Community Content: Five Ways to Make Your THON Org More Innovative

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Studies have shown time and again that the most innovative companies are the ones that make the greatest profits, best serve the community’s needs, and are the best places to work.

It’s the ones that are a little crazy, the ones that draw outside the lines, who are leading the pack.

Growing up in the age of technology giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter, many would consider our generation to be the most innovative and forward-thinking one yet. But when running student organizations, especially THON organizations, there are a lot of things you have to consider. Canning regulations, consistent branding, and organizing volunteers is just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s not easy — especially while handling a full course load — but there are definitely ways we can think outside the box when it comes to making THON just a little bit more awesome. Things we can do as a community to increase our fundraising capacity. For this reason, we have compiled five suggestions that can make your THON (or any student-run) organization just a little bit more innovative.

1. Learn basic tech skills.

Learning how to create and design websites is super valuable. Period.

THON is in need of more people who can code, know how to use advanced email and software tools, or at least understand beyond how to get 10 retweets.

But learning tech skills can also be an easy way to give a facelift to your org’s website, make it cleaner and more aesthetic, and even drive traffic to your donation page. It’s super simple to learn how to code in HTML and CSS, thanks to free tools like codecademy, Dash, and local hacker meetups.

2. Think like the best entrepreneurs do, FTK.

Did you know that the cost of an airbnb accommodation in State College on football weekends can be up to $500? That means that if a few people in your org cleaned up their apartments and put up a listing on airbnb for alumni who couldn’t get a hotel room in time, you could make up to $1,000?

Pretty awesome indeed. The Internet is full of little gems that can help you make the most of the resources you already have, if you look close enough.

Sites like ProductHunt, TechCrunch, and Business Insider often show the most up-and-coming startup tactics that you can use.

Check out Innoblue, an awesome community for entrepreneurs at Penn State, with plenty of people working on awesome projects. There’s even an accelerator program to help projects get off the ground.

3. Utilize social media to its fullest.

We all think we’re social media gurus.

We all keep up-to-date on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and almost any other social network that’s commonly used, so we might as well take the power that it has to raise money for granted.

Using our social networks can be an incredibly effective way to receive donations from friends and family, especially when we share likeable, relatable content through Facebook and Twitter. And let’s not forget networks like Reddit, where even strangers can view and participate to benefit a certain cause — engaging every avenue possible is the best way to get the highest returns possible. r/PennStateUniversity, anyone?

But, we rarely know what the exact returns, or exact effects of what we post. Using social media management software programs can be a powerful way to know what works, and what doesn’t.

4. Participate in a wholly different kind of marathon — a hackathon!

Have you ever come up with an app idea for THON and wanted to make it a reality?

Hackathons are usually 24-36 hour events where student teams get together and build a software program, a piece of hardware, or a mobile app. Hundreds of successful apps have been created at Hackathons, whether they’re company-sponsored or collegiate.

Check out a schedule of hackathons to find out more about hackathons happening this year – it’s a particularly great way to visit campuses and college towns all over the country and learn a few things about what it takes to make a great app.

They’re an amazing place to sit down and tackle tough problems and build software that can change the world. We even have one at Penn State.

5. Get your org to pitch ideas on 1000Pitches for donations.

1000Pitches is the largest student-run pitch contest in the world, which encourages every student to let their ideas be heard while engaging in some friendly competition with both Big Ten schools and others nationwide.

And yes, we have a branch at Penn State.

Similar to corporations, which experience amazing success when ideas come from their employees rather than leadership, philanthropic organizations on campus can enjoy immensely beneficial growth from ideas that come from everyone. Crowdsourcing ideas are where the world is headed – why not do the same for THON?

This is the spirit of 1000Pitches – empowering students everywhere to think about problem-solving. There are nine categories, and the winner of each category will win $500, with one $1000 overall winner.

More importantly, 1000Pitches is donating $0.50 for every pitch that organizations pledge. Each person is allowed to pitch three times, which means that the donation value could potentially be hundreds toward the THON total in February. Details about how to sign your org up can be found here.

If none of this makes a difference, then at least let’s get together and beat Michigan and Pitt with the amount of pitches we come up with. Because, you know. It’s 5:00, Michigan still sucks, Pitt’s still a fallback school, and we’ve got 99 problems, but a great pitch on how to make our school just a little more awesome certainly shouldn’t be one.

Mitch Robinson is the president of Innoblue.

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