More than $430,000 raised for MSU programs, causes and groups during second annual Giving Day

Saturday Feb. 13th, 2021

More than 1,500 donors raised $438,878 for Montana State University programs, causes and groups during MSU Giving Day, a 29-hour online crowd-fundraising event held Feb. 11-12.

MSU Giving Day, which was designed to raise support and awareness in addition to funds, shined a light on nearly 60 projects at MSU. Organizers of the event said they were deeply grateful to the 1,521 donors who participated in the second annual event.

“What a remarkable outpouring of support from so many,” said Chris Murray, president and CEO of the MSU Alumni Foundation and MSU vice president of advancement. “Even during this time of uncertainty and isolation, over 1,500 donors stepped forward to advance MSU. We are humbled and so very grateful!”

Funds raised during this year’s Giving Day surpassed last year’s total amount raised by more than $100,000, according to Nick Lonardo, vice president of the annual fund at the MSU Alumni Foundation.

“Even in the face of the pandemic and all the disruption it has caused, I was pleasantly surprised to see us exceed our fundraising total over last year,” Lonardo said. “This year donors really stepped up to support Montana State. I’m so thankful for all those who gave.”

As part of Giving Day, all MSU alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff and friends were invited to participate by making a gift during the event through the event’s website at There, donors could view the groups and projects seeking funds and choose a group or groups to receive their gift. The website also provided up-to-the-minute progress, descriptions of all the projects in need of support, social media tracking, acknowledgment of donors and announcements of challenges and gift matches. Special challenges and gift matching opportunities were announced throughout the 29-hour event to allow donors to magnify the impact of their gifts. The minimum gift amount was $10.

“I really have to hand it to all those who provided matching funds and prize money for the challenges,” Lonardo said. “Their support was absolutely critical to the success of the event, and their leadership inspired others to give. I truly can’t thank them enough.”

One group participating in Giving Day, the African Students Association, sought support for an African culture celebration. The annual event showcases different aspects of African cultures, such as dance, music and fashion from different countries on the continent. 

Bukola Saliu, a graduate student in the industrial systems and management engineering program who serves as president of the African Students Association, said the support exhibited through Giving Day was “overwhelmingly surprising.”

“It blew my mind when we checked an hour ago and we had almost $4,000,” Saliu said.

The funds will help the group promote cultural diversity and expand its annual culture celebration to showcase the cultures of various tribes represented by MSU students.

“I am truly humbled by the people's generosity,” Saliu said. “I think that was the surprising thing for me. Especially during this time of global uncertainty, where people are barely scraping by. They are still selfless and kind enough to donate. There is still kindness in this world, and we hope we can bring great joy to all with all the fun events we will be planning thanks to the generous donations.” 

Michelle Flenniken, associate professor in the MSU Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology and co-director of MSU's Pollinator Health Center, led a Giving Day effort to raise funds to support MSU graduate students who research honeybees.

She said that support for graduate student research in honeybee biology surpassed her expectations.

“I was really heartened to get donations from fellow faculty members, friends, family, community members and beekeepers,” Flenniken said. She added that she was most surprised by numerous donations received from people she has never met or likely interacted with.

“Giving Day is an excellent way to highlight MSU's honeybee research efforts and Montana's beekeepers,” Flenniken said.

The MSU Leadership Institute sought funds through Giving Day to bring world-class leaders to speak at MSU and to expand and support innovation in trainings, workshops and other leadership development opportunities.

MSU student Preston Holmgren, a senior and student associate with the Leadership Institute, said Giving Day support exceeded the organization's expectations.

“We had a goal of $20,000 and were blown away around 4 o’clock today when we reached $30,000,” Holmgren said. “We’re all shaking, it’s so incredible. We’re very grateful for it.”

The Leadership Institute also participated in last year’s inaugural Giving Day. Funds raised last year have been used to book the former president of Ireland for a virtual MSU talk in April.

“This year we hope to do something similar but also increase student mentorship projects and do more one on one with students,” Holmgren said.

MSU Leadership Institute Director Carmen McSpadden said the group truly appreciates each person who contributed.

"There was a dance of joy (in our office) for every donor,” McSpadden said. “I hope all of the MSU Giving Day donors understand the impact that their gift has on the students and their projects."

To view full results from MSU Giving Day, visit