Skip to main content

UIDM Surpasses Fundraising Push Day Goal

This post was submitted by Dance Marathon participant Allie Stutting for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through

On October 29th, 2019 over 700 cell phone flashlights lit up the Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge on the University of Iowa Campus. These lights reflected hope, love, motivation, energy, and a fight that was going to start. A 26.2-hour fight to raise $500,000 for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.  

This summer, the University of Iowa Dance Marathon had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2019 Dance Marathon Leadership Conference (DMLC). At DMLC, we were able to learn best practices from various Dance Marathon programs across the country, network with CMN Staff and other Dance Marathon programs, and spend time as an Executive Council laying a framework for our team and our program for the year to come. At the conference, there were various break out groups, sessions, and programs regarding diverse aspects of Dance Marathon. Specifically, I made it my mission to learn the most that I could about fundraising push days and in-event fundraising best practices. Throughout this article, you will learn about the best practices we learned from DMLC and how we were able to implement these new strategies into our fundraising push day, Day to DM, to exceed our goal and fundraise $602,516.93.  

“Day to DM” is the name of the University of Iowa Dance Marathon’s Fundraising Push Day. In the past, UIDM has hosted 24 hour fundraising push days; however, for our 26th year anniversary, we decided to lengthen our day from 24 hours to 26.2 hours. We were going to have our first-ever Donation Marathon! The lengthening of our push day by 2.2 hours was an idea that we received from DMLC from other highly successful programs. For example, the University of Florida Dance Marathon’s fundraising push day is also 26.2 hours, and they raised over $652K in 26.2 hours this year. This small change played a part in helping ignite such large growth in our program’s success of the day.  

Another best practice we learned from DMLC that we implemented into the planning of Day to DM was population activation. At DMLC, we were able to learn about the importance of intentionally focusing on all populations your organization reaches. For UIDM, this includes donors, sponsors, community partners, campus faculty, Stead Family Children’s Hospital Staff, Mini Dance Marathon Programs, and our Alumni. While planning for Day to DM, we strategically looked at each constituent group, how much money each constituent group brought in the year before and made both conservative and stretch goals. We then approached each population and worked together to strategize how to better include and motivate all our constituents in effective ways.

For example, to better motivate Alumni, we made Online Giving Pages for each year in Dance Marathon (a total of 25 pages). We then challenged Alumni to fundraise for their year in Dance Marathon. For example, if you graduated during Dance Marathon’s 14th year, we encouraged you to fundraise for the Dance Marathon 14 group. Because of this, we saw an overall increase in Alumni participation and giving. 

Another example of population activation was seen in our Community Partnerships for Day to DM. Typically, we have one or two “Community Days” during Day to DM. A Community Day is a partnership with a specific business on or near our campus where they give part of the proceeds from that day back to University of Iowa Dance Marathon. On Day to DM this year, we increased our community days from two to six, with the intention of also diversifying our partners. For example, this year we added a yoga studio and a new Mexica Restaurant to our Community Day list. This choice better spread our mission and movement to raise more money FTK. 

Finally, I want to highlight the crowd favorite of the day: the Gong. There are many, many programs that use a gong as fundraising motivation. At DMLC, we learned about programs whose gong is such a large part of their organization’s culture and excitement. Our program thrives off competition and energy, so we decided that purchasing a gong could be a very effective return on investment for our program. After introducing the gong to our Leadership Team and getting their “buy-in”, we demonstrated it to our Dancers, and folks were hooked! By placing our gong on the main stage throughout the entire duration of Day to DM, participants could hit the gong for every $50 raised. It was such a lively and effective component of the day, centering our participants around our $500,000 goal. 

At the end of Day to DM, when our tote board revealed $602,516.93, we knew that we did everything we could to fight during this 26.2-hour push. Through the centering of our mission and the implementation of the best practices we learned at DMLC, we felt so honored to be able to deliver this money to kids and families at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.