HighlanderThon

A year-long, student-led philanthropy leading up to a 12-hour dance marathon supporting a local children's hospital.

Role

PR Chairman (2014-2015)
Finance Director (2015-2016)

Responsibilities

Visual Identity, Marketing
Website Design/Development

This generation fighting for the next

HighlanderThon is a 12-hour Miracle Network Dance Marathon at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Miracle Network Dance Marathon is a movement activating over 350 university and high schools across North America. Students involved in planning for the dance marathon event spend a year gaining leadership, teamwork, and nonprofit business experience while raising funds for their local children's hospitals as part of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

In 2014, I helped start HighlanderThon with my friends during my undergraduate studies, assuming the role of the Public Relations Chairman the first year and Finance Director the second year. With NJIT being a commuter campus, we wanted to bring an initiative to campus that could bring everyone together with something fun and meaningful.

Identifying the problem

To help us define the core values of the organization, we began by starting with the "why" and utilizing Simon Sinek's golden circle. Following this methodology, we were able to come up with the mission statement, the purpose statement, the vision statement and the values of the organization. This was important to become a mission-driven organization and help lay a foundation for the brand.

Image of the golden circle

Understanding the user

Our strategies were grounded in a deep understanding of our users to help us effectively deliver a great experience. This was done by making them a central focus during every step of our process. Our insights were based on what our targeted demographics needed, how they think, and why they behave the way they do. We identified our users and classified them into four major segments: participants, volunteers, donors, and sponsors.

Icon representating the participants segment
Participants

Students who aspire to unite by one mission: to dance for those who can't.

Icon representating the volunteers segment
Volunteers

Students who enjoy lending a helping hand and doing community service.

Icon representating the donors segment
Donors

Friends and families who donate to the cause in support of participants.

Icon representating the sponsors segment
Sponsors

Large corporations and local businesses seeking to affiliate with the cause.

Aligning our vision

I utilized my committee to create collaborative moodboard. A moodboard is a compilation of various types of media which adhere to certain emotions, which we felt would capture the essense of our events and brand. We shared pictures, music, videos, websites, articles, anything that helped demonstrate what the intended experience, mostly focusing on our partipants and volunteers.

The moodboard allowed us to not only align our vision, but to also visualize and get a feel for it. It hinted a highly energetic, vibrant experience that would spark something within our community. From which, we came up with our slogan, "Ignite the Hype." It also contributed in helping us pick out our colors and typography to get us started on building our visual identity for HighlanderThon.

Preview of the moodboard

Developing the identity

Building a visual identity plays a critical role in how our internal and external stakeholders perceive our brand and our organization. We took the ideas we observed and examined from the moodboard to incorporate an identity that is persistent with our values and vision.

Developing the marketing materials and merchandise

Maintaining consistency with the style guide everywhere we go and with everything we do! With all the ground and foundational work in place, we began executing and began communicating to bring our organization forward. We templated our flyers, posters, and MailChimp newsletters for the committee to utilize on an on-going basis. This gave us the ability to to produce the necessary marketing materials on-the-fly and remain consistent to our identity.

Image of the shirts merchandise
Image of the HighlanderThon founding team with branded polos
Image of the sunglasses merchandise

Designing the website

For our first year, our main focus was to impact our primary stakeholders: the participants and volunteer group. As a result, educating and communicating the "why" and "what" was the most important in our content strategy at the forefront. This allowed us to quickly compile a list of volunteers and participants interested in joining our movement by registering. For our donors segment, it was important to present a prominent donate button in our navigation that could be persistent and easily accessible from any page. Most of our conversations with sponsors happened offline, as our finance team would externally reach out to businesses. However, our sponsorship page provided a breakdown of our packaged offerings for the businesses who do find their way to our website.

A record-breaking philanthropy

In our first year, as the Public Relations Chairman, we raised $16,420.01 for the children and families treated at Children's Specialized Hospital - breaking the record for the most money raised by any first year student-led dance marathon program in the state of New Jersey. The following year, when I assumed the role of Finance director, we made a 28% increase - raising $20,591.02 for the kids. Since, HighlanderThon has been the largest philathropy to ever exist on NJIT's campus. A legacy that continues to bond the community together even today.