Notre Dame Day hits record-highs in viewership, gifts
Kelli Smith | Wednesday, April 25, 2018
At 18:42 military time Sunday, a live broadcast showcasing Notre Dame students, alumni, faculty and friends through a variety of interviews, performances and events kicked off for 29-straight hours.
The broadcast’s start time was symbolic — Notre Dame was founded in the year 1842. And after nearly 176 years of generation after generation making its mark on the University’s history, the fifth-annual Notre Dame Day strived to reconnect the Notre Dame family by sharing campus stories while raising funds for student and alumni groups with a direct impact on students.
With its official close Tuesday morning, Notre Dame Day program director Pablo Martinez, a 2011 graduate, said the event hit record-highs by accumulating over 115,000 views on the broadcast’s website alone and over 31,500 gifts totaling over $2.1 million.
“When it was all said and done there were 880 groups that had a stake in Notre Dame Day,” Martinez said. “ … Our goal is to tell the Notre Dame story more broadly [and] get more people to realize yes, you can have an impact with a gift because that really impacts the group.”
According to the percentage of votes an organization received over the course of the 29 hours, a $1.1 million University challenge fund was divided to add to the donors’ gifts and encourage competition between different groups, Notre Dame Day’s website said.
Every initial $10 donation made to an organization featured on Notre Dame Day’s website counted for five votes, while every subsequent gift from the same donor counted as one vote, assistant director of volunteer leadership Ellen Roof, a 2015 graduate, said. By limiting the number of additional votes, Roof said the program pushed for involving a broader audience of people.
“Other than the freshmen, everyone on campus has experienced a Notre Dame Day now, so all the student groups are already counting on that budget money and they know how big of a difference that funding makes,” she said.
In addition to increased viewership and funding, Martinez said more groups leveraged the resources given to them to market their campaigns and communicate their messages to alumni more effectively.
“We probably consulted with 200 groups individually across the board, [and] that includes our Alumni Association groups, that includes the centers and institutes, that includes the dorms and that includes all the student groups and clubs from [the Student Activities Office],” he said.
The stories featured were captured year-round through submissions or “any University communication” that signified the Notre Dame message of being “a force for good,” Martinez said.
“We want to share a few laughs, we want to show you some incredible stories and we might even shed a tear or two,” he said. “ … You’re trying to engage the entire Notre Dame family, so you’re talking about your grandpa 1961 alum who’s in Florida to the 2016 [graduate] who’s in Chicago. How do we give something that will entertain everything? … So we try to be very balanced in our approach.”
The organizers found that balance, Martinez said, with over 200 live interviews, 40 performances and competitions such as an Observer-sponsored lip sync battle and the “Fighting Irish Forty,” in which students representing different dorms raced in a 40-yard dash.
According to the program’s schedule, other keystone events included interviews with Masters Champion Patrick Reed, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year Lindsay Meyer and four-star admiral and 1984 graduate Christopher Grady as well as performances by former Celtic Woman artist Chloe Agnew and four members from the cast of “Hamilton,” amongst others.
“There’s so many different things that we try and broadcast,” Martinez said. “And those are all clipped and featured as little mini segments on the website now, so all these student groups can then grab those videos and say, hey this is what we do or this is a cool story and they can use it going forward. So it just doesn’t end on Notre Dame Day, they can tell their story on any other venue that they’d like.”
The Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund — a non-profit organization seeking a cure for rare neurological disorder Niemann-Pick Type C — received the most from donors with 4,445 votes and over $38,900 raised, according to the program’s website. Saint Edward’s Hall, Rowing Club, Financial Aid and the Boler-Parseghian Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases occupied the next four slots on the leadership board, respectively.
The Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund, Saint Edward’s Hall and Rowing Club landed in the top five slots for the second year in a row. Martinez and Roof said these groups see consistent success by investing more time and effort into Notre Dame Day throughout the entire year.
“I think these groups also do a great job of thanking everyone after the fact and keeping everyone up-to-date throughout the year rather than just waiting until next year to hit them up again,” Roof said. “So these alumni still feel like they’re involved and they’re still actively aware of everything that’s happening, so that’s why they’re definitely willing to go above and beyond in terms of giving back and also sharing their message.”
For the first time, Martinez said last year’s top 100 groups with the most votes received an invitation to the Dahnke Ballroom in the Duncan Student Center to represent their organization in the broadcast and spend more time with Notre Dame Day staff to work on marketing strategies.
“We have this idea where you can make a gift and then you get votes and it’s this fun competition,” Martinez said. “It’s very much a pride thing for a lot of groups … [some] don’t even know what they’re going to do with the money. And that’s the first thing we tell them is: What’s your plan, why are you doing this?”
Another significant change, Martinez said, was the broadcast’s main location in the Duncan Student Center instead of LaFortune Student Center.
“[Duncan Student Center] was such a better venue,” he said. “I think students could watch and enjoy the broadcast that they wanted but they could also just go around the corner and study, and they could. LaFortune was too small of a space to do that, you were either there watching the broadcast or you had no place to go.”
Overall, Martinez said Notre Dame Day is a fun way to share the impact funding can have on students while connecting alumni with students in the greater Notre Dame family — which is the program’s ultimate goal.
“Alumni like being nostalgic,” Roof said. “People consistently write back [to the dorm emails] and they’re reminiscing on their days, they’ll cc all their old friends from their section and it’s kind of fun. So that’s always great to see those positive memories come back as people remember their time as a student.”
Though other schools may raise more money on their giving days, Martinez said, Notre Dame is different in that it doesn’t target a select few people who can give out million-dollar gifts.
“The numbers speak for themselves — 31,000 gifts, as far as we know that’s a higher education record,” Martinez said. “But that’s not why we do it. … We say we want everyone to have an impact so we can show you the collective impact of what it means to have a collective impact. That’s why we have a Notre Dame Day.”