This weekend, more than a thousand students are working to improve the lives of thousands of children by sweatily doing the Smang It dance for 30 hours straight. Dance Marathon has become a Northwestern establishment, because the money it raises is substantial – last year’s contributions totaled more than $1 million. Over the years, DM has astutely changed to draw in more money and participants. DM has found success through multiple methods, and other fundraisers can learn from the organization.
Streaming DM: Dance like everyone’s watching
Last year DM was streamed online for the first time, with help from the NU Advanced Media Production Studio. By allowing friends and family to watch their loved ones dance excitedly, DM enabled viewers to feel connected with participants and conveniently placed a donate button next to the video stream. This also enabled DM to spread the fundraising across the globe. The stream was viewed three thousand times over the course of the weekend, and two-thirds of those views were from outside Evanston. In total, people from 40 different countries watched on as more than 1,500 dancers shook their butts to Rihanna.
Appeal to your audience: I am the Trivia Master!
With the bounty of DM trivia emails these past months, it’s easy to quickly tire of the repetition. But this was a shrewd way to raise money, especially here. Northwestern kids are nerdy, and they love to be right (or this might just be me). Although I'm not involved in this year’s DM, I salivated at the chance to participate in the recent Star Wars trivia night at Buffalo Wild Wings. With similar topics engaging a considerable amount of Northwestern’s populace, these events have been major draws. Add in the $3,000 prize money (for the kids, of course), and it’s no wonder that, according to the powers that be at DM, they’ve “attracted record levels of attendance” to these esoteric contests.
Get people in groups: What, you don’t like kids?
I was told I shouldn’t submit to peer pressure back in my D.A.R.E. days, but nobody could ever prepare me for the level of coercion that I have to endure from DM dancers. Although independent dancer rates have stayed steady over the past few years, there has been a notable increase in total participation recently, said Sourav Bhowmick, DM’s Public Relations co-chair. By reaching out to more student groups and getting the ones already taking part to provide more dancers, DM has created a norm of group influence to get people immersed in the marathon. Getting groups of people involved, rather than individual participants, is a key tactic that other fundraising groups can learn from this weekend. Also, don't all those neon kids dancing in the pictures look like they’re having fun?
Getting money from more people: Northwestern’s 99%
Although DM does get funds from corporate donations, the overwhelming majority of last year’s contributions came from students. By getting small donations from massive amounts of people, DM is able to provide incremental goals that participants don’t mind working for. Numerous other groups have adopted this type of “crowdfunding,” like President Barack Obama in his 2008 campaign and sites like Kickstarter. However, DM has been doing this for decades. In addition, everybody dancing feels involved when the giant checks for the kids are brought out, and doesn’t that feel special?