Debbie Tillotson ’78 was looking for a way to support the Corps of Cadets and engage her son and daughter-in-law in the family tradition of giving back to Virginia Tech.

She found it by becoming the first Hokie to take advantage of the Virginia Tech Foundation Donor-Advised Fund, a new way to structure gifts to the university.

“Working with the university’s Office of Gift Planning was quick and easy, and my donor-advised fund and stock transfer were handled efficiently,” Tillotson said.

Donor-advised funds allow people to receive immediate tax benefits from a making a gift and still take their time to decide which causes to support. Over the course of this decade, their popularity has grown dramatically. Across the nation, they accounted for 4.4% of charitable giving by individuals in 2010. By 2017, that had grown to 10.2%, according to the National Philanthropic Trust.

Tillotson has used her fund at Virginia Tech to support several programs in the Corps of Cadets, including an Emerging Leader Scholarship and the Corps Leadership and Military Science Building project. Her son Ian ’15 and daughter-in-law Allison ’15, both serving in the Air Force, used the fund to establish a Giving Day challenge to help motivate other Corps alumni and cadets to make gifts, too.

The donor-advised fund also proved an ideal way for Minoka Gunesekera ’13 to structure a gift of real estate to support the Cranwell International Center.

Virginia Tech supporter Minoka Gunesekera ’13
Minoka Gunesekera ’13

Gunesekera’s parents moved from Sri Lanka to Blacksburg in 1984 so her mother could earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry. They were among those cheering when the Cranwell International Center opened in 1986, and Gunesekera remembers finding a sense of community through that center as a child. Now, the Bhadra and Chrys Gunesekera Memorial Excellence Fund helps others feel equally at home.

“I caught the ‘giving bug’ and hope to inspire others,” Gunesekera said. “The process was easier than I expected, and someone walked me through it. There was this journey of thinking about what it means to leave a legacy and serve others.”

To learn more about the Virginia Tech Foundation Donor-Advised Fund, visit, email, or call 540-231-2813.


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