An MIT Alumni Association Publication

MIT 24-Hour Challenge Unites Community in Covid-19 Crisis to Support Students, Online Learning, Research

  • Brian Geer
  • Slice of MIT

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The MIT 24-Hour Challenge, the Institute’s annual day of giving, took on a new charge in 2020—helping the Institute community respond to the evolving challenges related to the Covid-19 crisis.

Held on March 12, the event occurred during the period when the Institute began assisting students with moving home and de-densifying campus. It became clear to the Challenge organizers that the day needed to be refocused to direct support to three of MIT’s most immediate and critical areas of need: student support, online learning, and research. Meanwhile, more than 60 MIT groups and programs held “microchallenges”—discrete fundraising drives—to support their funds.

When the clock struck midnight in Cambridge, this year’s 24-Hour Challenge had raised $2.95 million from 5,155 individuals. Of those funds raised, more than $82,000 went to the Student Life, Wellness, and Support Fund.

Lindsay Androski ’98, the MIT Annual Fund Board chair and an Alumni Association Board member, supported this pivot, citing it as a necessary response to the emerging public health crisis.

“Thanks to all of our alumni and friends who displayed their warmth and generosity during the Challenge. It was because of their participation that this became a moment to honor the resilience and innovation of MIT’s students, faculty, and staff—one that continues to have a helpful impact in the difficult days since.”

Thanks to all of our alumni and friends who displayed their warmth and generosity during the Challenge. It was because of their participation that this became a moment to honor the resilience and innovation of MIT’s students, faculty, and staff

Alumni and friends take on microchallenges

While the effects of Covid-19 changed the broader focus for the Challenge, donors continued to participate in the microchallenges already planned in the preceding weeks, still eager to ensure that the programs and people most meaningful to them would continue to benefit from philanthropy. Many of these microchallenges—such as those raising funds for the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP) and the BAMIT Community Advancement Program (BCAP)—bolstered educational opportunities for students and programs that strengthen diversity and inclusion.

Others aimed at boosting MIT’s research and innovation. For example, one of the Institute’s top priorities is ensuring the health of the planet. The Climate Action Policy Fund, recently established in the MIT Policy Lab at the Center for International Studies, supports MIT climate researchers in pursuing the policy implications of their work, focusing on projects with the potential to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere or remove greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.

To increase awareness and support of this work, Jerry Morrison ’77, a Course 6 alumnus, offered a tiered donor-for-dollar microchallenge for the Climate Action Policy Fund, up to $25,000. As one of nearly 300 Challenge Ambassadors, Morrison also contributed his time leading up to and through March 12, working to share the word about the event.

“The climate crisis is a large-scale problem that needs high-leverage action,” he says. “Helping MIT faculty translate their research into policy is an especially well-suited approach, so we created the Climate Action Policy Fund to support the Policy Lab’s work. To further increase leverage, I was happy to make the challenge grant and serve as the ‘ambassador’ to drum up more donations. The remarkable success at the fund’s beginning shows that many people are with us in this.”

With athletics long being considered an integral part of life at MIT, the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER) drew supporters of the Institute’s student-athletes and coaching and training staff to give a combined $204,000 that day.

G. Anthony Grant, PhD, who joined MIT as athletics director in February, believes that the community’s continued support for teams and programs during the Challenge speaks to a greater narrative.

“At that time, I was quickly growing to appreciate the level of support and connection people have to DAPER programs and our department. And it serves as encouragement for me in order to build off that support as we continue to make difficult decisions in response to the uncertain financial picture,” he says.

While acknowledging that the Covid-19 pandemic is going to affect life on campus into the fall and likely for many months beyond, Grant believes that alumni and friends jumped into action during the 24-Hour Challenge to support the strength and perseverance of MIT students, faculty, and staff.

“As we continue to navigate this new normal, our goal is to be stronger on the other end,” says Grant. “In order for us to accomplish that, we’re going to need support from our students, our alumni, our friends, and our families. Like the 24-Hour Challenge itself, it’s a team effort.”

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