the University's endowment, receives donations from undergraduate alumni and current parents that are used to enhance the undergraduate experience.
College junior Emily Solomon, Marketing and Communications assistant at the Penn Fund, said the group began planning Penn It Forward at the beginning of the semester to help students engage with the Penn Fund and learn more about the importance of alumni donations.
"A lot of undergrads don’t know where the money is going," Solomon said. "I think that ultimately drives a lack of desire to give back to the University.”
Specifically, Solomon said Penn Fund donations are used for financial aid and for other initiatives such as improving campus Wi-Fi.
“Sixty percent of the [fund] goes to undergraduate financial aid, which was huge for me to learn," she said. "I’m on, like, full financial aid, so I think seeing that was a thing that inspired me and made me really grateful for the work all the people at the Penn Fund is doing.”
Monday's Thank Penn Alumni Day event featured a table near Locust Walk where students could write thank-you notes and send pictures to alumni who donated to the Penn Fund. Students who did so received a free canvas tote bag and stickers.
"Writing letters to alumni and trying to encourage them to donate is something that I want to help do,” said attendee Carson Sheumaker, a Wharton freshman who previously worked at the Penn Call Center.
“I know we have a lot of opportunities, and it’s because people are willing to give money,” College sophomore Jeremiah Beeler added. However, Beeler said he did not know much about the Penn Fund’s operations and specific contributions.
Kernan said almost 300 students wrote thank-you notes on Monday, and the event brought the Class of 2023 close to its 5% participation goal.
While Thank Penn Alumni Day and Quaker Quest are new events, Oktoberfest, an evening of music and German-inspired food and beer, is an annual Penn tradition. Organized by the Penn Fund and the senior class board, Oktoberfest starts the Seniors for the Penn Fund campaign, which encourages seniors to make a donation to the University.
Wednesday's Quaker Quest encouraged students to visit popular locations around campus made possible by alumni donations, including the Arch, Class of 1959 Plaza, and the second floor landing of Houston Hall. Students who visited these locations received stamps from event organizers, and those who collected stamps from at least four of the seven locations received a free Schmear It bagel.
In the future, Kernan said, the Penn Fund plans to run another campaign like Penn It Forward and may also do an event in the spring. Solomon added that the group also plans to revamp its website to make clearer how donations are spent.
Both Kernan and Solomon agreed that it is important to engage undergraduates in the donation process.
“Philanthropy doesn’t always have to be monetary," Solomon said, adding that undergraduates can contribute by volunteering and coming to events. "They are not giving financially, but they are still part of the process.”