In just over a month, the University of Fraser Valley has been able to raise over $83,000 for financially struggling students by reaching out to staff, faculty, donors, alumni and surrounding communities.
The Student Emergency Fund, the university’s the safety-net mechanism typically in place for struggling students, could not handle the “unprecedented” need stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Anita Nielsen, UFV’s executive director of advancement and alumni relations.
“What we had in our fund was not going to cover the need,” Nielsen said. “Up until now, the fund has really just been an internal system supported by staff and faculty.”
The university started to rethink ways to grow the fund during a discussion at an emergency operations committee, according to Nielsen.
“One of the members… suggested that since staff were now working remotely, we could ask them to redirect their parking fees [to the emergency fund],” she said. “We put that out to staff and we had a really great response.”
Starting on April 1, UFV put out a call to help through social media, appealing to the public.
The donations spiked on Giving Tuesday – an annual decade-old-grassroots charity event with over 7,000 participating organizations, created in response to the enormous spending on Black Friday in the U.S.
“It’s always the Tuesday following American Thanksgiving, [but] the organizers decided to change the date to May 5 in response to the pandemic,” Nielsen said. “We had a lot on social media about it, and then we sent an email out to everyone that’s in our sphere – our alumni, our donors and a number of people that are connected to the university.”
Nielsen said donations have continued to flow in since, and they have exceeded their initial goal of 200 donors.
“I’m happy to tell you that since we sent out our thank yous, we’ve had another outpouring of donations and today (May 7) we got a gift of $10,000 from Auguston Development,” she said. “It’d be great if we could hit $100,000.”
The fund is distributed through UFV’s financial aid department and handled similar to a bursary. The aid is open to all students registered in at least two courses, who are able to demonstrate their financial need.
“I’m just so grateful to the community, to everyone that has supported us during this time,” Nielsen said. “It’s a difficult time for everyone, so the fact that people are giving so generously is incredible, and we’re very appreciative.”