In the 26 years that Dance Marathon (DM) has been on Florida State University's campus, there has been a lot of great accomplishments, triumphs, and most importantly change. The biggest change as of yet is courtesy of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and lead to DM's biggest fundraising push of the year, outside of the marathon itself, going virtual.
Florida Statement day takes place towards the middle of the fall semester annually and this year, took place on October 27th and 28th, 2020. The internal team always has their sights set on hitting a new, record-breaking goal. Executive Director, Madison Faller, said "Creating a virtual Florida Statement was one of the coolest experiences because we had the space to be creative and make an experience that's never been seen before. We knew that this year would look different, but that did not change the way that we knew our organization has always rallied behind a goal. When setting our goal for Statement, we wanted it to be meaningful and impactful to our community. So when seeing that 424 children in Leon and surrounding counties had been admitted to UF Health Shands Children's Hospital in the past year, we knew that was it."
Normally, these intense 26.2 consecutive hours of fundraising have lots of programming, the gong, multiple share-it events, DM after dark, and so much hype. Therefore, when going about tackling this amazing event online for the first time, many things had to be altered, changed, or even nixed altogether.
Because of the virtual platform, participants were given the option of whether or not they wanted to participate completely virtual or not. Of course, it is a bit harder to get donations completely from home, with no opportunity to ask people in person or do things that you can post for traction, but considering people are completely remote and out of Tallahassee and the fact that COVID-19 is still a very legitimate concern and people cannot risk going out, it is a reality that some people had to deal with. For other participants, there was very limited programming on campus including a Tally Mac Shack share-it, the Tour De Gong (where we took the gong to all the external organizations so we could socially distance,) and a scavenger hunt during DM after Dark. Luckily, DM was able to keep most of their usual events and programming by just switching it up a little bit to make it a virtual version. All-team meetings, Circle of Hope, and Jail (renamed operation breakout) were some of the staple Statement programming opportunities that were salvaged via a virtual platform.
After taking the time to process this huge event, members of each team (Exec, Core Captains, and External Dancers) that participated completely virtually answered some questions to summarize their experience:
Name, year in school, team/position
Katherine Gibson (KG): Junior, Community Marathons Chair
Alyssa Suarez (AS): Junior, Finance Core
Sarah Rick (SR): Junior, Morale Captain
Lizzie Eaton (LE): Sophomore, Alpha Kappa Psi Dancer and Assistant Delegate
How were you feeling when you found out about Statement Day?
KG: Since I am on the executive board, I was one of the first people to find out about Statement. I think it is such an exciting annual event that we put on each year, so I was very excited that we were upholding the tradition. However, I was also a little nervous at how our dancers and community would respond to us putting on Statement since we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of the day, I know how amazing of a cause that Statement is, and I knew that our community would continue to get involved no matter what the circumstances were.
AS: When I found out Statement was virtual, I was nervous. It would be our first big event held online, and I honestly had no idea what to expect in terms of participation and fundraising goals.
SR: I was nervous at first since, I was going to be remote, and I had high expectations since I set my goal at $3,000 for the year and last year raised $1,000 during Statement.
LE: I was so excited to find out about Statement! I didn't really get involved with DM until right before the marathon so I was looking forward to seeing each step of the dm process leading up to the dance.
One word check in, how did you feel going into it?
Where did you participate virtually from and why?
KG: I participated in my apartment in Tallahassee. I set up a workstation at my desk and carried out all of my tasks from my own space. I've been extremely careful with taking precautions against COVID-19, and I felt a lot more comfortable participating without having to worry about virus exposure.
AS: I participated virtually from my hometown of North Palm Beach, FL. I chose to stay home this semester because my sister is immunocompromised. Going up to school partway through the semester and then returning home is extremely risky.
SR: I participated virtually in Pittsburgh, PA because I was visiting extended family before I went to Ohio to spend my nephew's first Halloween with my family!
LE: I participated mostly virtually from my apartment in Tallahassee!
What were your responsibilities during the day, if any?
KG: As a member of the executive board, I attended multiple exec meetings throughout the day and night. I also attended All Team Meetings, ran meetings with my Community Marathons team, updated Community Marathons social media accounts and maintained frequent contact with the local high school programs. In addition, I managed my own personal fundraising throughout the day!
AS: My main job was to update fundraising documents every hour, on the hour. We take donor and fundraising information from Donor Drive and translate it into different Excel spreadsheets. I also helped to input matching into fundraisers' accounts. Throughout the day, I answered any questions Internal and External had via the donor drive help email.
SR: My responsibilities included going to Morale and Internal meetings via Zoom, and raising money while trying to be as present as I could while being remote. I hyped up my friends, who were there in person while reaching out to several people at a time to try to get donations.
LE: I helped communicate with our team about the different fundraising pushes throughout Statement and encouraged people to stay involved. I also created graphics for our social media page so we constantly produced content throughout the event.
