As the number of student pleas for emergency funding soared with the pandemic and ensuing economic downturn, the University of Maryland’s Student Crisis Fund turned into a revolving door of funding: As soon as donations came in, they’d be sent right back out as grants. Over $1.3 million have been distributed, helping more than 2,500 Terps pay for food, housing and other basic necessities. 

Emily ’22, whose last name is withheld to protect her privacy, received $1,000, calling it “a lifesaver, just an extra-pleasant surprise.”

“It really helped me not have to stress about one more thing on top of everything that’s been going on,” she said.

Now, as COVID-19 cases surge again, UMD hopes to build up the Student Crisis Fund, featuring it among 24 university fundraising projects that donors can support during Giving Tuesday today.

Held annually the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the global movement began in 2012 as a way to encourage people worldwide to collaborate, donate and do good. The Giving Tuesday organization reported $511 million raised online in the U.S. during last year’s event, with UMD raising more than $49,000 from 363 gifts.

“The point is not to recreate (March’s UMD-specific) Giving Day, but to be a part of a global day of philanthropy,” said Joanne Meredith, the university’s director of annual giving. “We’re trying to be in the moment because there are so many things that the world and Maryland students need right now.”

UMD’s effort began at midnight this morning and continues until 11:59 tonight, with the annual giving team and schools, colleges and units engaging constituents throughout the day through email and social media. Donors can contribute to any of the projects online.

This year’s UMD priorities—each with its own fundraising goal, which can be dollar- or donor-based—are organized into three categories. The first, Diversity and Emergency Funds, includes causes like the Student Crisis Fund, the Campus Pantry and the Nyumburu Cultural Center. The Greatest Needs category includes deans’ funds, which expand opportunities for students in their respective schools and colleges, as well as projects like the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism and support for Undergraduate Studies, the Alumni Association and the QUEST Honors Program. The last category, Scholarships and Research, features school and college scholarship funds and the Clark Challenge for the Maryland Promise, which matches gifts to support promising undergraduates from Maryland and D.C.  

“I always think about President (Darryll J.) Pines when he talks about grand challenges; when I think about these categories, I think about how they enable Maryland to address grand challenges,” Meredith said. “If there is a crisis, we need to be present and able to address the challenge. That’s what this day is about.”