ASUU attempted to revamp its not-so-well-attended philanthropic dance marathon, Rock the U, this year, but ended up spending more than double the amount to put on the annual event than it was able to fundraise.
Student government spent more than $25,000 to host Rock the U this semester and collected about $12,000 in donations, according to expense sheets obtained by The Daily Utah Chronicle through an open-records request. The event, held Jan. 29, was a 10-hour affair where students raised money for the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the Children’s Miracle Network to fund cancer research.
In past years, donors would pledge to sponsor a student, paying for each hour danced. Recently, though, the dancing has become a metaphor, said Rock the U director Lexie Maschoff.
“Cancer doesn’t stop, so we won’t stop either,” she said.
Now students, who are encouraged but not required to donate $10 to register for the marathon, fundraise through family and friends before attending, but it wasn’t as successful as hoped this year. In an interview with The Chronicle in January, Maschoff said the goal was to raise $40,000. The 400 students who participated this year collectively raised just a quarter of that, marking 2016 for the lowest amount of donations the event has collected for the past five years and the highest cost.
“It’s tricky. It’s just balancing. You don’t want to spend too much money,” Maschoff said. “Obviously, we would have liked to raise more than we spent.”
Last year, when 200 students participated, the event raised $20,000, meaning with half the number of participants as 2016 the group raised about double the amount. Rock the U raised its highest amount since 2012 — nearly $27,000 — in 2014.
The low fundraising this year might be due to when the event was held. Rock the U traditionally takes place in March, but Maschoff moved it up to January. She believes this may have affected how much people were willing to donate, as it closely followed the holiday season, and said students may not have had enough time to fundraise since it was held shortly after the beginning of Spring Semester.
Some of the extra expenses for 2016 came from efforts to revitalize the event. One effort was a change in venue, which was the second-highest itemized cost at $7,000 for the Rice-Eccles Stadium tower. Rock the U was previously held in the Huntsman Center for about $3,000. To afford the switch in location, ASUU legislators approved additional funding from the General Reserve during Fall Semester.
The event also featured entertainment scheduled throughout the night to give it “better structure,” Maschoff said. The group brought in comedian Justin Willman, henna tattoos and a massage station, which totaled $14,000 — the highest expense for the philanthropy project. The Rock the U Board partnered with the Campus Events Board, which funded $13,000 of that (about half of the total cost for dance marathon), said ASUU Programming Advisor Erica Andersen.
Outside companies covered the expense for some items, such as participant t-shirts, which cost about $2,500.
The remaining funds were allocated at the beginning of the year for the Rock the U Board, set aside by the executive cabinet as part of the yearly budget process. ASUU President Ambra Jackson declined to comment.
Maschoff said the amount raised by the event — $12,174.81 — is all from the dance marathon, and her office is still counting cash contributions, which will be added to that total. ASUU is also planning to ask for donations for Rock the U at the Grand Kerfuffle concert on April 22 and 23. Maschoff hopes these efforts bring in another $5,000, which would bring the amount fundraised to $17,000.
The fundraised total is unaffected by how much the event cost. All of the donated money will go directly to the Huntsman Cancer Institute, primarily funding the research of R. Lor Randall, a doctor at the facility.
Cancer has affected Maschoff’s aunt and grandparents, adding to her interest in and connection to the Rock the U event. She raised $1,100 for the charity this year, coming in close to the top fundraiser, who individually collected $1,500.
“You’d be farfetched to find someone who hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that cancer is so impacting, but it’s cool to see how many people you can unite under the cause.”
Jack Bender, incoming ASUU president, plans to restructure the dance marathon during his administration. He’s currently looking to combine the Rock the U Board with the Community Service Board to make one united Philanthropy and Service Board that would oversee all service projects under student government.
Redbook, the ASUU constitution, includes a bylaw requiring the annual philanthropy event. Changing the structure will need an amendment passed by the Assembly and Senate during the next academic year. Bender believes the event does not appeal to enough students and wants to explore other ways to more successfully raise funds for charity
In an emailed statement, Bender said: “Things need to change because the dance marathon does not grasp the attention of all or even most students.”