On Wednesday, participation in the University of Connecticut’s Give A Meal initiative – which gives students the option to donate one flex pass toward feeding those in need – increased by over 12 percent from last fall semester, said dining services executive director Dennis Pierce.
“I expected (the count) to be equal or lesser than last fall,” Pierce said. “The average increase in the last few years has ranged from a negative percent to ten percent.”
All eight dining halls participated in the initiative, accepting flex pass donations from 4:15 p.m. until 7:15 p.m. this past Wednesday. The total number of donated swipes came to $3,915. The raw food donation cost, which is $2.50, is applied to each swipe. Thus, the total donation comes out to $9,787.50. This number is 12.3 percent larger than that of last fall, Pierce said.
The total donation will be divided among four organizations: the Windham No Freeze Shelter, the Covenant Soup Kitchen, the Mansfield Pantry and Community Outreach, to offset transportation costs for non-traditional alternative breaks that historically came out of students’ pockets. The monetary distribution for each agency has not been finalized yet, Pierce said.
While the event was advertised on the UConn Daily Digest, Pierce attributed the success of Give A Meal to the involvement of 4th-semester double major in communication and journalism PaulMichael Mullally and his team, who took on the initiative as a school project.
“(My Persuasion class) requires a persuasive pro-social campaign as one of our projects. We chose Give a Meal as our campaign to take on,” Mullally said. “We simply took the idea, but rebranded it with a more simplistic and visually appealing marketing approach.”
The previous marketing approach contained a lot of words and not a lot of visuals, limiting the appeal of the event and not catching the interest of students, Mullally said. His new approach was geared toward making students feel good while donating to their community. The slogan was, “Swipe. Give Back. Feel Good.”
“Previous marketing had no concrete slogan or logo and was mainly a write-up about the program, and less (visually appealing graphics),” Mullally said.
The marketing advertised a benefit for the student, as well as for the organizations involved in the donation. In addition to the new marketing, Mullally focused heavily on social media outlets, as well as personal networks on campus to increase word-of-mouth communication about the initiative, something that he found has been missing in previous years.
“We rebranded (to hone) in on the ease of giving back to the community, while equally feeling good about yourself. Therefore benefitting both sides of the cause; a donator and a ‘donatee,’” Mullally said.
Mullally and his team anticipated a 10 percent increase in swipes from last year based on historical numbers and information given to them by Dining Services; they were pleasantly surprised with the 12.3 percent increase that surpassed their goal, validating their marketing and persuasive approach.
“Our students are very compassionate here at UConn,” Pierce said. “They understand the true measure of life is not what you do for yourself, but what you do for others.”
The next Give A Meal event will take place in the spring 2016 semester.