A rumor persists that college students like free stuff, particularly free food. The George Mason University Office of Annual Giving decided this spring to take advantage of the stereotype to educate students about the power of philanthropy at the university.
The five-week Patriots for Patriots campaign kicked off with an event that served fried dough and ended with one passing out barbecue sandwiches, all the while raising awareness of private support at the university—along with nearly $2,000 from more than 800 students—in the weeks between.
According to Nell Nutaitis, director of annual giving, the main goal of the campaign was to educate students on the importance of private philanthropy to the university, particularly the need for participation at any donation level by members of the Mason community.
“Last fiscal year, we raised almost $48,000 from donations of $25 or less,” she says. “You don’t have to make a large donation to make a difference, and that’s what we are trying to get across to students, with the hopes that they’ll keep that in mind once they become alumni.”
On March 9, Funds Are Fried Day served as the campaign’s opening, featuring a carnival-type event complete with funnel cakes, T-shirts, and information on how private support affects students’ collegiate experience. The date of the event roughly coincided with the time in the academic year when a student’s tuition no longer covers the cost of his or her education, which is where the event’s name originated—the students’ funds are “fried.” Mason’s budget office reports that tuition actually only covers expenses for about 57 percent of the academic year. State funding and private support close the remaining gap.
Over the course of the campaign, students were encouraged to donate spare change toward their favorite Mason academic program, student activity, or scholarship. Volunteers and staff collected donations at designated spots around the Fairfax Campus, and students were also able to make online gifts.
The campaign’s culmination was a “pig roast” on April 14, featuring a final opportunity for students to empty piggy banks that had been handed out during the course of the campaign as well as a free barbecue lunch for students who had participated in the campaign. In addition, student donors enjoyed a shorter line for funnel cake at the two designated trucks during the April 29 Mason Day festivities.
Giving back was never so sweet.