During the day, did you feel that the on-campus programming was helpful or hurtful to our fundraising efforts?
KG: I think it was very helpful because it gave students the opportunity to safely have fun on Statement and increase morale amongst dancers. If participants are excited and engaged with our cause, they will end up raising more money for our movement.
AS: I think on-campus programming is always going to help our fundraising efforts. It attracts those who do not know about the organization or want to learn more about it. Since I was not up there to know how on-campus programming exactly went, I honestly am not sure if it helped or hindered our fundraising efforts this year.
SR: Campus programming is ALWAYS helpful during Dance Marathon events. Although it is not as busy on campus, the Tour De Gong is something that definitely probably helped and made it as close to "normal" as possible.
LE: I think the on-campus involvement was a great way to spread more awareness, especially to freshmen who are mostly the only people on campus.
Did you feel like it was easier or harder to fundraise completely virtually?
KG: I had no issues fundraising virtually! Because of the pandemic, so many of our fundraising strategies have pivoted to being virtual over the past year anyway, so it was not hard to carry out my fundraising through virtual methods.
AS: I personally did not find it challenging to fundraise virtually. I usually email, text, or use social media to get in contact with potential donors. I was not able to get my headshot though, so I was not able to update profile pictures or post with my updated name tag and polo. Sometimes, donors enjoy seeing pictures of what you are actively doing during fundraising pushes.
SR: It was a lot harder, just because I could not use live, on-campus methods to influence my friends to donate. A lot of my DM donations were from people that I emailed, texted, or talked to in person to tell them about DM. Usually, on campus, you can ask random students for donations or do incentives, so that was the harder part, but it was not impossible.
LE: It was a bit harder to fundraise because people aren't as willing to donate these days, but most years I know that we do a lot of virtual fundraising through Facebook and Venmo so that was still a very helpful technique.
Did you feel connected to campus and the programming that was happening there from home?
KG: Yes! I attended all Zoom calls, Power Hour, Operation Breakout, and team meetings, and I was still able to connect and bond with my team and other members of our organization. If anything, I feel like I was able to connect more with everyone because I had constant access to my devices.
AS: I did not feel as connected as I would have liked since I am seven hours away from school. However, our team had periodic check-ins and meetings, so I was able to look forward to talking with my team. I definitely felt more connected than I was excepting to feel, though.
SR: Although it was hard, I did feel connected with DM while I was away, but it's because I tried hard to stay engaged so my experience was better. Since it's all online, you had to stay motivated just like with your classes.
LE: The connection to campus felt a bit distant for me because I haven't been there much since school started since all of my classes are online. I'm trying my best to stay safe and be careful but I'm glad there were some opportunities on campus. The livestream reveal was also a great way to keep everyone connected and come together at the end of the event.
Are you content with the total amount of money the organization raised?
KG: I am extremely proud of the work that we all put into making Statement a success. Even though we didn't hit our goal, we still raised over $400,000 for the kids in the middle of a pandemic, which I believe is quite an accomplishment. Any amount of money we raise is going towards such an important cause, and $400,000 is going to make such a difference in the lives of our miracle children and families.
AS: I am BEYOND proud of our final fundraising total!!! It exceeded my expectations. I honestly was unsure of how much we were going to raise since this was all conducted virtually. But we all showed up, physically and virtually, and raised so much money FTK!
SR: I am extremely proud of the total we raised. 2020 has been the craziest year all of us have experienced. We raised over $400,000 in 26.2 hours during a pandemic. That is absolutely amazing. It is hard for people to see that due to the goal we set but being almost fully online, during a pandemic and other obstacles of 2020, we still did that, and I will forever be proud of Dance Marathon at FSU.
LE: I am so proud of how much we raised! Considering the time we are in right now, over $400,00 is something to be so proud of! It exceeded all of my expectations and I know every penny will be put to great use and impact so many lives.
What would you say is the best tip for people choosing to participate virtually in DM for the remainder of the semester/year/potentially the future?
KG: Make the most out of your experience! Even though you aren't able to physically be on campus, this does not mean you don't have to be engaged throughout the day. Take advantage of all of the online opportunities there are to fundraise, bond with your team, and attend events via Zoom and livestream. The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it!
AS: The best tip I have for raising money virtually is to utilize ALL the people you know! Email your family, friends, parents' co-workers, etc. Make a Facebook fundraiser (it has been a huge success for many fundraisers so far). One fundraising idea that many people now utilize is making "starter packs" or "what song you remind me of." It is a personal favorite of mine!
SR: A tip I would give to people is to remember their "why" and to think about the miracles made. As said before, this year has been hard for everyone. So, think of how hard it is for the families of DM. People who participate in DM have a "why" and if not, they will find one by the end of their first year. Remembering that will push you to have a great year. A huge motto I live by is, "You get out what you put in," so you might as well give it your all, virtual or not.
