Tuesday, November 20

SVSU embarasses GVSU at Battle of the Valleys

Not pictured: the spare change GVSU managed to raise...
Last Saturday, was a bad day to be a Laker. I am not talking about the football team losing to Saginaw Valley in a nail-biter, but also the outcome of the 2012 Battle of the Valleys.

Each year, GVSU and SVSU compete to see who can raise the most money for a charity. GVSU raised money for the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan and SVSU raised money for the Great Lakes Bay Miracle League. The results? SVSU raised over $30,000, while GVSU raised just $1,100. Absolutely pathetic.

GVSU is one of the fastest growing schools in the state recently, with a huge student population, great proximity to the very charitable city of Grand Rapids and a strong marketing presence. How does this happen? Yes, GVSU does not allow corporate donations and community fundraising (why?) and SVSU does, but to only raise $1,100? Get out of town.

The GVSU Student Senate is in charge of the fundraising, and wow, do they seem inept at it. A few years back, BOTV was generating over $20,000 a year, no problem. Now we are left with barely enough money to cover the cost of a class at GVSU.  A simple Google search turned up only one related page online (the rest were news articles highlighting the shortcomings). This simplistic info sheet is a drop of water in an ocean of GVSU-related information students are hit with on a daily basis.

Why not let an advertising, marketing or public relations classes and organizations handle the promotion of this event? Entire classes could pick this up as a graded project, various student organizations like AdClub, PRSSA and GrandPR could help promote this or students could even use this as a credited internship. Anything would be better then the current leadership, which is clearly in over their heads.

For the past three years, I was barely exposed to BOTV. Other than seeing a t-shirt once or twice, I had no  idea Battle of the Valleys even existed. And it's not like I am hiding in my apartment playing Call of Duty all day. There are so many great ways to raise awareness and money

 Here's a few ideas I thought of in 15 minutes.
  • Partner with off campus apartments to host fundraising events (they don't have to donate money), and put up posters in offices.
  • Work to change the fact that community fundraising is banned and corporations can't donate. Grand Rapids is an incredibly charitable area, why limit the amount of money that goes to a good cause?
  • Set up a separate Twitter to post information, set up a special hash-tag, such as #BOTV or #BeatSVSU that can be used to tag relevant posts. You can even put the hashtag on the shirts.
  • Create a separate Facebook page with events, photos of merch, updates and information.
  • Set up an official website with PayPal integration for easy donation.
  • Pair up with the athletic department to have donations at athletic events.
  • Work with Campus Housing to raise awareness in dorms.
  • Set up an easy way to donate using debit dollars at all locations that accept them.
  • Host more events, like a dance, concert of GVSU acts, student talent show, pep rally, tug of war, viral video, dunk tank, ping pong tournament, Madden Tournament, etc. Create entry fees that cover expenses and generate donations. This gives students an incentive to donate, rather than simply saying "give us money" from a table in Kirkhof. 
  • Have an online auction of merchandise and perks like getting to sit at T.Haas' desk, a custom Facebook update from Louie the Laker, designated parking space or a tour of the new library.
  • Advertise the T-shirt better. Have GVSU "celebrities" (T.Haas, athletes, famous grads) model the shirts and post pics to social media. Make it cool to wear the shirt.
  • Have donation cans at local businesses.
  • Put flyers in local businesses.
  • Get BOTV info printed on receipts from local businesses.
  • Have contests like pumpkin decorating, dorm decorating, chili cook-off and a bake-off. They would have entry fees and a small prize. 
  • Have a bake sale with the food from the bake-off.
  • Partner with GVSU Greeks. I read that over 50% of Student Senate is made up of GVSU Greeks, which would be a valuable asset when promoting any campus-wide event. 
  • Have a BOTV poster design contest and the winner gets a prize and their poster put up ALL over campus.
  • Have Campus Dining make a special BOTV dish or meal to raise awareness.
  • Study what SVSU does so well, and implement some of their ideas.
  • Put up signage on campus.
I could go on. Clearly whatever Student Senate is doing isn't working and something needs to change. Other campus organizations are able to raise a ton of money for other events; why are the results so dismal for BOTV? Every year, the total goes down more and more. Simply asking to donate money is a tough sell for college students in this economy, which seems to be the strategy from Student Senate.

Student Senate, please make some changes for next year. It is a black mark on the terrific reputation of the school and reflects very poorly on your leadership, no matter how you slice it. We can do better, and the charities we support deserve better.

By Aaron Brandt, who is more than welcome to expand on any suggestions offered above.