Having breakfast taken care of made for a good start to Ellen McGran’s day.
“I thought it was such a good idea. A really good idea. Out of nowhere, somebody’s bought you breakfast – it’s such a nice feeling,” said the third-year MIT student, who had the opportunity to sample a Spoke breakfast – for free – thanks to a pop-up initiative run by Western Alumni at the University Community Centre (UCC) last week.
Called It’s On Me, the fundraising initiative invited Western alumni to donate $10 to provide a $5 breakfast voucher for a student at the start of final exams and $5 to support Western’s Wellness Education Centre.
In less than 48 hours, the organic social media campaign saw alumni generosity contribute 420 breakfast vouchers and $2,100 for Western’s Wellness Education Centre. On the first day, the #ItsOnMe hashtag was trending on social media
“A lot of the students were really taken aback,” said Meghan Cocurullo, digital engagement officer with Western’s Alumni Relations and Development department. “They said, ‘This is so sweet!’; ‘Are you serious?’; ‘Really? Alumni did this for us?’
“It will be memorable for those students and, hopefully, when they graduate, this is the type of thing they will remember they can do once they’re an alumnus. Once you leave here, you’re not really closing the door on Western – there are still meaningful ways to get involved.”
For Western alumna Melanie Peacock, MBA’90, purchasing vouchers was a simple gesture for immediate, tangible impact.
“I was excited. I just thought it was such a tremendous thing. It allows us to give back directly to students right now. It’s not just the breakfast to me, which I could have really used as a student, but it’s the encouragement. It’s the thought behind the breakfast. The fact they know ‘not only am I getting a free breakfast, but someone actually cares about me – someone who’s been there, done that and is thinking about me.’ It’s the meaning behind the gesture that’s really impactful,” she said.
For McGran, even better than free food, was the timing of it.
“It’s especially nice during exam period because you don’t really have the time to go grocery shopping and make your own food. Buying it on campus is the easiest option, but then it gets really expensive. Nutrition just goes down the drain,” she said. “To say, ‘Hey, here’s a free breakfast, you don’t have to worry about it,’ was really nice.”
Cocurullo hopes students also recognized and appreciated the tie-in support for campus wellness services.
“Alumni were signing their names, in a sense, to support wellness, to put their name to the value of taking care of yourself – your whole body – food yes, but also your mental wellness,” she noted.
Cocurullo was also impressed with the number of students who took time to thank alumni via Twitter and Instagram, since alumni donors had the option to include their social media handles on the vouchers.
“I was really satisfied with that. Alumni were sharing like crazy and students were taking the time to thank (them), which was a really nice piece,” she said.
For Peacock, the buzz on social media, which included photos and videos of students redeeming vouchers at the UCC, reminded her of her own student days.
“I recalled some memories and talked about it with family and friends. It’s important to remember those days, and that it can be difficult during exam time, and to be able to let the students know they’re not alone – that other people are rooting and thinking about you. Just that little thought can do so much to power someone through those stressful weeks,” she said. “It also made me feel connected to my fellow alumni. Because we were all sharing in something, it was a way to feel part of a community.”
Cocurullo credits the Spoke’s flexibility in adjusting prices and breakfast hours to ensure every student was able to redeem their voucher. Going forward, she said, Western Alumni plans to continue finding ways to engage alumni and keep them connected with Western students. To view the campaign’s social media feed, visit westernconnect.ca/itsonme.