Centennial Campaign

An Owl in the Hand Is Worth Two on the Head

By Randall S. Barton
squishy owl

If you’re walking through the library and get hit in the head by a squishy owl, chances are you’re about to have a close encounter with one of the Reedies for Reedies.

“It’s an oddly effective marketing strategy,” says Erica Boulay ’11, one of six students on the Reedies for Reedies Scholarship Committee [see What is a Reedie, Anyway?]. The student-led effort solicits funds to provide a gift for one incoming freshman, based solely on financial need.

“The owls are really soft, so it doesn’t hurt when you throw them, and it gets the attention of people walking by looking down,” adds Amzar Faiz ’13. “They actually enjoy it.” Amzar takes aim, calls out their names, and they respond, “Oh, owls.’’

“We put up signs advertising the scholarship and tabled in the library a lot,” Erica says, “but you have to get their attention. When someone comes to the table we give them a squishy owl. Amzar decided it would be an excellent idea to hit people with the owls. That way they would come over and say, ‘Why did you hit me with the owl?’ And we’d give our pitch. We also put the owls on the ground so that people will trip over them. They see the owl and say, ‘Oh, can I keep this?’ and we say, ‘Sure, but first let us tell you about Reedies for Reedies.’ They usually end up giving us money.”

The Reedies for Reedies: Reed-Based Financial Aid scholarship fund follows in the footsteps of the Class of 2010 Scholarship, begun by seniors to create a scholarship for one Reed student.

“A lot of schools have the senior class gift in honor of their class,” says Christine Evans, assistant director of the Annual Fund, who oversees the efforts of Reedies for Reedies. “Historically we’ve had a hard time doing something like that at Reed. For whatever reason it’s difficult to rally students here around their class.”

Initially the Class of 2010 Scholarship focused on soliciting funds from seniors, but the committee soon decided to broaden its base and began accepting gifts from all students. The campaign eventually raised $11,707, a combination of donations from 212 students and matching dollars from President Colin Diver.

“Students campaigned with ‘Help us get Colin’s money,’ and it was exciting to have the committee formally request that he pay up,” Christine says.

This year a committee of one freshman, three sophomores, one junior, and a senior dubbed the group “Reedies for Reedies.”

The committee organized a number of broad email campaigns to the entire campus, hosted events such as free pizza, and sponsored a T-shirt giveaway in which they gave away 200 shirts in 20 minutes.

“I had an event in the quad where people could tie-dye their shirts,” Erica says. While they were tie-dyeing, Erica asked, “Did you know about Reedies for Reedies?”

Venture capitalist Venky Ganesan ’96 agreed to match all gifts of $15 or more up to $3,000. In addition, if 250 students participated, he agreed to contribute another $2,000. By June 1, more than 250 students had given $5,905, ensuring Venky’s entire match and rounding out a grand total of $10,905.

“How often do you get a chance to help a fellow student come here?” asks Erica. “Why not do it? Building community is about getting people to think what it means to be a Reedie. When we were at the tables it made people think, ‘Oh, you guys are giving to another student? That’s really nice. Even though I’m kind of grumpy because I’m going to the library, I actually like being a Reedie. So, I’ll give you some money.’ It’s building positive energy.”