The 10 Biggest College Fundraisers

It’s a good thing when college students become acquainted with fundraising while they’re still in school, because they’ll be on the other end of the equation come graduation. (Alumni associations, anyone?) But when they put their minds to it, college students can be a fundraising force to be reckoned with, one that can pull off entertaining events and bring in huge piles of cash for fighting cancer, bullying, and any other worthy causes. These 10 colleges host the biggest bank-breaking fundraisers in the country.

Disclaimer: We could have made this entire article about dance marathons, so if we didn’t mention yours, we’re sorry. Stay strong.

  1. THON, Penn State

    Since 1973, the Nittany Lions have raised over $89 million by cutting rugs in what has become known as THON Weekend. A typical year sees 700 or so dancers who commit to a brutal 46-hour consecutive boogying stretch to benefit child cancer patients. This year alone, the event pulled in an astounding $10.7 million, eclipsing the previous year’s equally impressive $9.5 million. To get by, dancers have support teams called “moralers” who give them foot rubs and ice baths, which they must enjoy without sitting down.

  2. A Day for Southern, Georgia Southern University

    No sick kids are having their faces brightened with GSU’s “A Day for Southern,” which is pretty much what it sounds like. A hundred or so faculty, staff, and community volunteers canvas the surrounding area and hit up local businesses and townsfolk for moolah to support scholarships, athletics, the arts, and more at the university. Hey, higher education is a perfectly good cause to donate to, and administrators are quick to point out the college is a source of $800 million for the local economy. The community has in turn rewarded GSU with ever-increasing chunks of change, with $1.41 million brought in in the 2012 event alone.

  3. IUDM, Indiana University

    Only Penn State has a dance marathon — or student-run philanthropy in general, for that matter — that can claim to be bigger than IU’s. In its 21st annual event in 2012, the 36-hour dancetravaganza raised a record $2.1 million for the kids at the Ryan White Infectious Disease Center at the Riley Hospital for Children here on the Indianapolis campus. (White was an AIDS activist who died of complications from the illness in 1990.) More than 2,000 students did the dancing while another 750 worked year-round to raise publicity and handle logistics for the event, which has now hit the $14 million mark for funds raised in total.

  4. Fashion Show, Otis College of Art and Design

    Unless you’re in the art and design field yourself, you probably haven’t heard of this tiny school in L.A. But it’s been turning out young art-eests since 1918, and since 1983 the school has been hosting one of the country’s most profitable single-day fundraisers. It’s a fashion show that displays works by some of the school’s most talented student designers, with input from some well-known pros, in order to fund scholarships. This year’s show at the Beverly Hilton tapped the local Cali economy for a cool million bucks, bringing the show’s haul to more than $25 million in all over the years.

  5. NUDM, Northwestern University

    See, we told you there were a lot of college dance marathons. With 37 years of getting jiggy with it in the books, Northwestern’s dance marathon is both one of the country’s oldest and also most successful. Nine hundred students got down for 30 hours in front of 1,000 onlookers during NUDM 2012, capping off a year’s worth of effort put in by 300 more student volunteers. The majority of the $1.1 million take was headed to the B+ Foundation to help families with children fighting cancer, while the remainder was set aside for a local Evanston charity. What began as 15 couples raising $9,000 by dancing for 52 (!) hours has now contributed more than $13 million to two dozen charities from the Illinois school.

  6. United Way Campaign, University of New Mexico

    This fundraiser has been known by different names over the years — 2010 was “Live United,” while 2011 was “Change the Story” — but the goal is always the same: to see how much the Lobo community can gather for the central New Mexico branch of the famous non-profit, the United Way. Despite a tough economy, students, faculty, administrators, and their friends and families have helped raise close to or over $1 million every year since 2008. Throughout the six-week campaign, school employees chip in with payroll deductions, and students brainstorm creative ways to get folks to reach for their wallets.

  7. Relay for Life, Virginia Tech

    Relay for Life is an American Cancer Society creation that sees upwards of 4 million participants and volunteers in 20 countries every year walking and running to raise awareness, remember the departed, and celebrate victories over cancer. So although it isn’t strictly a VT thing, no college does it bigger than the Hokies. The school first started breaking Relay records in 2009 by becoming the first college to crack the $500,000 mark for funds raised. In 2011 they became the first school to $600,000. They’ve also been recognized with awards for highest participation per student, biggest online fundraiser, and most cancer survivors present at an event.

  8. Dance Blue, University of Kentucky

    When Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York and New Jersey, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that a college 700 miles from Manhattan would want to pitch in. Raising big money for people in need is something UK has been perfecting since 2006 with Dance Blue, its version of a dance marathon to support kids with cancer. Begun in 2006, Dance Blue now garners participation from 700 dancers from more than 120 campus groups kicking it for a straight 24 hours (weather permitting). This year’s tally flirted with a million dollars, up from $673,000 in 2011, and if the trend holds steady they should hit the million-dollar milestone in 2013.

  9. Charter Award Dinner, St. Francis College

    This diminutive school in Brooklyn may bill itself as “the small college of big dreams,” but when it comes to fundraising, they can compete with the big boys. The college’s annual Charter Award Dinner is the school’s biggest fundraising event, created in 1962 to celebrate its being granted a charter by the state. The 51st dinner managed to pull in a healthy half a million dollars and was hosted by CNN correspondent Mary Snow. The millions of dollars the dinner has raised over the years go toward scholarships, like the newly created Barbara G. Koster ’76 Scholarship, whose namesake was honored at the 2012 dinner.

  10. Dance Marathon, University of Iowa

    And rounding out the top 10 it’s … another dance marathon. Hey, if they work, they work; and UI’s definitely seems to be working. Here the dance party (known as the “Big Event”) is 24 hours, and they bring in DJs, dance and theater groups, and local bands … and caffeine is prohibited! Yikes! The school also promotes Family Events and Mini-Dance Marathons for K-12 students throughout the year. It’s all in the name of funding pediatric patients at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. The $1.37 million purse this year bumped the event’s 18-year run up over $11 million.

The Best Colleges Degree Finder

© 2014 The Best Colleges | Privacy Policy | Sitemap