LILIKAS: Media should redefine Dance Marathon philanthropy
Opinions Column: Digital Canvas
Just last year, our University thought it broke school records when we managed to raise close to $700,000 for Dance Marathon and the Embrace Kids Foundation. Because this is the largest student-run philanthropic event in New Jersey, the majority of students know that Rutgers University's Dance Marathon's mission is to provide support, both financially and emotionally, to families with children who have cancer, sickle cell and other possibly life-threatening disorders. From year to year, we continuously surpass the amount raised previously, so the future of the Rutgers University Dance Marathon just keeps getting brighter and brighter. It became clear this year that this Dance Marathon would be the one to break all of our former records by a landslide. The alumni alone raised more than $80,000. Looking back, we have made momentous progress from 1999 when Dance Marathon first hit the ground running. Our Dance Marathon forefathers raised about $43,000, an amount that now looks like just a few cents compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars we just raised. And this number just continues to increase by the thousands every year, evidently, considering this year’s RUDM brought in more than $912,000 — this is $220,000 more than 2015’s total. Whether you danced in a 12-hour shift or for the full 30 hours, Rutgers Dance Marathon is an event that people have grown to anticipate from the beginning of the year. So what has changed from 1999 to 2016 that has raised the cause’s awareness and allowed our school to raise nearly $1 million in a year? But in the same question, why hasn’t our Dance Marathon been able to compare to THON that occurs at Pennsylvania State University?
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are just some of the online platforms that the organization utilizes to spread fundraising awareness, all sites that, as millennials, we are hyper-aware of. People love DM and love to spread the word. Seventeen years is a lot of time for worldly improvements, especially in the realm of social media. However obvious it may seem, though, social media can be looked at as one of the main reasons why donations have become so easy to collect. From 1999, we have gained so much technologically that donating only takes a few clicks and can even be done over Facebook. Social media encourages conversation and sites like Twitter and Instagram are great tools for promoting a social mission, like raising money for the Embrace Kids Foundation. Dance Marathon has definitely created a dependable, sound community of philanthropists, all with the same objective. New technology platforms have broadened Dance Marathon’s horizons beyond just students and the close family and friends that are typically asked to donate. My main concern, however, is our inability to go beyond six-figure digits in fundraising.
With more than 40,000 undergraduate students, about 450 student organizations and contributions coming from alumni, our objective for the coming times should be to raise well into the millions, because these children deserve all of the things RUDM aids in funding. Being able to see even just one life changed in the process would make RUDM worth every hour spent canning and dancing. Of course this is easier said than done. But if you can think it, you can do it. Even those at Rutgers that are not in any sort of club or organization should feel an obligation to our school’s biggest cause, whether it is just through donating a couple of bucks or joining 100 other students in the RAC. There is a place for everyone at Dance Marathon, so there’s no excuse! We clearly have so many platforms to get the word out there, so why not embellish a little on our possibilities, and work the system? Penn State’s THON raised more than $9 million in just one year. This number is more than twice the amount our university has raised in all of its 18 years of fundraising. Seeing those numbers get lifted one by one during those final minutes brings such a rush of overwhelming happiness, a feeling that every Rutgers student should be inspired by — inspired to do more and step up to this challenge. We should make efforts to have our local New Jersey news cover things like Dance Marathon to help the cause and maybe even focus less on the negative publicity Rutgers has tends to receive. This would be an amazing way to boost the event’s support, morale, and maybe even give us the publicity necessary to reach that $9 million mark. We have the means, so let’s start utilizing them and make some Rutgers history.
Epatia Lilikas is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in English and economics. Her column, “Digital Canvas,” runs monthly on Wednesdays.
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