Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Nothing but net

The most memorable wins happen in overtime. Consider March Matchness, the Wheaton Fund’s initiative to increase annual giving participation among alumnae/i of the last two decades.

Inspired by the annual NCAA basketball tournament, the Wheaton Fund pitted graduates in odd-numbered class years against their peers in even-numbered classes, to see who could generate more gifts while working to reach a collective total of 1,000 donors in a month. If they reached that goal, Wheaton would receive a $200,000 challenge gift—$200 for every donor who gave.

At the March 31 “buzzer,” the score was close, but the total stood shy of the goal, at 800 donors. A one-week overtime period ensued, and the Wheaton Fund threw in an extra carrot, promising a drawing for a new iPad 3, if the goal was reached.

“We secured over 200 new donors in five days,” said Amanda Angel, director of the Wheaton Fund, “and finished the challenge with 1,027 donors.” The odd-numbered classes narrowly won bragging rights, with a final score of 519 to 508.

“We have had an amazing response to the March Matchness giving challenge,” said Matthew Strekel ’03, a co-captain for the “winning” team and a member of the Annual Giving Committee. “Friends and classmates contacted me through text and Facebook to say what a great initiative this w

as. And a few friends who haven’t given in a number of years said they were finally giving because of the incredible match that was offered.”

Jennifer Jenkins Devlin ’93 said the challenge caught her attention “because it was fun, not just the standard fundraising letters we get by the truckload. I am competitive, so I liked the game aspect as well.” Daily updates on the college’s website and weekly emails kept alumnae/i up to date on the ”score.”

The challenge also incorporated some new technology: giving by text, which proved to be quite popular for making instant $10 gifts. “I loved the texting aspect. It was a lot easier than pulling out the credit card or checkbook,” said Emily Firment ’11.

The enthusiastic response of alumnae/i means that the competition may become a March tradition, added Molly Galler ’06, co-captain for the even-numbered classes and a member of the Annual Giving Committee. “It’s a race against the clock, and there is something about that race that’s thrilling.”