We did it! Bucky Challenge earns nearly $20,000 for scholarships

Watch a video chronicling some of the reaction of the community to the campaign:

Watch a video of people thanking participants in the Bucky Challenge.

UW–Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Association have a message for the campus community of social media users: You have accomplished something historic.

During the challenge period, students, faculty, staff alumni and friends helped UW–Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Association make close to 20,000 new social media connections.

It was all in response to a first of its kind challenge from Will and Jenny Hsu of Minneapolis and Will’s parents, Paul and Sharon Hsu of Wausau, Wis. The Hsus pledged to give $1 for every new Facebook and Twitter follower to UW–Madison and WAA.

As a direct result of alumni and student involvement in this challenge, they are donating $19,432 to the Great People Scholarship. The Bucky Challenge represented the first effort to raise need-based scholarship funds in this way in higher education.

“I’m incredibly pumped by the response to the Challenge,” says Will Hsu, a 2000 grad who uses the handle @wphsu on Twitter. “It was energizing to see so many people get excited on social media, and share this challenge with their family and friends.”

"When a call goes out to the UW community looking for help, Badgers respond," he adds.

The campaign accomplished even more than was anticipated and was even publicized in the New York Times, says Vince Sweeney, vice chancellor for university relations.

“We’re enormously grateful to the Hsu family for its generosity,” he says. “What might be surprising is that the scholarship funds generated are only part of this unique initiative’s success.”

The Bucky Challenge provided a perfect opportunity to reach out to the university’s base of 350,000 living alumni, both through traditional means such as email and the On Wisconsin alumni magazine, but also through new means such as Twitter.

Participation in the challenge by alums like Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (@jjwatt), Salon.com writer Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) and CBS News correspondent Jeff Greenfield (@greenfield64) was invaluable, he added.

UW-Madison will continue to find creative ways to engage alumni and donors in on and offline conversations about the critical role of private financial support on campus.

And now, the university is uniquely positioned to convert new likes and followers into engaged alumni who visit campus, follow news and share their views and ideas, Sweeney says.

UW-Madison was recently recognized as the second most successful social media program in higher education, with an extremely high degree of engagement and involvement with its followers. That approach has been successful and will continue.

“We found a way to link social media with our passionate base of alumni and amazing people like Will and Jenny,” says Sweeney. “It’s one more example of our university creatively connecting with the world.”