Student spotlight: Small change creates a big donation


Hork with the small change that made her charity a success.

Photo by Daniel R. Burke

Dana Hork (C’02) wants you to see the big picture. Forget the little bitsy parts and focus instead on the collective. Having a hard time? No worries. Hork, founder of Change for Change, is an expert at getting others to think big.

Started three years ago, Change for Change serves as an umbrella organization for the various student philanthropic efforts at Penn. You might have heard about how the organization recently took only one month to raise $25,000 for the American Red Cross’ Sept. 11 disaster-relief efforts. Hork said that although she took the first step, approaching campus organizations to see if they wanted to coordinate relief efforts, word started getting around and soon people were approaching her.

“The effort was anything from a huge philanthropy party that raised $2,000 to a ribbon that someone bought on [Locust] Walk for $1,” Hork said.

The way Hork explained it, the idea for Change for Change hit her “like a lightning bolt” late one night. “I sat down in my room from midnight to 4 a.m. and wrote my whole vision for Change for Change,” she said. The idea behind the organization is simple—get college students to work together.

“A lot of times students are pretty much focused on their own efforts that they fail to realize that they are a part of a larger campus,” said Hork. “Change for Change is just one vehicle where students can still be a part of the smaller communities that they have made for themselves here at Penn, but also work with other groups whom they may have never had contact with before.”

Change for Change works because it doesn’t require huge donations to make an impact. “Every college student has in their room a thing of change, and college students are lazy but they also want to help,” Hork said. “And if you could just pool the change collected by everyone, it would make a difference and be a significant amount.”

This year’s entering freshman class received stadium cups at New Student Orientation to collect their loose coins. And students can vote on line for the recipient of the funds. This year’s list of potential recipients is diverse, ranging from the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance to Neighborhood Bike Works.

But Change for Change isn’t purely student-driven. Dining Services, ARAMARK and Coca-Cola have agreed to donate some of the proceeds from on-campus vending machines.

And while Penn is bustling with philanthropy and volunteerism, Hork is making sure that other colleges and universities are doing the same. Already this fall, Amherst College opened its own Change for Change chapter. That chapter’s founder, a junior at Amherst, is a childhood friend of Hork.

Hork feels so strongly about expanding Change for Change that she sees herself involved post-graduation. She has even trademarked the name of her organization, and she is confident that others will continue to respond to the call for collectivity. “When you really believe in something, it’s surprising how quickly it happens and how much other people start believing in it also.”

Originally published on November 8, 2001