The stories behind Giving Day

A Giving Day record stole the headlines in May. Behind the curtain, the day’s ambitious fundraising effort was amplified through grassroots alumni groups like the Beloit Confab and an overall sense of joy and camaraderie from supporting Beloit during this 24-hour period.

Beloit’s 2021 Giving Day was full of surprises. Besides the jaw-dropping $580,000 matching gift from the Board of Trustees, and the $1.1-plus million total raised, excitement and even suspense ruled the day.

Near midnight, for instance, someone discovered that donors only represented 49 of the 50 states, launching a last-ditch effort to identify and secure the final state. It worked: A generous Arkansan filled in the remaining spot to light up the entire U.S. map with Beloit donors.

Humor also had its moment. One donor remembered the chipmunk responsible for causing a power outage during finals in 2003 and gave a gift from “the chipmunk that died so that we might party.” Likewise, a gift came from the snake that granted a similar favor to students about a decade later.

The Beloit Confab also made its presence known. This group of about 25 alumni, roughly from the classes of 1976-78, helped push the class of 1977 into the top two classes for participation during the 24-hour challenge, second only to the class of 1992. Twenty Confabbers made gifts, and many tagged them in honor of the group.

This act of generosity left more than a few people wondering: What’s the Beloit Confab?

“It all started when David Keehn’77 wanted to surprise Paul Coen’77 on his 65th birthday,” explains Margaret Manos’77.

Because of social distancing in 2020, a core group of Beloit friends could not convene in person as many had for more than a dozen years at Keehn’s family place in Connecticut. Instead, they decided to expand their group a bit and text bomb Coen with surprise birthday wishes that September.

Once the chain of phone numbers was established, the conversations kept going and growing and taking on a life of their own. That’s when Manos named the phenomenon a confab.

“Although we mostly know each other, there are people on this chain I never said a word to at Beloit,” says Manos. “And we’re having a blast getting to know one another now.” They talk about everything, from kids to college days to politics and beyond. “It’s all very friendly and casual and fun,” Manos says.

Manos moved the group to a WhatsApp chat channel so they could keep adding friends and archive their texts and photos. She also set up monthly Zoom meetings.

At one point, the Confab even hosted Beloit Provost Eric Boynton for an update on the college.

Keehn says some in the group lived together after graduating from Beloit, so it’s no surprise that some Confab conversations center on reminiscences of college and those early post-Beloit years. He credits Manos with urging the group to take decisive action to support Beloit’s financial aid program on Giving Day.

“Margaret suggested we all make a contribution if we could, and we decided to note that the gift was in honor of the group,” says Keehn.

Why the outpouring on Giving Day, specifically? “It was an obvious suggestion to make, since we were reconnecting or newly connecting, and it’s all because of Beloit, which we feel so fondly about,” says Manos. “Everyone loved the idea of giving in honor of our group. We’re all so grateful to Beloit for so many things, not just this Confab.”

Keehn seconds that sentiment.

“All of us are devoted Beloiters,” he says. “It’s fair to say that we’re really grateful for the broad educational experiences we had at the college and the friends we’ve made.”

By: Susan Kasten
July 11, 2021

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