Susan Zabriskie

For Susan, it’s exciting to support a student group whose mission is to show kindness to their classmates.

Susan Zabriskie (A.B. Economics, 1979) is so dedicated to engaging young people in philanthropy, she’s made it a part of her life’s work. As a proud LSA alum, she’s also enthusiastically loyal to the University of Michigan. For decades, she has made yearly annual gifts to everything from both need- and merit-based student scholarships to faculty support, athletics, and the economics department. 

This Giving Blueday, Susan is excited to support two things she loves about U-M by providing a $1,000 match for gifts made to the LSA student organization Gifts of Kindness Ambassadors (GoK), for the second year in a row.

Gifts of Kindness Ambassadors is a student advisory board, with membership open to LSA undergraduates, that is dedicated to offsetting the unexpected costs of an undergrad education by awarding microgrants to fellow LSA students. GoK’s mission is to help cover some of the surprising costs that can present barriers to maximizing the liberal arts experience at U-M—incidental costs like graduate admissions test prep fees, study abroad enrollment fees, costs associated with a summer internship, laptop repair or replacement, and conference registrations. GoK grants vary in size, but most are less than $300.

Susan’s commitment to Gifts of Kindness embodies the spirit of Giving Blueday: With her match, she’s making it possible for students to pay it forward and give their peers a hand up by making other donors’ gifts go further.

“All gifts matter, no matter their size,” she says. “My own personal passion is growing young donors and I’m delighted to be a part of this effort to help students continue to do good work."

GoK Ambassadors Dana El-Khatib, Chris Young (GoK Chair), and Celia Gold

Filling in the Financial Gaps

GoK is a relatively new student organization. They’ve been around for less than ten years, and they’re still raising awareness for their mission on campus. Senior Chris Young, chair of the GoK advisory board, has been involved with the organization since his first year on campus. He and the other members are focused on recruiting more LSA undergrads to join the advisory board this year, so that GoK can continue to fill in the financial gaps for their classmates.

“The idea of a student philanthropy organization that is purposely open-ended is unique. The small things that we provide funds for are hard to define, hard to anticipate,” says Chris. “There are so many area-specific or topic-specific grants through U-M, but this is one you can turn to for emergency needs.”

Gifts of Kindness hopes to increase their gifts on Giving Blueday this year by participating in hourly and daily challenges, and they’re grateful that Susan renewed her match commitment. 

“Susan’s Giving Blueday match last year made a huge impact,” Chris adds. “We’re a small organization, and rely on word-of-mouth and our own networks for most of our fundraising. Thanks to her, we were able to help the same number of students even though our membership was smaller. We’re looking forward to another successful Giving Blueday with her on our team.”

Susan and Chris agree that one of the best things about Gifts of Kindness is that all students benefit, whether they’re on the giving or receiving end—or somewhere in the middle. 

“When we can get younger people to make a habit of giving, it starts a lifelong tradition with the potential to make an even bigger difference. They get to see the benefits of their giving firsthand,” says Susan. Thinking of Gifts of Kindness, she notes, “Helping your peers is clearly a pay it forward situation—especially if you never know if you might be in that type of situation.”

“It’s amazing when you see that it’s not just alumni donors, or someone you may never meet, who are helping to provide what you might need,” adds Chris. “It could be the person that you’re sitting next to in class. What that does for a campus climate is really powerful. That’s tangible evidence that students care about each other.”

You can help Gifts of Kindness Ambassadors meet their Giving Blueday goals!