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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2021 Fundraising Safety Director Kate Colgan

Name: Kate Colgan

Major: Public Relations; Minors in Sociology and Psychology 

Past THON Experience 

THON 2018 Rules & Regulations Committee Member 
THON 2019 R&R Fundraising Safety Fundraising Outreach Captain 
THON 2020 R&R Fundraising Safety Online Giving Captain 

Name an interesting, weird, or quirky fact about yourself:

This THON Weekend will be my 13th. My first was when I was 2 years old!

What made you want to apply for the Fundraising Safety position for THON 2021?

THON has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember–my cousins paved a path for being involved in this amazing organization long before I arrived at Penn State and my becoming involved in my middle and high school’s Mini-THONs occurred naturally and without thought. It was through Mini-THON that I found my passion for helping others and developed a desire to make a difference in the lives of those around me.

When I arrived at Penn State I quickly applied and was selected for a Rules & Regulations Committee and my passion for this organization and helping others grew immensely. However, I felt that there was more I could be doing to contribute to the fight against childhood cancer and that I had more of myself to give to this organization. I wanted to be a Director because I longed for the opportunity to give all of myself and my abilities and passion for THON and the fight against childhood cancer.

What are your responsibilities as the Fundraising Safety Director?

As the Fundraising Safety Director, I am responsible for the administration of the THON 2021 Rulebook to ensure the safety of our volunteers and the integrity of all of our practices. I serve as the liaison between several different focus groups and my own committee and I work alongside all of my co-directors in ensuring that we serve as the best resources possible for our fundraising organizations.

I also oversee a team of captains who are responsible for the administration of our online fundraising website, DonorDrive; communicating with and aiding all of our student organizations in their fundraising, and monitoring all of our fundraising practices for safety and effectiveness. During THON Weekend, myself, my captains, and our committee members work alongside the Event Safety Committee to ensure the safety of all THON Weekend attendees.

What do you want to implement in your position this year that’s unique and differs from years past?

Fundraising Safety has really evolved over the past few years as our fundraising methods have changed. So, our committee is really still in the process of perfecting the fundraising methods that we’ve adapted so recently. We also recently transitioned into working with organizations to help them improve their fundraising, as opposed to just administering the fundraising methods.

So, something that I was really focused on coming into this year was continuing to improve our relationships with organizations and really doing everything we could to help them in their fundraising. And in this year that has been filled with so many obstacles and boundaries to fundraising because of COVID-19, which has really turned to researching and planning new methods for fundraising, collecting money virtually, and then helping organizations plan fundraisers that follow all Covid-19 guidelines.

What makes the Fundraising Safety Committee so cool, fun, and/or important?

Fundraising Safety is so awesome because we’re the only committee that gets to see two entirely different sides of THON. During most of the year, we work to ensure that our student volunteers are fundraising safely and effectively. We spend all of our time talking to organizations, looking at fundraising data, and making sure that our fundraising methods are upholding the integrity of our organization.

And then come THON Weekend we flip a switch and we join our Rules & Regulations counterpart, Event Safety, and work to ensure the safety of every volunteer, spectator, and family. FS is so awesome because we get to have a hand in so many different aspects of THON and we get to help keep people safe no matter what they’re doing for THON.

What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2021?

One of my biggest goals for THON 2021 was to improve Fundraising Safety’s relationships with organizations. In the past, FS has tended to just relay fundraising information to organizations and answer questions when they arose. But with 8 captains who serve as liaisons to organizations, I think there is a greater opportunity for us to build quality relationships with organizations and actually be a resource to them in their fundraising.

And I think we’ve made really good progress in that this year, especially because of the current state of the world. Organizations are having to be much more creative with their fundraising than ever before, and the FS liaisons have been able to provide them advice and guidance and help them formulate plans for successful fundraisers.

Why do you THON?

I first fell in love with THON when I was a kid. At my youngest, I couldn’t quite comprehend the true meaning of the event, but I remember being captivated by the colors, the music, and the energy. I knew that it was something amazing and I convinced my parents to return year after year. When I arrived at Penn State, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this cause and could not wait to get involved with the organization and event that I had fallen in love with as a kid and followed throughout my teen years.

THON is truly one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. The outpouring of love from Penn State students for people many have never even met is unparalleled. I THON for a day when no parent has to hear the words, “Your child has cancer.” I THON for those I have met along my journey who have taught me strength and inspired me to never give up. I THON for more laughter and smiles, for more birthdays and celebrations. I THON for a future without cancer.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

I’ve always loved witnessing others experience THON Weekend for the first time. I don’t remember my first THON, but I remember being drawn to the colors and the music from such a young age and then growing older and being so inspired by 15,000 people all gathered to celebrate the lives of kids fighting childhood cancer. And while as a kid I loved talking to anyone and everyone about how amazing I found THON Weekend, I also understood that the magic of THON truly cannot be understood until it’s experienced for the first time.

So, my greatest joy and my favorite memories have been seeing THON Weekend through the eyes of those for whom the magic is entirely new. From family members to friends and THON Committee members, seeing someone’s face light up as they first lay eyes on a full Bryce Jordan Center and truly begin to comprehend the wonder of this event is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur, which one would you be and why?

If I could be any dinosaur, I think I would be a pterodactyl. I think it’d be pretty cool to be the only flying dinosaur and just to be able to fly in general. Plus, who doesn’t want a silent consonant in their name?

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About the Author

Mackenzie Cullen

Sadly, Mackenzie graduated from Penn State in 2022. She majored in English and served as one of Onward State's associate editors. You can keep up with her life and send compliments to @MackenzieC__ on Twitter.

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