Fuel the Response was the most successful crowdfunding campaign in university history. To date, the number of donors exceeds 1,500, with $1.3 million raised.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, University of Arizona leaders acted quickly to establish a fund to help students facing emergency expenses. They asked the Wildcat family to support students in need through the Fuel the Response crowdfunding campaign.
Fuel the Response was the most successful crowdfunding campaign in university history. To date, the number of donors exceeds 1,500, with $1.3 million raised. That total includes gifts from alumni couple Charles Tyler, Class of '90, and Kerry Tyler, Class of '91, whose gift created the Richard H. Tyler Student Emergency Fund, an endowed fund named in honor of Charles' late father.
Now, Fuel the Response enters phase 2, and supporters are asked to come to the aid of students who continue to need financial help. Donated funds go to students who don't meet requirements for student aid monies the university receives from the federal government. Fuel the Response gifts have helped nearly 4,200 students in this category.
"As we begin to look to a hopeful future beyond the pandemic, I am so grateful for this incredible support," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "We're doing everything we can to keep students on track as they work toward their academic goals."
Kevin Minh Chau graduated in May with the help of the Richard H. Tyler Student Emergency Fund. When he lost a paid internship, the emergency fund helped him pay for rent and utilities until he graduated and began working as a test engineer.
"I am forever grateful. I was able to focus on my schoolwork and finished strong with a 4.0 GPA for the semester," he said.
The highest areas of need have consistently been housing and food. Like the original effort, the new Fuel the Response campaign is also a fundraiser for the Campus Pantry. This time, supporters are asked to give in another area – mental health support, through Counseling & Psych Services.
"I appreciate that many of our students are resilient, but they've also endured months and months of struggle. We need to make sure they can bounce back, not only physically but emotionally," said Associate Dean of Students Chrissy Lieberman.
Students will always need help in times of individual crisis, and the Richard H. Tyler Student Emergency Fund will continue to meet that need in the long term, said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation. The fund contains the gift from the Tylers as well as gifts from supporters who have participated in Fuel the Response phase 1. Because the portion given by the Tylers is endowed, its principal remains untouched and a percentage of its value will be paid out to students each year in perpetuity, while past and present Fuel the Response gifts are given to students as soon as they're made.
The campaign is being revived because both the endowment payout for this year and the gifts made through crowdfunding are nearly depleted, and students are on a waiting list to receive help. Continued crowdfunding is the ideal way to get past this time of struggle, Roczniak said.
"Thanks to the generosity of the Tylers, the Richard H. Tyler Student Emergency Fund will always provide tremendous aid to University of Arizona students. At this moment, we have a special need to come together and get our students through what continues to be a time of immense difficulty. I encourage those who are able to join in, because it truly makes a difference to every student we help," he said.
Students apply for emergency assistance through the Dean of Students Office, which serves as the hub for a staff committee that reviews each application and makes approval decisions. The level of need hasn't diminished since this process began, Lieberman said.
"Now, it's almost across the board that students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, all areas of diversity, are experiencing some sort of financial blow because of the pandemic," Lieberman said.