NUDM Encourages Inclusivity and Learning

Northwestern University Dance Marathon 2017 was wildly successful, not just because it raised $1,253,596 for this year’s beneficiary GiGi’s Playhouse, but also because of the organization’s own inclusivity efforts. In recent years, NUDM has strived to become more financially accessible to students and has reached out to the community, holding events that deal with issues related to that year’s beneficiary.

2017 marks the third year that the Office of the President has covered the $35 registration fee for students on financial aid, ensuring that the initial cost isn’t a deterrent for anyone. The number of students receiving a fee waiver this year followed the steady upward trend in the past three years. Additionally, the February launch of the SES One Form has also streamlined the process for students applying for extracurricular financial aid, which includes NUDM.

NUDM created its first-ever Grant Campaign Program in conjunction with the Office of Student Enrichment Services. Through money raised from various fundraising outlets such as corporate sponsors and Northwestern faculty members, NUDM was able to match funds for students having difficulty fundraising and/or receiving university financial aid. The Residence Hall Association, Residential College Board, Panhellenic Association, and Interfraternity Council all supported this grant effort along with a general faculty and staff fund. Students were able to anonymously apply for funds from the Grant Campaign to be allocated to their fundraising pages and almost 100 students' fundraising efforts were ultimately assisted by the new program.

NUDM has also taken steps to help new dancers find their feet and make more resources readily available to help raise money for the cause. This year, the NUDM mentorship advisor program paired members of the Dancer and Beneficiary committee together with new dancers, working together to make planning and fundraising a more approachable process. Additionally, 2017 is the second year of the Community Engagement co-chair positions, leading to new partnerships with student groups and five new dancer teams as a result.

In addition to financial outreach, NUDM has continually provided educational opportunities surrounding each year’s beneficiaries. For the past two years, NUDM has looked beyond fundraising for various programs and focused on an overarching message larger than the programming itself. This year, NUDM expanded upon those efforts with its partnership with GiGi’s Playhouse, a nonprofit organization that focuses on therapeutic programming and support to individuals with Down syndrome. NUDM focused on an overarching message of awareness and acceptance of people of different abilities. Working with Beyond Compliance, a new student group that acts as a safe space and advocates for students with disabilities, NUDM hosted a panel of students with varying ability levels to discuss how disabilities affect their lives at Northwestern. The event brought different student groups together and united them around common themes of inclusion.

Through developing partnerships with other groups and campus populations that haven’t traditionally participated, NUDM is growing to become a more inclusive philanthropy organization. The yearlong campaign that raised awareness for GiGi’s Playhouse succeeded in educating the community about relevant issues. NUDM’s inclusivity efforts have elevated it from a popular student activity to a meaningful and accessible way for students to engage and give back.