Dozens of University of Nebraska–Lincoln students used their talents to promote the I Love My Dog Expo for Domesti-PUPS, the nonprofit organization’s largest fundraiser of the year.
The expo is a major two-day event full of dog-friendly, family-oriented fun that raises funds for Domesti-PUPS. This year’s event is March 25-26 at the Lancaster Event Center. Domesti-PUPS is a Lincoln-based nonprofit that provides therapy dogs, service dogs for persons with disabilities and obedience-trained rescue dogs. Since January, the advertising and public relations students have been working with Domesti-PUPS to develop and execute a plan to reach a new audience of potential volunteers and event attendees. The expo includes entertainment, games, rescue organizations, pet art, training demonstrations and shopping.
“The students have brought a new perspective,” said Dara Troutman, Domesti-PUPS board member and chief of staff for the University of Nebraska Foundation. “They’ve brought energy, ideas and a whole lot of skills and a level of expertise some of us didn’t have. It’s been very helpful. I think they’ve more than exceeded the goal they set for themselves.”
The students have been promoting the expo through social media, radio PSAs, partnerships, event goodie bags, posters and more. Students will also be volunteering at the expo, helping with photography, social media and informational booths. The marketing efforts have primarily targeted college students and pet-related businesses, as many student and Greek Life organizations have volunteer hour requirements, and students have been shown to miss their childhood pets while at college.
“Domesti-PUPS is a wonderful group to work with,” said Sydney Wagner, senior advertising and public relations major and PRSSA chapter president. “They are such a great cause. They’ve been so helpful to us throughout the project and they’re really good at figuring out how to fit students into this event. It’s my first service project, and it’s been a great experience.”
The service project is facilitated by the university’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter. As affiliates of the Public Relations Society of America, PRSSA chapters are encouraged to support the mission of advancing the public relations profession and engaging in pro bono work, such as this service project.
These service projects are mutually beneficial. Students have the opportunity to apply their coursework and gain real-world experience in their future career field, giving them tangible portfolio projects and resume lines that can help them stand out in job application processes, and fine-tune their skills as professionals. It also gives students the opportunity to give back and bond with community members and organizations outside of the university. In turn, a nonprofit gets new ideas, more hands on deck, high-quality deliverables and marketing materials.
“Projects like this one are a win-win,” said Phyllis Larsen, professor emerita and adviser to the university’s PRSSA chapter. “It’s a great learning experience for PRSSA members to partner with a client and see the actual impact of their work. For some, this is a first-time opportunity. It’s also a win for a small but growing no-profit to get a boost in awareness, an injection of fresh ideas and some new volunteers as well. It’s a wonderful thing seeing students engage in our community by helping Domesti-PUPS reach their goals.”
The I Love My Dog Expo is the largest fundraiser for the organization. By supporting the event, students and the university are supporting the Domesti-PUPS mission, which is to improve the quality of life for persons with special needs through the assistance of animals, and to promote awareness through education. Overall, the partnership has been a success for all involved.
“If I could share a word with any organization that is thinking about working with students, it would be to absolutely look into it,” Troutman said. This is a great opportunity for them to build some real-world experience and help an entity outside of the university. We’re a volunteer-run organization that doesn’t have much money, but we perform some really important work, and I’ve been thrilled with how responsive and talented the students have been. I would work with them again in a heartbeat, and I’d encourage anybody else to as well.”