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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2023 Alumni Development Director Haskel Canagarajah

Name: Haskel Canagarajah

Major: Finance, minor in Health Policy and Administration

Past THON Experience:

  • 2020 Donor and Alumni Relations Committee Member
  • 2021 Development Captain (THON Nation)
  • 2022 Development Captain (Donor Relations Coordinator)

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

I have been to all six inhabitable continents. Antarctica is not in the plans, but I could easily be convinced to go.

What made you want to apply for a director position for THON 2023?

I wanted to become a director because throughout my past three years of involvement, I have been captivated by what can only be described as the magic of THON. I have witnessed how one organization comprised completely of students can unite an entire university around a shared mission and can connect individuals who may never have crossed paths. I have been in awe at how, dollar by dollar, supporters of all age ranges have donated funds to ultimately have an impact that is bigger than themselves. And, I have seen the beauty of how people give their time to provide emotional support and build relationships with families going through the toughest battles of their lives. This community has shown me the power that arises when passionate individuals look beyond their limitations and dream big together. As a director, I wanted to be able to pass that magical feeling along to all stakeholders and help craft a future for this organization that advances greater contribution and connection opportunities.

What are your responsibilities as a THON Director?

As the Development Director, I am principally responsible for overseeing THON’s relationships with our tens of thousands of individual donors, corporate partners, and foundations. Additionally, along with my team of 14 Development captains, I work to ensure long-term financial growth in our fundraising model through three primary pillars: Donor Acquisition, Donor Engagement, and Donor Retention. Finally, I am responsible for helping plan several partnerships and initiatives throughout the year that empower our participating student organizations to fundraise more efficiently.

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

This year, I am looking to rethink the ways that we engage with our donors from a retention perspective. Specifically, my team and I are thinking about experiences that we can provide our donors that provide them with a closer connection to our mission and the impact that they are making. Instead of simply focusing on a transaction, we want to think about how we can elevate the donor experience so that our donors truly feel part of a community. As part of this, we are focusing more heavily on analyzing data and launching initiatives such as the THON Giving Society.

What makes your committee so cool, fun, and/or important?

Development, to me, is really cool because of how broad our committee’s mission is, which results in so many different projects happening at the same time. Some of us are working on enabling partnerships between THON and some of the largest companies in the nation, while others focus on how we communicate and engage with our individual supporters at scale. Creativity is abundant in development and it’s why I have stayed on this committee for all of my THON experience to this point. Beyond that, being able to interact with so many different people means that we get to hear a wide array of stories as to why people get involved in THON, which inspires all of us.

What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2023?

Internally within our committee, I hope to enable a fearless culture where we challenge what has been done in the past and work to set the foundation for what the next 50 years of THON could be like. From a donor perspective, I want us to be able to foster a sense of connection with donors of all giving levels that offers them unique experiences, a greater understanding of the impact they have on our families, and opportunities to give us feedback on how we are doing as an organization.

Why do you THON?

I THON because the next child that may have to face cancer could be the next president, astronaut, CEO, or world-changer. So that each and every child has the opportunity to make their dreams come to life and make the lives of others better in the process.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

My favorite THON memory (so far) is the last line dance during THON Weekend 2022. As I stood with some of my closest friends in that moment, I saw 15,000 people, dressed in every imaginable color, jumping around with excitement as the 46-hour dance marathon was coming to a close. There are numerous videos circulating of that moment, but none can truly capture the sheer energy that was in the Bryce Jordan Center as we finally made it through our first in-person THON in two years. That moment to me was where I truly realized how many people it takes to make an event like this happen and was evidence of how resilient this organization has been for the past couple of years.

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

I would be a Deinocheirus because it is the most mysterious dinosaur and that would give me a competitive advantage over all other dinosaurs.

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee is a junior in the Schreyer Honors College studying immunology and infectious disease. She is from Mifflintown, PA, a tiny town south of State College. She is a coffee addict, loves Taylor Swift, and can't wait to go to a concert again. Any questions can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter or emailed to [email protected]

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