Bear Ambassadors program gives DM more personal touch

Matt Radler

Participants in Dance Marathon will be able to meet some of the children benefitting from this year’s fundraising under a new program, the student group announced Monday.

The program is one of several new initiatives Northwestern’s largest philanthropy is trying this year.

The children in the “Bear Ambassadors” program are cancer patients in contact with this year’s Dance Marathon charity, the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Students participating in Dance Marathon received an e-mail Monday introducing them to one of four young cancer patients and giving their biographical information. Dancers will wear pins with the picture of one of the “Ambassadors” while participating in the 30-hour dancing fundraiser, which begins March 7.

The new program will make the charitable cause more personal for the participants, said Elizabeth Campbell, public and community relations co-chairwoman for Dance Marathon and a former Daily staffer.

“It has the potential to motivate dancers in a whole new way, to see how each of these kids will be helped by what you do,” the Medill senior said.

The Bear Ambassadors program is just one of several new projects Dance Marathon has launched this year to build on its past fundraising success, including online partnerships with the activist networking organization Change.org, Chicago RedEye, Kaplan and career-networking site Doostang.com.

The Internet was a logical next step for Dance Marathon’s fundraising efforts, said Dance Marathon co-chairwoman Tara Corrigan.

“Using the Internet gives more people the opportunity to get involved, and it’s the way the world is heading,” Corrigan said. “People shop online, people look for dates online – this gives you a way to help us by clicking a couple of buttons.”

Last spring, NU alum Daniel Moldovan approached Dance Marathon about considering Change.org, which builds social and fundraising networks for large non-profit organizations such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International. Moldovan, the director of communication for Change.org, saw connecting with Dance Marathon as a way to test how well student organizations could utilize the social network.

“DM has an incredible on-the-ground community, but there are some conversations and fundraising practices that are easier and more effective in an online community,” Moldovan said. “So we built a network for them, free of charge.”

The Change.org network allows individual supporters of Dance Marathon to create their own page with appeals to potential donors, including video clips.

“The personal appeal is the most effective way to raise money,” Moldovan said. “It’s much more compelling.”

Besides the new ties to Change.org, Dance Marathon has also established fundraising deals with several businesses. The RedEye will donate $5 to Dance Marathon for every weekend subscription ordered, and Doostang.com will donate $3 for every student who signs up for their network. Dance Marathon is also selling exam preparation courses offered by Kaplan, including the MCAT, LSAT and GRE.

Contract negotiations with other sponsors are nearing completion, Corporate Relations co-chairman Daniel Jacobs said. The list of companies includes Apple and Miller Brewing Company.

In addition to Bear Necessities, Dance Marathon will contribute to a secondary beneficiary, the Evanston Community Foundation, an organization which awards grants to local charities and social programs.

Matt Radler can be reached [email protected]