LE: I think finding creative ways to get your friends and family engaged is key. For example, I sent Snapchat's to a bunch of my friends and if they donated $1 I would send them a TikTok! Getting personal to those who donate to you is so important so they feel like their donation is meaningful and fun at the same time!
What was your favorite part of statement?
KG: Participating in the final reveal at the stadium! There is no greater feeling than holding up such meaningful numbers. I am so proud of the collective effort we made as an FSU community, and representing our school by holding up our final number was so emotional and a feeling I will never forget.
AS: My favorite part of Statement was (as cheesy as it sounds) seeing everyone come together despite the conditions we are faced with. We all know the importance of raising money FTK, but it is even more important now! Kids are still going to see their doctors for check-ups, surgeries, treatments, and more. They need funds more than ever!
SR: My favorite part of Statement is seeing people who beat goals that they never thought were possible. Statement is a day that blows people away with their goals, they might want to raise $500 and end up raising way more, which is incredible, and all in the great magic of Statement.
LE: My favorite part of Statement was being able to work with my Alpha Kappa Psi team and have our hard work translated into so many amazing outcomes! I also loved seeing how hard everyone on the Dance Marathon Team worked and how passionate everyone is about this truly special cause.
Did you hit your goal and are you happy with the amount of money you raised?
KG: I did hit my goal and I am so humbled and grateful that I received so many donations throughout the day. I was able to raise $1,000 and join Comma Club which is such an incredible accomplishment. I am so thankful to everyone who donated throughout the day.
AS: CORE had individual goals of $700. While I originally wanted to raise more than last year ($1,200), I decided to keep $700 as my goal due to the current circumstances. I was able to raise over $1,000, which exceeded my goal. I am very proud of getting to Comma Club and surpassing my goal!
SR: My goal for Statement this year was $1,000. I raised $1,800 and I am extremely thankful for how much I beat my goal by. I woke up the morning of Statement with $200 in my Donor Drive and I ended up with $2,037. It is an amazing day and I am thankful to all my donors.
LE: I did hit my goal and I'm so grateful to everyone who donated! It means so much to me that all my friends and family support and love the same causes I'm so passionate about.
What tactic helped you raise the most money?
KG: Instead of asking for large donations, I asked for small donations of $4.24 to represent the 424 kids from Leon and surrounding counties admitted to Shands over the past year. Even though I asked for less money than usual, I ended up having more people donate, which led to a collectively larger total amount raised.
AS: Emailing family friends and my parents' co-workers were the best tactic I had to raise the amount I did.
SR: A tactic that helped me a lot during Statement was emailing people personally. People love it when you personally email them and thank them for all they have done! Then you ask how they are and tell them about Statement! Most people if you directly email or text them will donate!
LE: The tactic that helped me raise the most money was reaching out to people individually and providing fun incentives for supporting me! For example, I messaged a ton of people on Snapchat and if they donated $1, I would make them a TikTok! This was so much fun and a great way for people to feel like they are making an impact, big or small.
Would you say you made YOUR statement? Why or why not?
KG: What made my Statement was seeing how engaged our high school programs were with the day and our movement. In just 26.2 hours, our 7 local high schools were able to raise over $85,000. I am so proud to know them and to watch them achieve such incredible accomplishments.
AS: I 100% made my statement. Whenever there is a fundraising push, I remind myself of why I raise money FTK. I personally was treated at a Children's Miracle Network Hospital almost ten years ago. I was reminded of my time there when I had the amazing opportunity to tour Shands. It was incredible to see firsthand the equipment we have raised money towards. The equipment used by the doctors and nurses is an essential part of treating our miracle kids. I was reminded that the equipment doctors and nurses used during my surgery was funded by CMN and programs like Dance Marathon. Therefore, I dance and raise money to help fund the equipment used by Shands in order to help our miracle kids one day dance alongside us in celebration.
SR: Yes, I think I made my statement! My goal was $1,000 and I raised $1,800 in 26.2 hours! I am super proud of not just myself, but of Dance Marathon as a whole. It was extremely hard this year due to COVID and it all being online! We did such a great job for all the circumstances we have been through in 2020 and it just makes me so excited for the rest of the year!
LE: I think I made my statement for many reasons. One of course is that I was able to raise a ton of money for Dance Marathon! But also, I renewed my appreciation and compassion for this organization, only making me want to learn and spread more awareness for it.
At the end of the 26.2 long hours, Executive Director, Madison Faller, in talking about raising $400,595 for the kids, said "Florida Statement 2020 was such an incredible experience that I know brought a much-needed sense of normalcy to our community and participants. The level of engagement that we saw throughout those 26.2 hours was so inspiring and is such a testament to the resiliency and dedication of our participants in this 26th year. Thank you to every donor, participant, and supporter - this truly would not have been possible without you."