On January 31, 2001, Penn officially entered the age of e-commerce by accepting its first online credit card gift. Joanna Kasirer, C’01, (shown above) was a student volunteer at the time, and remembers that first gift well. Probably because she gave it.
“As soon as we heard that the system was live, I wanted to test it out,” says Kasirer. She recalls the student volunteers being impressed by the technology, though she admits she personally never imagined how commonplace online transactions would ultimately become. “You have to remember that 15 years ago there really was no such thing as online shopping. I came to Penn from California and I didn’t have winter clothes when I got to campus. I bought my first winter coat through a catalog and I actually had to call the company and give them my credit card information over the phone. It seems so stone age now. We’ve definitely come a long way.”
A long way indeed—certainly as far as Penn is concerned. Each year since Joanna made that first gift, Penn has witnessed continuous, often dramatic increases in online giving. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the percentage of the increase of donors, dollars, or both to nearly double year-over-year. According to Jean Findlay, Senior Director of Development for School and Center Annual Giving, that trend shows no sign of slowing down. “Online giving has become so easy and so secure—it's totally revolutionized the way we think," says Findlay. "As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of that first online gift, we are amazed at how frequently our own records have been shattered.” For example, on December 31, 2015, Penn received 2,012 gifts for a whopping $1.3 million’—all in a 24-hour period.
Those numbers are especially gratifying for Findlay since many of those gifts were directed to Annual Giving. “Our first online gift—Joanna’s gift—was made to The Penn Fund, an unrestricted discretionary fund that’s so essential to bridging the gap between tuition and the true cost of educating Penn students,” she observes. “The healthier The Penn Fund, the healthier the University.”
According to Kasirer, who has grown in her giving to Penn over the years and recently endowed a scholarship, giving to Penn is a no-brainer. “Of course I’m proud of being the person behind the very first online gift to Penn. But Penn has done so much for me that giving back seems like the least I can do.”
For more information on Annual Giving, click here.