National Philanthropy Week goes virtual with showcase of student talent

November 25, 2020 — To plan National Philanthropy Week, the Student Alumni Council (SAC) typically looks at the previous year’s plans and then makes some tweaks and improvements.

This year when SAC members pulled out those old plans, they discovered the plans were mostly useless, says SAC Philanthropy Chair Nameera Muhammad Dawood ’23. “We had to start from scratch for virtual programming.”

While the medium was different, the message remained the same. Philanthropy is intertwined with students’ Grinnell experiences in many ways. Through one event and multiple virtual engagement opportunities, the Student Alumni Council reinforced the four themes of philanthropy: time, talent, treasure, and ties.

“Going virtual was definitely a unique challenge,” says Mitch Wolff, assistant director of student programs. “I felt like it gave us different opportunities. We had a full outreach plan that consisted of daily emails and social media posts. We honestly weren’t quite sure how much interaction we were going to have. We were thrilled that engagement was high throughout the week. We had multiple people emailing SAC every single day to engage, which was incredible to see.”

Grant Anguiano ’23 displays his singing talents during the Open Mic festivities.

Grant Anguiano ’23 displays his singing talents during the Open Mic festivities.

National Philanthropy Day was originally conceived by Douglas Freeman in the 1980s, and the first official national events were held in 1986 after President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation. The idea behind the day is to recognize the great contributions of philanthropy – and those people active in the philanthropic community – to the enrichment of the world.

While National Philanthropy Day was Nov. 15, SAC extended the occasion to a week (Nov. 15-21) to celebrate what alumni, friends of the College, faculty, staff, parents, and their fellow students provide to Grinnell.

To demonstrate the breadth of talent at Grinnell, an open mic night was held on Nov. 19. Comedian Maya May ’99 started the proceedings with a 10-minute routine, touching on dating, student loans, and feline topics.

Students then took turns displaying a wide array of talents. Gavin Felker ’23 sang and played the guitar, Kenn Anderson ’24 performed a poem, Jackson Ferguson ’21 told a funny story about his study abroad time in France, and Grant Anguiano ’23 sang songs from his residence hall room. Michael Andrzejewski ’23 took audience members through a virtual reality game that he created. Jasper Gray ’24 performed a musical selection, and Zainab Thompson ’22 gave a short story reading.

“Everything just came together beautifully that night,” Wolff says. “Maya kicked us off. She had everyone rolling with laughter, and we had such a spectrum of talent. We had some pretty intimate moments toward the end. I don’t think I could have been more proud of the students that organized and participated in the event.”

The open mic was co-hosted by EJ Schwartz ’23 and Saketan Anand ’21, who introduced the performers. Anand also performed a song.

Maya May ’99 performs a comedy routine to kick off a virtual Open Mic event on Nov. 19.
Maya May ’99 performs a comedy routine to kick off a virtual Open Mic event on Nov. 19.

“It was high energy from the get go and the talent was really good,” Dawood says. “The chat was active, and everyone was so supportive. It felt like an evening in the dorms or a Thursday night at Bob’s Underground the way people were enjoying the talent and supporting people on stage.”

May also appreciated watching the students’ performances. She joked that she’s coming back to campus when it fully reopens to form a band with the student musicians.

“This has been delightful and reminds me what I love about Grinnell,” May said during the open mic event. “Everyone is engaged and it’s been interesting to see the difference cultures. This is what makes Grinnell, Grinnell.”

Time, ties, and treasure were also emphasized during the week. For time, SAC promoted a volunteer match program. Since students are unable to volunteer on campus, Dawood says they encouraged students to go onto a volunteer matching platform to find opportunities in their respective communities. In addition, 55 students spent time writing thank you cards to College faculty and staff.

For ties, SAC promoted the alumni directory and Grinnell Connect to help connect students with alumni. For treasure, information about why giving is important was shared along with a Q&A about the Campaign for Grinnell College. Students submitted questions regarding the campaign and Adam Laug, director of development, provided answers.

All of the emails to students during the week included philanthropy trivia and statistics. A total of 56 students won prizes for participating in the trivia. Favorite quotes from alumni were posted on the Student Alumni Council’s Instagram account all week, along with Instagram stories explaining the meaning of time, talent, treasure, and ties.

“Virtual National Philanthropy Week enlightened me that even when we do go back to a normal campus setting, we definitely need to keep up the virtual engagements because we can reach even more students with those types of interactions,” Wolff says. “Sharing the stories of how Grinnellians support each other through National Philanthropy Week helps all of us to understand how sharing our time, talent, treasure and ties makes Grinnell an even stronger and better place for current and future students.”

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Learn more about how the Student Alumni Council is fostering connections between students and alumni. Share you ties, time and talent through volunteer opportunities or share your treasure through a gift to the College.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive.