Every October, Bascom Hill is filled with bright pink flamingos as part of an initiative called Fill the Hill, which celebrates a new wave of donations to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“The Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA) is so proud of our alumni, friends, and campus partners for making this 10-year anniversary of Fill the Hill such a success,” said Tod Pritchard, director of media relations for the WFAA.
This year, the initiative raised $421,057 from 2,789 gifts, while the initiative’s total amount raised over 10 years now exceeds $2 million. The donations help support major facets of the university and its operations, including the Chancellor’s Fund, tuition assistance, other schools within the university, the Chazen Museum of Art, affinity groups, libraries and the arboretum, among others.
Each flamingo represents “how private support helps UW-Madison maintain its excellence in education,” according to Pritchard.
“We hope the initiative brought more awareness to the university’s campus initiatives. There were over 90 areas of support during Fill the Hill this year, including annual funds for our partner schools and colleges, alumni affinity groups, alumni chapters and departments that focus on boosting student experiences,” said Mei Li Brown, the marketing coordinator for Fill the Hill.
In addition to supporting the university’s biggest needs, Fill the Hill is a huge source of Badger pride.
“The support of alums speaks to the impact the university had on them during their time here,” said Head of Library Communications Natasha Veeser. “It also shows their dedication to ensuring the university provides exceptional opportunities and experiences for current and future students.”
Additionally, this was the first year the WFAA offered a “Flamingle on the Hill” event to help educate current students on the importance of philanthropy.
“When our students graduate and become alumni, we hope they look back to when they saw flamingos on the hill and decide that it’s their turn to give back,” said Brown.
While the university as a whole benefits from this initiative, one of the main beneficiaries of this initiative is the UW Library System. The money donated this year went toward the Library Impact Fund, which allows the libraries to address needs such as hiring more students to providing more tables with electric outlets, said Veeser.
“The libraries are a central part of campus life, with nearly everyone using a library at some point, hopefully often. Having the commitment from our alums in continuing to support the libraries is a show of their commitment to the university on a larger scale,” Veeser said. “The libraries serve all students, faculty and staff and so every gift to the libraries helps to ensure that students, faculty and staff have the resources that they need in the libraries.”
Ultimately, Fill the Hill serves as an important reminder of the power of the collective in enacting change, Brown said.
“Watching alumni and friends come together to fill the hill with pink flamingos made me feel proud to be part of the Badger community,” said Brown. “The flamingos literally visualize how the power of collective giving adds up and makes a difference, which is why it’s so inspiring to be part of this legendary tradition.”