They sang a cappella, danced, drummed, strummed guitars, cheered, performed improv comedy and more. When the November 21 student variety show at Ball State University ended to enthusiastic applause, a group of motivated freshmen and their digital media professor, Mike Gerhard, had raised $1,600 for Music & Memory. And donations are still arriving.
Equally as impressive as the fundraising total, the students pulled off the event in just 12 weeks. “It was one of the most joyous and gratifying semesters that I’ve had in a decade,” says Gerhard, a senior faculty member of BSU’s Telecommunications Department who loves to teach freshmen because of their idealism. “You can have a big influence,” he adds.
Gerhard was inspired to bring Music & Memory to Ball State’s Muncie, Indiana, community when he stumbled across an online story about MM’s success brightening the world of nursing home residents with personalized playlists.
A Tangible Way to Improve Nursing Home Quality of Life
The story was particularly resonant for Gerhard, who has been a nursing home reform activist ever since he witnessed substandard conditions and care for his father, who spent six years in a long term care facility until his death. Joining with other like-minded activists, over the years Gerhard has lobbied for better staffing levels and other reforms at the Indianapolis capitol, with mixed results.
By contrast, Music & Memory seemed like a tangible way to improve quality of life for nursing home residents, with the added benefit that personalized music was related to his digital media course curriculum. And, reasoned Gerhard, “it would be a great way to engage students, foster volunteerism and an ethic of caring.”
So, on the second week of fall classes, he showed a clip of the Henry video and the Music & Memory website to his freshmen, and invited them to attend a meeting. “Not for extra credit,” says Gerhard. “I just told them to show up and serve.”
A dozen freshmen took him up on the challenge. They decided on a variety show format, and 12 weeks later, their vision was realized, with 300 members of the campus community attending.
The Recipe for a Successful Campus Music & Memory Fundraiser
Gerhard offers these tips to any campus group hoping to replicate Ball State’s success:
- Put on an old-fashioned variety show that gives students from across campus an opportunity to participate and bring along their fan base. Music & Memory’s universal appeal makes the request for performers an easy sell, and talented students welcome the chance to be part of a good cause, gratis.
- Strive for diversity of acts and student groups–from sororities and fraternities to the full range of campus clubs, dancers, actors, singers, musicians and more.
- Promote the event with social media. Set up a dedicated Facebook page for students to circulate; use campus email to publicize directly to faculty, staff and students.
- Engage campus media to promote the event via a solid press release about the fundraiser and Music & Memory. Encourage feature and news stories in the campus paper and public service announcements on campus radio. Invite media students to cover the event and graphic arts students to create posters and flyers.
- Charge affordable admission, under $5, and invite patrons to donate more. Many will give $5, $10 or even $20, and tell you to keep the change. This enables them to take pride in making a special contribution, above and beyond the basic ticket price.
- Gather great raffle prizes from local businesses and campus “celebrities.” For example, get the football coach to donate an autographed jersey or ask a local cookie store for a gift basket. Ball State students raised more than $250 via raffle tickets sold at their variety show.
- Recruit freshmen to organize the entire effort. Many new students are looking for a chance to jump into the college experience in a positive way. A Music & Memory fundraiser is a great opportunity to engage them in a creative, altruistic activity. Motivate them with a viewing of the Henry video and Music & Memory website.
- Don’t rely on students seeking extra credit or easy “resume material.” Rely on students who are motivated by the cause and who appear genuinely inspired to serve.
“The students were so excited about their accomplishment,” says Gerhard. “It really built their self-esteem and sense of achievement. You could see it in their eyes, like a window into their souls.”
Now the students want to find a way to bring Music & Memory into a local nursing home. Says Gerhard: “What excites them? They tell me they want to see the music put a smile on an elderly person’s face.”
Founded in 2010, Music & Memory is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.