Thanksgiving, with a Twist

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Currents.

Here’s how three institutions put a unique spin on giving thanks.

Competing for Donors’ Hearts, Through Their Stomachs
University of Idaho’s 2014 Thanksgiving card, from President Chuck Staben and his wife, Mary Beth.It’s a recipe for good stewardship. Each fall, University of Idaho President Chuck Staben and his wife, Mary Beth, send a Thanksgiving card to donors. The card includes a recipe, chosen through a competition between students in the dietetics program at UI’s Margaret Ritchie School of Family & Consumer Sciences.

A panel of judges—including a donor to the college—and Mary Beth Staben taste the dishes, which, when presented, must incorporate the Idaho Vandals nickname or school colors of silver and gold. Kathy Foss, marketing and communications manager, says it’s a lot of fun: “I get to live out my dream of being a cooking show judge. It’s awesome.”

Donors love it too—not just the winning recipe, but the link to the other students’ culinary creations. Find recipes ranging from pecan trifle to “pilgrim pizza” (a sweet and savory pie made of turkey day leftovers and cheese).

While You’re Waiting… a Word about Philanthropy
 University of Washington students recognize donors by signing thank you cards during a philanthropy education event. The foundation plies students with goodies and swag while gauging their knowledge of philanthropy. (Photo credit: University of Washington Foundation)At Purple Palooza, the University of Washington Foundation’s signature Student Philanthropy Education Program event, students sign thank you cards to donors, which are sent out at Thanksgiving, and receive a “Real Dawgs Give Back” T-shirt.

A key part of the event is the survey students take while waiting to get inside the tent of goodies. Designed to gauge students’ knowledge of philanthropy, the survey is a good conversation starter for the SPEP leaders to talk to their peers about giving back. The goal is to close the gap between the number of students who indicate philanthropy is important but don’t plan to give after graduation.

The program works, SPEP project manager Monica McDonald says, because it’s low-pressure peer-to-peer education through stewardship. “They’re thanking and learning and not feeling overwhelmed by an ask,” she says.

Better than an Apple
Thank You art, Nov 2015 CURRENTS AWWhat are you thankful for? At Oregon’s Linfield College, the student affairs staff at the Portland nursing school campus has asked students that question since 2012 and posted the responses online. A main source of students’ gratitude is the teaching staff.

A sample, from 2013’s posting: “I am thankful for faculty with a sense of humor! Their stories let us know that we aren’t the only ones [who are] a little insane. … It’s just a nurses’ thing!”

“The program is a gift to our faculty, staff, and students on the Portland campus,” says Lisa Burch, Linfield-Good Samaritan School of Nursing’s former assistant dean of students/director of student life. “We get a lot of feedback from faculty who feel it gives them a boost going into the end of the fall semester.”

The institution repurposes the list for its Latest News section on the website and on social media.

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