Kevin Bacon is partnering with the University of Maryland on a revolutionary project encouraging students to "do good."
Bacon originally announced the project back in February, through a video posted by the university on the School of Public Policy website.
"Hey there Terps, Kevin Bacon here," he says in the video while pointing to his "Fear the Turtle" T-shirt. "You've heard that we're all connected by six degrees or less, but I'm going to show you how you can be one degree from me."
Network for Good serves to help charitable companies shape a successful business strategy, enhancing their marketing initiatives, branding and campaign impact.
Network for Good also gives organizations the ability to collect donations online. Then it aggregates and processes the donations and provides each company with a tracking report.
SixDegrees.org also helps individuals fund-raise, but though the use of social media. The website allows users to create "social fundraisers" with personalized pages, videos and widgets.
It was Maryland alum Karen Levenson, along with her husband Bruce, who originally contacted the University of Maryland to start a program on philanthropy. They wanted to build something that would reach out to the entire campus.
In January 2010, the Maryland School of Public Policy created a program that would allow both graduate and undergraduate students to reach these goals with the help of financial support from donors.
Students are given $10,000 to invest in a local philanthropic organization.
In August 2011, lead supporters of the program connected organizers to SixDegrees.org and wheels set in motion for the "Do Good Challenge."
“It’s a great synergy of the goals of our program," said Challenge Director and School of Public Policy professor Robert Grimm of the collaboration.
"Kevin Bacon definitely brings great buzz and more notoriety to the challenge," said Grimm.
“He hasn’t done anything like this before.”
Beginning Feb. 4, students were able to register for the challenge online. They submitted basic contact information along with a one-paragraph explanation of how they were doing to "do good."
The goal of the challenge was to see "how much" and "what kind of good," students could do before the end of their Spring Break, according to the challenge website.
It encourages the use of social media in raising awareness, which is the foundation of Bacon's Six Degrees organization.
Each challenge submission is evaluated based on a final report, considering overall impact and other factors such as how many people worked on the project, how many donations were received and/or money raised and how many supporters liked the cause on Facebook and/or followed it on Twitter.
One of the student groups participating in the challenge is Terp Thon, an organization that raises money and awareness for the Children's National Medical Center in D.C.
Terp Thon, in partnership with the Children's Miracle Network dance marathon program raised more than $268,000 on March 10. The organization set a national record, raising more money in its third year of existence than any of the other participating schools have in the past.
Though Terp Thon has existed as a fund-raising organization for three years, student members saw the Do Good Challenge as an opportunity to increase their notoriety in the community.
"We figured we were already raising money and there was no reason not to enter the contest because we were already doing what the contest wanted us to do," said Community Relations Chair Hank Rich.
“Our charity brings together over 80 student organizations," he said. "We actively combine all these organizations and incorporate all aspects of the challenge with everybody coming together to be a part of us."
About 1,800 people signed up to participate in the 12-hour marathon, which culminated the group's year-long fund-raising efforts. It served as a celebration for those who raised a minimum of $100 for the cause.
Rich said it is the largest student event at Maryland outside of athletics.
While Rich said that the challenge did not change how Terp Thon usually fund-raises, it "definitely helped" to have their name on the Do Good website.
Final submission forms are due on March 26 and Bacon will be on the University of Maryland campus on April 18 to judge the best projects.
A panel of celebrity judges, including former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams and Today Show nutritionist (and UMD alum) Joy Bauer, will join him.
"The challenge definitely gets (students) involved who might not be fund-raising," said Rich.
"We hope to excite the university enough to keep growing as much as we have been the past three years.”