Club Finds Creative Fundraising Method

Photo: Students Stephanie Ulrich (left) and Eryn Trowbridge make and sell grilled cheese sandwiches on campus to help raise money for the FeelGood club.
Anna Vignet/Photo
Students Stephanie Ulrich (left) and Eryn Trowbridge make and sell grilled cheese sandwiches on campus to help raise money for the FeelGood club.

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Photo: Club on campus sells grilled cheese sandwiches for donations.   

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Every Wednesday on Upper Sproul Plaza, students dodging fliers can grab a grilled cheese sandwich on their way to class at the FeelGood club's booth.

The nonprofit, now in its second semester on campus, has made more than $1,000 selling donation-based sandwiches as part of the national FeelGood organization. Proceeds go to groups that promote sustainable solutions to world hunger, including Action Against Hunger.

Senior and club president Isha Vij said the pay-what-you-want policy has proved successful, despite being an unconventional business model.

"We're not doing charity work, we're making a profit to invest," she said. "It's a model you could definitely try in other places and I think more and more businesses are adopting it today."

National co-founder Kristin Walter, who established the organization in 2004 with fellow student Talis Apud-Martinez at the University of Texas, said FeelGood made $10,000 in its first six months. The organization went national in 2005, and now features branches at 17 other campuses.

"It was a really effective way to have a conversation about poverty and how we can contribute our own activity to creating change," Walter said.

According to Walter, FeelGood has raised $428,000 since its founding. Booths like the one on campus-which consists of a table and two George Foreman Grills-have contributed $159,000 of that sum.

The FeelGood branch at the University of Vermont has been most successful, raising $20,000 to $25,000 a semester, according to club president Melissa Stimson. Established four years ago, their club sells sandwiches three times a week.

"We're constantly asked to cater different events and feature different advertisements to different clubs, since we have such a great customer base," she said.

The UC Berkeley branch raised $1,000 last fall, more than any other FeelGood club in its first semester.

"I was pessimistic­-I thought that it was a high goal," said freshman and club member Stephanie Ulrich. "But I was so proud."

The club receives food donations and sponsorships from ACME Bread, Great Harvest Bakery and Costco, using the materials to make and sell sandwiches like mozzarella pesto and pizza-style with marinara. Vij said the average donation is about $3.

"I definitely support it. It's a good concept to work off of donations," said junior and customer Brendan Smith. "It keeps everything reciprocal."

But other campus organizations do not believe selling food is the most efficient way to raise funds. Former Beta Alpha Psi president Sagar Gupta said his fraternity occasionally tries to sell donuts or In-N-Out, but often makes little profit or even loses money.

"Honestly, we just don't do it that often," he said. "It's just a waste of time."

While Vij said she believes in the FeelGood business model, the club is facing obstacles of its own. Two weeks ago, campus officials said the generator FeelGood uses to power its grills was a safety hazard and could no longer be used.

She added that they are trying to find an alternate source of power but will keep selling whatever they can-including bagels and cream cheese-in the meantime.

"We won't ever stop," Vij said.


Contact Leslie Toy at [email protected]

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