Up until last Saturday morning, the day after the deadline, I wasn’t sure whether University of Virginia students would be compelled to act by our call for entries into the first ever Digital Talent Show as part of Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday Celebration (#TJBDAY), and it was giving me (us) serious heartburn.

The idea seemed simple enough, and yeah, we thought maybe even cool? To enter the Digital Talent Show, a student just needed to upload a video to Youtube that was two minutes or less and showcased an individual act of talent. Since talent comes in all shapes and sizes, we were looking for videos that contained a wide array of examples. TJBDAY_avatar_160x160Talent videos could be funny, silly, athletic, musical, serious or whatever so long as they were appropriate for all audiences, did not violate copyright laws and no one was put in danger. We even put some examples on the #TJBDAY website. (More on the copyright part in a future white paper, but a huge component in the planning of #TJBDAY)

Every day for almost two weeks, I’d wake up and check my iPhone for new submissions but they weren’t coming. The deadline was approaching fast. The crowdsourcing component involving the students had taken the work out of our hands. Well, almost.

We wrestled with the concept. Was a Digital Talent Show even appealing to students – to enter a contest like this one and help raise money for need-based student scholarships? There had to be students that wanted to be noticed, but would they come forward? Was the reward big enough? The UVA Bookstore and University Advancement combined to offer a $1,000 first place prize and a $500 second place prize to the winner; the entries that received the most votes (donations). $1 = 1 Vote

It took several weeks to convince everyone around Grounds to give it a try and the entries just weren’t coming. We pounded pavement, handout out cards and flyers, and even did some guerrilla marketing with actors portraying Presidents Jefferson and Washington.

TJ and GW hanging with students

TJ and GW hanging with students

In the end, the in-person marketing effort seemed to work. Finally, over the last few hours before the deadline, the entries trickled in. And they were amazing. #sighofrelief

So today at 4pm we’re announcing the 12 #TJBDAY Digital Talent Show finalists and building momentum for a 36-hour giving campaign on Thursday and Friday of this week. We have no idea what the results will be since there is no history on this approach, but if enough of our students, parents and alums download the graphics and update their social media profile pics and avatars we could have something really cool.

TJ’s Birthday Celebration is this Thursday and Friday – a 36-hour online giving campaign – featuring a student Digital Talent Show to raise money for need-based student scholarships. I hope my higher education friends will follow along on twitter #TJBDAY. Should be interesting!

Read “Part 2” with #TJBDAY Results.

Ryan Catherwood is the Director of Engagement Strategy at the University of Virginia and Co-Host of “Advancement Live.” You can follow him on twitter @RyanCatherwood and connect on Linkedin.


Article Author

Ryan Catherwood

Ryan Catherwood

Higher Ed Live blogger and Former Host of Advancement Live
Assistant VP for Alumni and Career Services, Longwood University

Ryan Catherwood is the Assistant VP for Alumni and Career Services at Longwood University. Prior to joining Longwood, he was the Director of Digital Strategy in the University Advancement office at the University of Virginia. His work is dedicated to strategies that utilize events, crowdsourcing, inbound and content marketing, email marketing and social media community management in order to drive alumni and student engagement, participation, connections, networking, volunteerism and giving at Longwood University.


Ryan Catherwood

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *