Students who raise awareness of charity can get a real gift

Are you a college or university student underemployed this summer? Being creative and community-minded might just win you more money than you could ever make on the job.

A press release headline caught my eye recently: “Have you heard the $50,000 story about the charitable sector? Neither have we … Yet!” Imagine Canada and the Muttart Foundation launched a national contest called Students (Verb) Charities.

Post-secondary students are being challenged to produce a public awareness campaign of how the charitable sector improves the quality of life in Canada. The stakes are high for this national competition and you’ll have a chance to win part of a whopping $100,000 in prizes.

You have 50,000 reasons to put a few moments thought toward this, as that is the amount first prize will take. Second prize is nothing to sneeze at either at — $25,000 — and the third prize is $10,000.

The contest rules are posted at


and, from what I read, entries can be in any form or medium. They can include text, drawing(s), storyboard(s), photograph( s), audio, and/or video, really any format that can be presented or viewed physically or electronically is eligible. The site says you could submit: “an advertisement, song, video, or even a mashed-potato sculpture (okay maybe not taters), but you get the picture? The only limit is your creativity!”

Bob Wyatt, Executive Director of the Muttart Foundation is looking forward to seeing how students use their creativity to reflect the contributions of the charitable sector. He’s quoted as saying: “We have deliberately kept the format and medium of the contest flexible because we want young people to be as creative as possible in helping us take a fresh look at ourselves.”

The website also hosts a bunch of statistics and information on the charitable and nonprofit sector to help inform students’ campaigns. It’s a clever way to sneak in some learning if you ask me. How else might you get students from across the country to inform themselves of the work of the charitable sector and how it affects peoples’ lives?

Heck, I had no idea that there were more than 82,000 charities in Canada, or that in 2009 more than $7.8 billion in charitable donations were claimed, or that 12.5 million Canadians volunteered for charitable and nonprofit organizations that year.

Marcel Lauzière, president and CEO of Imagine Canada, said, “This is an opportunity for young people to become more engaged with charities. In addition to looking forward to seeing the campaigns, we also look forward to connecting with the next generation of leaders in our sector.”

Smart. Why not have Canadian students unleash their creative genius, while getting educated? I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of buzz on social media was created through this campaign and we start seeing a lot more charitable awareness videos on YouTube.

Got a story to tell of how charity has affected you or your loved one? Can you communicate the breadth, variety and/or work of the charitable sector? How about explaining the importance and/or involvement of the charitable sector in the lives of Canadians? The only thing you can’t do is ask for donations. Again from the website: “Whatever the

medium, keep in mind for your message that great stories are like mirrors — they move audiences because they reflect people’s personal experiences.”

Entries will be judged on creativity, originality, success in conveying a message; and the perceived likelihood that the campaign can increase public awareness of the charitable sector. Up to 25 finalists will be invited to phase two of the contest and by May 31, 2013 six winning entries will be awarded from $2,500 to $50,000 each.

To be eligible, students (or student teams) must be registered full-time at a Canadian university or college, they have to be permanent residents of Canada, and between the ages of 18 and 35. Entries must be submitted in English or French (or both) by Nov. 30, 2012.

I wish I was eligible for the contest, but alas I am too old, and not studious enough. Something like this would be a much better use of my time than catching up on television reruns and tweeting about them.

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