As a part of Onward State’s commitment to help establish more immediate access to THON to the Penn State community, of which it is such a huge part, I have conducted a series of interviews with the each of the 2011-2012 overalls. These are the students who have taken the initiative to lead this organization, so may we all take a moment to learn from their words and help implement their ideas into our continued fight against pediatric cancer. May we always “Brighten Every Journey.”
Onward State: Summarize some of the responsibilities of the Donor & Alumni Relations Committee, and then the role you play as the Overall within those responsibilities.
Anuj Upadhyay: Donor & Alumni Relations essentially ensures that every donor to THON, whether it is individual, small business, or corporate, has a great working experience with THON. That means my captains soliciting various types of donors, or thanking them for everything that they do. We are also in charge of the THONvelope campaign. We order all the THONvelopes, sort them, distribute them to every organization, and then collect them, and send them out. Finally, we act as liaisons for organizations, making sure that they fundraise effectively and efficiently.
As the overall, one of my biggest responsibilities for the year is to look through the data, and see who is really donating to THON. Instead of making it a volume-based fundraising effort, where we just send as many people canning as possible, and send as many THONvelopes as possible, we are trying to focus on smarter fundraising, targeting specific groups of people, or specific types of messaging. That was my project over the summer, but as we move into the school year, and add captains, I am facilitating them, making sure they are doing what they need to do.
OS: What made you want to take on the position of Overall of the Donor & Alumni Relations Committee?
AU: Being an overall in general, you have a very unique opportunity of showing the Families how much they help us. How I have grown as a student, and how I have grown as a person. You get to make that direct relationship with them, and really show them and thank them, and I have really enjoyed that so far. And then on the flip side, you are directly responsible for being in charge of the largest student-run philanthropy, and there is nothing more fulfilling than that.
OS: What are you looking to change/do differently this year with the Donor & Alumni Relations Committee to help improve it?
AU: Donor & Alumni Relations as of two years ago was just called Donor Relations. I think something we are really looking forward to this year is bringing more alumni. There are so many people who have been involved with THON over the 40 years, so we are trying to get them involved again, and making sure they know what THON has become.
OS: What moment or moments are you most looking forward to during this upcoming THON year? Be as specific or vague as you want.
AU: I think I am most looking forward to two things. First is Harvest Day, which is when the Overalls go to a farm with all the Families, and basically just hang out all day. I am really looking forward to that because I have seen pictures of it since freshman year, but never experienced it before, so it will be awesome to have one-on-one time with the Families. That’s a little bit more personal to me, but in terms of Donor & Alumni Relations as a whole, I’m really looking forward to THONvelope distribution. I think, after looking at the numbers, and seeing how many we gave out, you can get a good idea of the impact you are making. So many people are sending THONvelopes, so when you see how just how many go out, you get a good sense of what is happening, and how you are helping these Families.
OS: Why do you THON?
AU: I think I have been very lucky in my life. I have great parents, and two awesome older sisters who help me out all the time. I have never really been adversely affected by a lot of things in my life. Something my parents taught me was help people who need help, and THON is one of those things where we are helping people who had no choice. It’s not because they have been smoking for years, it is just random, and that’s not fair. THON is a great way to give back in that sense, and to make a difference in the world.
On the other hand, you meet great people. THON is a good support system for Penn State. People who are in THON are very supportive, and I have grown up, and matured a lot through it. When you get to see what you are doing for these families, there’s no better feeling than that.
OS: Name an event or two that you think will make this year’s line dance.
AU: Well…I think…I’m not very good at the Line Dance, ever. Every time we have to do the Line Dance, I’m in the very back. But something that will make it would probably be the earthquake that happened here, just because it was so bizarre. Something that could also be in there—it’s tough because it’s a pretty sad subject, and a very serious subject—would probably be the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. I don’t know how they would do it because the Line Dance is, and THON in general is, very upbeat, very positive. But it is something that definitely affected a lot of people, and it was a big moment this year, and so I think that may make an appearance in the Line Dance as well.
OS: Finally, if you could be any dinosaur, which one would you be, and why?
AU: Ever since I saw Jurassic Park, I wanted to be an archaeologist, from like third grade until tenth. Then I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Being a raptor would be really cool, just because they’re fast and smart, but also, being a stegosaurus is cool because of the plates on the back. A stegosaurus is more like my personality in the sense that, he’s a vegetarian, I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m an easy-going guy. I’m not a guy who is going to attack anyone, but I’ve got defenses.
If you enjoyed this interview, make sure to check out the previous installments of the Overall Series: Rules & Regulations, Public Relations, Communications, Supply Logistics, Special Events, & Technology as well as my 10 questions with THON Overall Elaine Tanella. Also, catch up on the rest of the recent THON content: Mr. & Mrs. THON, Johnson & Johnson Dedicated to THON, THON 2012 Theme, FT5K 2011, THON 2012 Theme, Overall Life Lessons, 2011 Summary of Fundraising Activities, Canning Map Weekend #1, Canning “Do”s & “Don’t”s, New to THON.