What is it?
As Penn State students, THON is something most of us are very familiar with. For the few that might not be, THON is a 46 hour dance marathon that students fundraise all year for until the big weekend in February where all the work over the year comes together and the total amount has been raised is revealed. Canning is a fundraising technique that raises millions of dollars for THON each year. Students will stay at a family’s home where they can have a home cooked meal and relax at night, then wake up early and stand in front of store fronts in fun Penn State gear and receive donations from people of the community. Canning is one of the most effective ways of fundraising and brings in a lot of donations for the cause.
What makes it so effective?
What sets canning apart from the other fundraising aspects of THON is that it is more personal. Sharing a link on facebook, setting up donation boxes, or sending out THONvelopes, are all useful and important ways of fundraising, but do not have the same effect has canning. A main part of why canning works so well is because there is some societal pressure. As a person in the community, you pull up to a bagel shop, a Target, a diner, or any other local business and are confronted with college students standing there with signs and cans. Olivia Mitchell writes here about Robert Cialdini’s six weapons of influence and talks about the power of being affected by the people around you. If someone is walking passed a bunch of students canning and he or she sees other passer-by’s donating, this increases the pressure and makes this person more inclined to donate. People are afraid of looking like bad person in front of their peers and will especially try to fit in to what is normal in society.
The main reason I believe canning is more effective than other forms of fundraising is because you are able to make personal connections with people of the community and while not everything is about the money, this does make people want to donate more when they feel a more personal connection to the cause. Here is an article where Ian Altman talks about after talking to someone with a personal connection to ALS made him want to get more involved in the Ice Bucket Challenge. While canning, you have the opportunity to talk to many different people who have stories to share while you can share your similar experiences. We talk about THON weekend and what it meant to us while people in the community will often share stories that have a connection. For example, I went canning this weekend and had a man walk up to my group and show us a picture of a boy who was clearly ill. He explained that this boy was his son and that the picture was taken two years ago while he was undergoing chemotherapy. Unfortunately, this man lost his son in August and explained to us how important fundraising for this cause was. For us, it boosted morale to keep pushing on for a few more hours and then for those who heard the story it gave them a personal outlook on the situation that they might not have had before.
The personal and face to face contact that comes with canning makes it an essential and effective of our fundraising techniques for THON.