Two Emerson students’ Boston Strong fundraiser has sold over 37,000 shirts, according to their page on inktothepeople.com. Initially hoping to sell 110, the pair has far exceeded this goal and raised over $562,000 for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings as of Wednesday.
Nicholas Reynolds, a junior visual and media arts major, and Chris Dobens, a freshman marketing communication major, said they initially began the campaign as a way for the average college student to help those affected by the attack. The shirts cost $20 and feature the words “BOSTON STRONG” in yellow lettering on a blue cotton T-shirt, the same colors of the Boston Athletic Association, the organization that hosts the marathon each year.
Though $6 is usually deducted from the donation for printing and shipping fees, Ink to the People agreed to donate all $20 to One Fund Boston for the first 1,500 shirts sold. According to Dobens, now $15 per shirt will go to the fund created by Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas M. Menino to raise money for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
After reaching their goal of raising $500,000 by April 22, Reynolds said Ink to the People contacted the duo to replicate the campaign, because it automatically expired after seven days, but there was still so much demand for it. Reynolds said he and Dobens plan on continuing the fundraiser until requests for the product diminish.
“I’m hoping by the end of this campaign that we can raise very close to a million dollars on our own,” Dobens said. “I would love to see this turn into something really big, to not only help victims from the Boston Marathon, but to help victims of other tragedies around the world.”
The pair agreed the fact that they have raised over half a million dollars has yet to hit them, as they have had only one thing on their mind — getting the word out.
“I think there’s a certain benefit to us being so busy and so involved, especially early on,” Reynolds said. “It was sort of our way of coping with everything that happened to Boston. We could feel like we were doing something. Now, it’s a really big donation, and I don’t think either of us has processed what that means on a larger scale.”
Dobens said this week has been hectic, but rewarding. The two are constantly checking the inktothepeople.com page, and continuing to spread their message via social media. He said keeping up with schoolwork has taken some effort.
“We kind of have all of our friends reminding us to eat and sleep, kind of like moms and dads being like, ‘Put down the site, you’re going to bed. You can check it in the morning,’ ” Dobens said.
On top of their marketing priorities, Reynolds and Dobens said they have been contacted by a plethora of media outlets, including the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, Wall Street Journal Live, WERS, and Seventeen Magazine, in which they were named “Crush of the Week.”
“Being called ‘Crush of the Week’ is something that you don’t expect, but we loved the fact that they were mostly focusing in on the cause and not goofing around with the fact that two college kids were raising money for a big charity,” Dobens said. “It’s still funny. I can’t get over it.”
Dobens credits the fundraiser’s success to social media. Through creating a Facebook page for the cause, tweeting with the hashtag #BostonStrong, and getting friends to share their videos and status updates, the cause soon gained popularity. As a marketing communication major, Dobens said his education has been going directly to this effort.
“It’s been really beneficial,” Dobens said. “[My professors] all talk about how social media is becoming this big marketing tool, especially Twitter and Facebook and the whole ‘Share’ button. I can see the effects of what they’re talking about—you don’t need advertisement, really, to do anything like this. You just need a network of people who will be willing to share it at all times.”
Looking ahead, Dobens said they hope to get a major corporation to match their proceeds to reach their million dollar goal. And as shirts are now beginning to ship out to customers, Reynolds said they’re excited to see the tees popping up all over Boston.
“I can’t picture 36,000 of anything,” Reynolds said, “Least of all people wearing our T-shirt.”