Suggestions for activism on a college campus?
August 20, 2008 1:28 PM   Subscribe

How can I make volunteering/charity fun or interesting for college students?

I just started working as an AmeriCorps *VISTA at a college, and I'm trying to think of fun events to hold on campus that have something to do with volunteering/social issues and/or philanthropy For example, in November I'm planning a Hunger Banquet, and in the past this campus has been involved with projects such as Daffodil Days. We also have students who are involved with organizations in the community. I did some googling, but I didn't seem to find anything that seemed quite right. Did any of you do anything great at your colleges, or know of any good ideas? This is a pretty small (around 2,000 students) liberal arts college, if that makes a difference. Ideas for events to plan, causes to donate to, or even documentaries to screen on campus are all welcome. Thanks in advance!
posted by nuclear_soup to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Free Pizza. I just graduated and when I saw free pizza signs I was there.
posted by BrnP84 at 1:43 PM on August 20, 2008

It seems like you should begin by thinking about causes that are closest to your heart, and then branch out from there. Instance, you could have an event to educate students about Genocide in the Sudan and Bosnia etcetc.

Your link says, "After an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet event, few participants leave with full stomachs, but all possess a greater understanding of the problems of hunger and poverty and will hopefully be motivated to do something about them."

A lot of times just educating people about a situation which they didn't know very much about can be the catalyst for something greater, something on larger scale. I think you are on the right track, just need to spend some time brainstorming/soul-searching. Good luck!
posted by diablo37 at 1:48 PM on August 20, 2008

Response by poster: Re: diablo, yeah I've done a lot of what you suggested, and I do have some ideas on that end. I'm just covering my bases by seeing what ideas other people have that were successful :] thanks!
posted by nuclear_soup at 1:52 PM on August 20, 2008

right on :o) have fun!!
posted by diablo37 at 2:11 PM on August 20, 2008

A friend of mine ran some hugely successful volunteerism drives in college by letting students earn tickets to a great concert by volunteering. I believe she got cooperation from many local nonprofit org's that needed volunteers, so someone at each org was verifying the hours put in by the students. The only way to get into the concert was to volunteer a certain number of hours, which I seem to recall was pretty a pretty high number. She lined up a band that is nationally known, to really motivate people. I believe the school helped fund the show (they certainly provided the venue), but the artist who performed was willing to get paid less than usual (maybe even perform for free?) to help support the volunteerism effort. Not only did this flood the local community with volunteers in anticipation of the concert, it also caught enough people's interest that some of them continued to volunteer after the event had passed. Sometimes you just have to get people involved so they see how easy and fun it is, and they'll stick with it after the initial selfish(ish) motivation is gone.
posted by vytae at 2:17 PM on August 20, 2008

I think this may work better on a large campus where athletics (and rivalries) are a big deal, but my alma mater had a food drive contest with the rival college. It was a really intense rivalry, and they got quite a lot of food.
posted by Jeanne at 2:20 PM on August 20, 2008

Maybe involve student organizations or the Greeks by having them compete against each other for most volunteer hours put in. The winning organization gets a prize.
posted by at 2:31 PM on August 20, 2008

Going off of's idea, why not expand it to groups of a set number of students? Say 10-20 or something like that.

As much as the different Greek organizations would compete against each other, the different subgroups would do even better. Rushers want to prove themselves, and the ones who are already in aren't going to lose to a bunch of people who are just rushing.

Plus, for those kids who for can't be a part of an organization's group for whatever reason, it gives them a way to still be on a team.
posted by theichibun at 8:30 PM on August 20, 2008

Coming from an NPO, we LOVE people to create events that they run and then donate the proceeds to us. Staff time at NPOs is limited so anytime someone wants to have a wine and cheese party, beer tasting, 3 on 3 basketball tourney, etc. and then give us the $, it always gets a closer look, i.e., has a chance of becoming a co-branded event for the students and the NPO.

So, the question to ask (as mentioned above) is: what is important to the students? Figure that out and then build an event. Goofier events that allow for broad participation are best. Look up canstruction and you will get an idea of what an off the wall idea can do.

As a sidebar: Doesn't Americorp disallow you from fund raising activities (philanthropic activities)?

Drop me a mefi mail if you'd like to chat further. Good luck.
posted by zerobyproxy at 5:30 AM on August 21, 2008

Our university does Shinerama, and does it very successfully. You can modify what we do for AmeriCorps.

It's a huge 101 Week (frosh week) event at our university, and is actually promoted in our 'frosh' week flyers etc. Teams are formed and compete to raise money through various activities, and teams also do 'random acts of kindess'. I work at a store managed by the student federation (who runs our Shinerama), and one year all employees present--during a horrifically busy, stressful textbook rush--were handed dozens of lollipops by some extremely enthusiastic students wearing Shinerama t-shirts. I still only vaguely can guess at 'why', but maybe there was a scavenger hunt aspect--collect X$ doing this activity! be nice to the staff at Y! collect Z$ doing this activity!--I really don't know.

My university is many times larger than yours, but it is located downtown, which makes all of this possible.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 12:09 PM on August 21, 2008

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