Confusion crippled ice cream fundraiser
Jacob Lenard, the co-fundraising chair for Dance Marathon, had originally scheduled a benefit night at Ben & Jerry’s for Oct. 7, but Ben & Jerry’s moved the event to Oct. 12. After the benefit happened, Lenard said that he did not receive money for either night.
“We called the manager a couple times to get the money. He finally called us back three weeks later and basically told us that he wasn’t writing us a check,” Lenard said. “He told us that we didn’t publicize correctly and that we didn’t know how to do a benefit night.”
The event would have benefited the Children’s Miracle Network, the charity supported by Dance Marathon.
According to Lenard, Max Bierman, the owner of Ben & Jerry’s, told him that the event hadn’t been publicized sufficiently. Lenard also said that Bierman claimed that not enough people had mentioned Dance Marathon while purchasing ice cream.
Lenard said, however, that Ben & Jerry’s management told him that customers did not need to mention Dance Marathon in order for the money to be sent to charity.
Many other student groups have partnered with the franchise for philanthropic events in which the store donated a portion of ice cream sales from an agreed-upon night to charity.
According to Lenard, some of these groups,—such as Delta Gamma, Sigma Nu and Alpha Phi—have experienced similar problems with Ben & Jerry’s management when trying to organize fundraisers.
Following Lenard’s dispute with Ben & Jerry’s, Mike Hayes, executive director of campus life and director of Greek life sent a letter to Bierman expressing concerns about the incidents.
Hayes said that there appeared to be miscommunication on both sides.
“When I talked with Max, I got the impression that it didn’t go down the way it was supposed to,” Hayes said. “They are very philanthropically involved, and they still want to be.”
According to Bierman, the management involved with the fundraiser no longer works at Ben & Jerry’s.
“We want to partner with all facets of the University for a mutually beneficial experience,” Bierman said. “Since 2004, we have given back over $50,000 to charities, non-profit organizations and student groups and have had the opportunity to help raise money for families that are in need of funds related to medical care.”
In order to prevent future miscommunications, Bierman said that Ben & Jerry’s is working on a protocol for both Ben & Jerry’s and student organizations that he will send to Hayes to review.
“We are in the process of developing a ‘Benefit Night Guideline’ document for Washington University,” Bierman said. “I will be sending the document to Mr. Hayes. All groups wishing to host a fundraising event will be required to review the guidelines and discuss expectations and other information required.”
Hayes stressed the need for responsibility on both sides involved in fundraisers.
“There’s a responsibility on Ben & Jerry’s’ side and on the student organizations’ side,” Hayes said. “Students used to stand outside Ben & Jerry’s and tried to draw people in, but this doesn’t happen anymore. My understanding from Ben & Jerry’s is that they only had three customers come in that night.”
Despite the franchise’s attempts to facilitate collaboration with University students, Lenard has no plans to work with Ben & Jerry’s in the future.
“We aren’t working with Ben & Jerry’s again,” Lenard said. “Even if organizations do get the money, it’s not an easy business to work with. It was sad to see someone in our community denying money for [the Children’s Miracle Network].”
Despite these past problems, Bierman is optimistic for future successful fundraisers with the University once the protocol takes effect and communication is eased. He stressed the need for full student participation in all future events, including active promotion of the event and distribution of materials about the charity in the store while the event is occurring.
“I have several very creative ideas for taking our partnership with WU to the next level,” Bierman wrote in an e-mail to Student Life. “I would be delighted to meet with WU to discuss and to also understand what ideas WU may have for how to best leverage our global brand for their betterment.”