I landed at DC Reagan/National Airport with enough time to check into my hotel before attending our DC Spartans bigger, better scholarship gala. As I was cabbing to the event, I checked my iPhone Facebook feed. Someone with Wolverine sympathies had paid a sky writer to smoke “Go Blue” in the blue skies over Spartan Stadium.
It struck me that this fan spent several thousand dollars to spray paint an ephemeral message in the sky that could be seen for less than ten minutes. It might generate some brief social media buzz, but it would soon be forgotten, as Shakespeare might say, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
What would Spartans do if we had money like that to burn? My bet was that we would invest it the way we invest our lives, “to tackle the world’s biggest problems”.
So I decided to find out. I wrote a note and attached it to the comment field of every iteration of the sky writer picture I could find. Here’s what it said:
To my Spartan friends and family:
A University of Michigan fan paid $3,000 to have a skywriter paint this over Spartan Stadium today. I’m all for school spirit, but the sheer cost of this momentary chest beating gives the unfortunate perception of malice. That’s not what Spartans are about and I don’t believe it’s what true UofM alumni are all about. Will you help me show Wolverines everywhere what we can do with $3,000? This is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. As many of you know, Colleen is a two time survivor, one of hundreds in our state who are fighting this silent killer. Will you consider making a $10-$50 contribution to the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance (which is based in Ann Arbor) and say that it’s coming from a supporter of Michigan State University?
Whatever we raise over the next week, I will challenge my counterpart at the UofM alumni association to inspire is members to match.
Here is the link: http://www.mioca.org/donate
Let’s show the world what Leaders, Lifesavers and World Changers do. Help me make this one go viral.
The posts immediately started to generate buzz. 90% of it was positive. People loved the idea of making a statement about how Spartans Will step up. 10%, of course included a few Walmart variety fans who continued to shoot the usual athletic vitriol in my direction. That comes with the territory.
What happen next blew me away. The posts started to spread. Our Alumni Volunteers Facebook page amplified it. The Chicago Spartans challenged their members to make a donation. Soon, the volume of Spartan gifts to the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance, brought their Pay-Pal account to a stand-still.
Within 48 hours we had raised nearly $2,000. What made this particularly wonderful was that most gifts were in the small increments I had suggested. More than 400 Spartans had participated.
As important as athletics is to the brand of our two institutions, it is but one dimension of who we are. It helps us recruit. It attracts financial investment for the important work we do. But when 400 Spartans instantly reach into their wallets to support a cause, it sends a message.
We have bigger problems to solve.
I would love nothing more than to eradicate the cancer monster and make it possible for all the survivors to buy season tickets.
Let’s start with that and see what happens.