Marketing & Communications

‘Dancing outside the box’ supports children in northwest Ohio

By Amy West

Megan Leiss led Dance Marathon to a record-setting year this past April, but her leadership and outside-the-box strategies will continue to generate dollars for the Children’s Miracle Network for years to come. And, because of the impact her contribution has made on local children and their families, the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals has named Leiss the 2013 Youth in Philanthropy winner.

Her nomination letter stated, “As director of the event, Megan tirelessly dedicated countless hours as she directed a steering committee of 23 BGSU students and led them to record success. She also oversaw assistance from 55 organizations and hundreds of student volunteers. Her work paid off as BGSU’s Dance Marathon achieved record results by raising $314,181, an increase of 46.6 percent over the previous year.”

Leiss, a native of Quincy, Ohio, began her involvement with Dance Marathon during her freshman year as a dancer in the event and member of the fundraising core committee. As a sophomore, she chaired the fundraising committee, and in her junior year she stepped up as assistant director of financial affairs. As a senior, she was ready for her role as director of the BGSU Dance Marathon.

Leiss was quick to humbly point out that the award really belongs to the entire organization and not just her. She reflected, “Three years in an organization gives you time to generate new ideas, and this particular group was up for the challenge. They were the most selfless group I have ever worked with. They could see into the future and separate themselves from the here and now.” She added, “The advisors to Dance Marathon really helped a lot; I’m so thankful for them.”

As director, she saw to it that Dance Marathon was more successful than ever by encouraging her team to implement new strategies and take risks. The meeting structure was adjusted to reflect a workshop model where collaboration became the theme. Members also contributed new ideas for each area to facilitate brainstorming and promote teamwork within the organization.

However, Leiss was careful with all of these ideas. “I encouraged the team to be wise about how much work we put into things,” she commented. “It should be clear what the purpose of each new idea is and what the goals are. We made sure the amount of work we put into an idea would be equal to the outcome we were hoping for.”

Project for Awesome is one example of a new idea that boosted the overall funds raised by $40,000. The idea was presented by Alumni Relations Chair Alison Doughty and supported by Leiss and the rest of the committee. A community-driven, charitable movement on YouTube, Project for Awesome is an annual event providing participants the chance to promote their charity. Viewers vote for their favorite video, and the top five charities split all of the money raised by Project for Awesome throughout the year. Watch the BGSU Dance Marathon submission.

The record-breaking number was a secret goal of Leiss’s and one she never shared with her team for fear they would feel defeated if the goal weren’t met. But as the final number was announced at the April event, Leiss was overjoyed because not only did BGSU Dance Marathon raise the most money ever, her secret goal of $300,000 was exceeded.

“Even if I wouldn’t have met my personal goal, the hard work and money raised still equates to success for the miracle children this event is all about,” she said later.

As an active member in the University community and an Alumni Laureate Scholar, Leiss has been involved with other organizations. While Dance Marathon was definitely a highlight, she explained, “The best leaders are those that are involved in multiple organizations.” For her, these included the honors program, the honors learning community and Alpha Omicron Pi, a social sorority that supports juvenile arthritis.

Leiss said that her time not only with Dance Marathon, but also at BGSU, has enabled her to grow as a person. Her work with Dance Marathon has taught her some of life’s greatest lessons. She has learned about setting goals, providing leadership and practicing patience. Her hard work and success will increase the quality of life for children in northwest Ohio by funding medical equipment, research and enrichment programs.

Leiss graduated in May with a bachelor of science in education and is currently a graduate student in BGSU’s reading education program. Although she is not sure exactly where her career path will lead, if the past is any indication, she will make a positive impact on the lives of many.

(Posted November 18, 2013 )