Pivot to virtual events spurs creative thinking for food drive

Student Food Pantry

Bake sales, silent auctions and even pet photo ops characterized past food drive fundraising events. Last year, department events like these brought in about one-third of the total funds raised during the drive.

This year, with most employees working remotely and gatherings prohibited by COVID-19 rules, coordinators across campus have reimagined the ways that employees can get engaged and donate to the food drive.

Virtual events ranging from raffles to an online giving competition are among the creative ways coordinators have accommodated the shift to a virtual drive.

One example is a prize drawing open to all UO employees and coordinated by Johnson Hall and UO Communications. For every $10 a UO employee donates to the Johnson Hall and UO Communications online giving page, they will receive one entry in the name drawing. On Feb. 12 and 26, names will be pulled live on Zoom for a variety of prizes, including gift cards to local businesses, Valentine’s Day packages and UO swag.

“We’ve always done luncheons where we’ve gotten together, and that works really well for the food drive” said Noemi Sepe, food drive coordinator for Johnson Hall.

To gather prizes for the virtual name drawing, Sepe solicited donations from local businesses, which responded with more than 20 prize packages.

“I am so humbled by our community members being willing to donate to this cause,” said Sepe. “A lot of them didn’t know that the university does the Governor’s Food Drive to benefit FOOD for Lane County, and they were so excited to hear about it and give back to it.”

The Department of Theatre Arts is also holding a raffle, reaching out to community members in addition to UO employees. Student worker Jade Fraley is promoting the raffle via theater arts’ mailing list and outreach to local elementary schools. She is working with the student-run Pocket Playhouse to do a live Zoom reading this month for children and their families.

“During the event, we will ask for donations if families can afford it,” Fraley said. “We will do a live Facebook event for the prize drawing at the end of the month.”

Up for grabs are three prize baskets: one themed for families that includes passes to Wildlife Safari, a date night basket with a couples soak at Onsen spas, and a pet-themed basket with gift cards from local companies.

Two departments are continuing an in-person tradition but migrating it online: The Department of Chemistry and Department of Biology for the last 4 years have competed against each other to see which can bring in the most donations. Department coordinators encourage employees to give by sending weekly emails and are tracking donations on a UO blogsite to ignite the rivalry.

"Our coordinators use email and social media to remind our departments to donate to this worthwhile cause and to update them on the status of the challenge," said Leah O'Brien, coordinator for Chemistry. "I think the ease of online giving factors into the success of this type of challenge.”

The Governor’s State Employees Food Drive runs Feb. 1 to 28. For more information, see your department’s food drive site coordinator. If you aren’t sure who that is, email fooddrive@uoregon.edu to get connected.