Students fundraise for organ donation

After receiving a substantial grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Students for Organ Donation — a nationwide student group based at Yale — is in the beginning stages of its campaign to increase awareness of organ donation among America’s high school and college students.

The $80,000 sum was awarded on Sept. 21 to the group and the Washington marketing agency Low+Associates, which filed a joint 30-page proposal for the funding. The grant, part of a federal initiative begun in 2001, was administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration. Since they received the grant, the two organizations have been in close contact as they begin the execution of the plan.

Kate Barry, marketing communications specialist at Low+Associates, said her agency immediately approached the group when they got word of the grant request.

“When we first saw the HRSA request, we sought out a partnership with Students for Organ Donation because of their excellent background — working to get students from across the nation involved and aware of the important issue of organ donation,” she said in an e-mail.

Low+Associates has also worked closely with the youth market in the past, Project Manager and Executive Vice President Mike Cosgrove said.

“We’ve done a lot of work with the Department of Education promoting with federal student aid,” Cosgrove said. “The student audience isn’t new, but the peer-to-peer aspect of it is.”

Barry and Cosgrove said they have already been in close contact with Students for Organ Donation President Senthu Arumugam ’09 since the announcement was made.

“We will be working with tracking and measurement of information as it comes in, while Senthu’s team will focus on the main organization and operation of the chapter,” Barry said.

While the campaign money will help bolster the group’s activities at many universities across the country, Low+Associates will specifically study twelve chapters — six high schools and six universities — as part of a “demonstration project,” Barry said. The results of this particular project will then be presented to the HRSA at the conclusion of the campaign in an effort to develop successful marketing strategies to promote organ donation to students.

A portion of the funds will be used to expand the group’s “Donate Life Week,” which has been held annually at Yale since April 2004. The weeklong campaign typically includes the installation of registration tables on Cross Campus and in each of the residential colleges, along with the hosting of various concerts and study breaks. At last spring’s event, the organization presented a panel of religious leaders to discuss the theological implications of organ donation.

Over 1,000 people have been registered as organ donors at Yale during each of the three campaigns, Arumugam said.

“It’s a fun week, a busy week,” he said.

Students for Organ Donation chairman Richard Ludlow ’07 said the new funding will allow for the improvement of the weeklong event at other schools nationwide.

“This year will see larger-scale campaigns at more schools,” said Ludlow, who founded the organization in the fall of his freshman year.

The 2007 campaign at Yale will focus specifically on freshmen. Because of the construction on Cross Campus, the central location of the event may be moved to Old Campus. The week may also move to February or March to coincide with a possible campaign by Do Something, a national nonprofit that chooses a cause each month to publicize in high schools and colleges.

While the organization’s goal is to register 50,000 organ donors nationwide by the end of the campaign, Arumugam emphasized the group’s broader aim.

“Our goal is to educate individuals, to put information out there and let them make the decision for themselves,” he said.

Since its founding in the fall of 2003, Students for Organ Donation has established over 120 chapters at universities across the U.S. and has recently expanded to high schools as well.

“We realized right away that if we could do it at one school, we could do it at a hundred schools,” Ludlow said.

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