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Gumball Challenge Hits Stanford

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By: Marisa Landicho

Published: November 10, 2008

Last week, teams of Stanford students were given 27 gumballs, 27 dollars and free rein of the campus for a one-week fund raising blitz known as The Gumball Challenge.

In its second year, The Challenge pitted 13 teams against one another and raised over $1,200 dollars to be donated to Kiva, a micro-lending organization that funds social entrepreneurs across the globe.

Melanie Edwards, a professor of social entrepreneurship who addressed the teams during the closing ceremonies on Sunday, pointed out that it was possible to generate change while making money.

“We’re real believers that you can do well, you can make money and you can still have really great social impact at the same time,” she said.

The goal of The Gumball Challenge was to raise money and awareness of microfinance, which involves small loans given directly to the working poor in developing countries. The number 27 was inspired by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, whose initial loan of $27 started a cyclical lending process and evolved into the Grameen Bank, which grew to help over five million poor women.

With only one week to turn gumballs into gold, teams churned out ideas and quickly implemented their various money-making schemes.

Sophomores Maddie Duhon, Whitney Liehr, Biju Obi and Stephanie Marcy formed “Team Trash for Cash” and canvassed dorms door-to-door, operating as both garbage collectors and agents spreading the message of microfinance.

“We just asked if people wanted their trash taken out for a small donation,” Duhon said.

Ultimately, Team Trash for Cash raised the most money of all teams – over $390.

While Tuesday’s election made it difficult for some teams to carry out their plans, one team took advantage of the timing and used the presidential election as inspiration for their efforts. On Tuesday, “Team Burbank Love” organized a “Cream the Candidates” event where participants paid two dollars to throw a whipped-cream pie at their choice of mock presidential or vice presidential candidate.

Team Burbank Love’s planners Philippe De Koning ‘10, Victoria Fischman ‘12 and Kelsey Davidson ‘12 rallied over 30 dorm-mates to help out and even volunteer to have pies thrown at them by overzealous election-watchers in White Plaza and at the CoHo. Their team raised $202 through both Cream the Candidates and a dorm-wide ping pong tournament, earning them the prize for biggest risk takers.

Prizes for best microfinance advocate and most innovative went to teams “Los Elefantes” and “Blue Barracudas” respectively, both comprised of freshmen from Larkin in Stern Hall. Los Elefantes raised over $200 through a dorm assassins game, while Blue Barracudas raised $330 through a date auction and an application essay review service for high-school students.

However, not all teams managed to pull off their schemes quite according to plan. Team “Donner Love” was thwarted by the weather when their plan to sell Gatorade at intramural games was washed away by rain. Eventually, through some last-minute efforts, the team managed to raise $13.

A few other teams dropped out throughout the week due to lack of time.

“Everyone has their own roadblocks,” said Gumball Challenge Director Nick Noone ‘10. “There are successes and there are some ideas that had a rough go, but overall I’m excited.”

Noone, who also coordinates challenges at other universities through Gumball Capital, said he hoped to see The Gumball Challenge become a campus-wide event in the future.

All participating teams were enthusiastic about this year’s competition – and eager to participate again next year.

“I had the Sarah Palin mask, and I think overall in the whole day, I got 50 pies thrown at me,” De Koning said. “I’ll also never forget the fact that when Obama won, I was covered in whipped cream. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had at Stanford.”

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