Skip to content
A Day That Keeps on Giving
Michelle Strickland
One Day. One KU. celebrates five years of bringing Jayhawks together

The seedling of an idea for a 24-hour giving day for KU has blossomed into a successful annual event that provides essential support and unites Jayhawks for a common cause — to build a greater University of Kansas.

One Day. One KU. celebrated its fifth year on Feb. 17, 2022. From the beginning, the day exceeded fundraising expectations, and to date, the five giving days have raised a combined total of almost $10 million from approximately 18,000 gifts.

Jessica Roberts was part of the Annual Giving team at KU Endowment in spring 2017 when she pitched the idea for a 24-hour giving day. She’d seen other institutions succeed with the concept, and she knew KU could, too.

To get buy-in from university and KU Endowment leaders, she researched peer institutions’ processes and results and learned what worked and what didn’t.

“I was able to incorporate that research and best practices into my pitch to leadership,” Roberts said. “That helped a lot, to see that other institutions are doing it and having success, and this is why.”

The first One Day. One KU. in February 2018 brought out a range of emotions for the KU Endowment and university team members who made it happen: excitement, enthusiasm, anticipation — and fear.

“There was a lot of anxiety,” Roberts said. “I knew we had a good team in place and a solid plan, but it was a wait-and-see situation to see how Jayhawks would respond.”

And respond they did. The first event raised more than $730,000 and started the ball of generosity rolling. In 2022, the day raised more than $3 million in 24 hours.

Two factors have had a distinct impact on the day: match and challenge opportunities and ambassadors.

Matches allow donors to increase the impact of their gift to a featured giving opportunity as their donation is matched dollar for dollar. Challenges inspire donors to make a gift in order to unlock another, often larger gift. Matches and challenges come from university friends, alumni and faculty, among others.

In 2018, there were 53 match and challenge opportunities to stir donors’ generosity. That number grew to 134 in 2022. In 2022, 26 vice chancellors, deans, directors and department chairs joined Chancellor Douglas Girod in creating matches and challenges for One Day. One KU. that benefit all areas of the university.

“The matches and challenges really inspire people,” Girod said in a virtual meeting with donors during the 2022 giving day. “I believe as a leader of an institution, if you’re not willing to invest in the institution, why would you expect others to?”

Ambassadors use their connections to build excitement, share information and encourage gifts. Garney Construction founders Charles and Patty Garney are Kansas City, Mo., residents, and Charles is receiving treatment at the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC). Patty participated as a One Day. One KU. ambassador for the first time in 2021, tapping into her extensive network of friends, family and business colleagues to drive support for the ADRC.

Her encouragement paid off. Among the many gifts given through Patty’s network, donors Dave and Jamie Cummings gave a $1 million gift, the largest single gift in One Day. One KU. history.

The Garneys returned in 2022 with the Charles A. Garney Alzheimer’s Opportunity Fund challenge to support the ADRC.

“It is such an exciting day — not just for Alzheimer’s and the Research Center, but for all of KU and its many branches of education and the opportunities we have for giving,” Patty Garney said. “I’m very pleased Charles and I can be a small part of that.”

Planned Giving’s role also grew in 2022. A record $180,000 in gifts were made through donors’ qualified charitable distributions from their individual retirement accounts.

KU Law alumnus Christopher “Kit” Smith and his wife, Diana, made a $100,000 gift to support scholarships for students in the KU School of Nursing. Diana’s mother was a nurse, and the importance of the profession stirred the Smiths’ desire to help fund nursing education.

Kit Smith said making a gift through the required distribution of his retirement account was an easy decision. It’s a gift with tax advantages that also is a fantastic benefit to KU.

“It’s a win-win in how beneficial it is,” Smith said. “I am fortunate to have more than I can use in my retirement accounts. If I am mandated to take a certain amount from those accounts every year, it’s amazing to be able to give $100,000 as a gift to KU.”

Rhonda Gillespie, senior coordinator for Annual Giving, has helped lead One Day. One KU. since 2021. One of her favorite aspects of the day is how it highlights smaller initiatives at the university.

“On One Day. One KU., a participating unit like the Dole Institute of Politics can showcase their goals and initiatives and have the same amount of exposure as the bigger schools, like Engineering and Law,” Gillespie said.

Year after year, One Day. One KU. has provided a snapshot of how much KU means to many people. It lives with them every day, long after they leave campus.

“It’s formative,” Gillespie said. “That’s one of the reasons people keep coming back to it and saying, ‘Yes, this is worth it.’”

HIGH-FIVE: On One Day. One KU., Jayhawks from around the world come together to show their KU spirit and support — even the Academic Jay in front of Strong Hall joins in for the day.
Kerry Glasgow / KU Endowment


Total amount raised — $9,993,226 / Total number of gifts — 17,974


Chancellor Douglas Girod and former chancellors Bernadette Gray-Little, Del Shankel, Gene Budig and Archie Dykes contributed $10,000 for student scholarships when the campaign reached 1,000 gifts.



KU followers on Instagram voted on photos of KU supporters. Winner Donovan Miller gave his $250 prize to the KU Jazz Studies Program. “They have done so much for me, so that’s where I’d like to send my donation,” Miller said on Instagram.



The first One Day. One KU. pet photo contest awarded prizes that pet owners donated to their area of choice. The first-place winner of the Instagram contest was Phog, the mini goldendoodle. He and his owner, Kayla Willis of Lawrence, Kan., secured a $250 gift for scholarships in the School of Education.



Dave and Jamie Cummings gave a $1 million gift to the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, the largest single gift given on One Day. One KU. to date.

Monarch Watch, a nonprofit butterfly conservation organization based at KU, received more than $50,325 through 782 gifts in their second year of participation.



Among the 134 matches and challenges were new ones created this year, including:

  • The Thrive Food Pantry at KU Medical Center by Robert and Kelly Simari.
  • The Mary J. Reed Nurse Navigation Program Fund by Robert Hunter.
  • Native Student Success Initiatives by Jack Mills and Susan Lominska.
Current Issue
Issue 38
Spring 2024
In this Spring 2024 issue, we meet faculty and student researchers who are uncovering clues about how organisms change, learn about exciting brain health developments at the KU ADRC, experience a unique study abroad program and get to know inspiring KU students, faculty and alumni.
Latest Articles
A New Narrative for Brain Health
No Longer Worlds Apart
A Hub of Discovery
Subscribe to Communications

You’re invited to help us create a future where students have uncommon educational experiences, researchers make life-affirming discoveries, and together, we change the world for the better. Ever Onward we go into a future of infinite possibilities.