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Canning: An Introduction to NUDM’s Fundraising Tradition

Caroline Bomback

Dec. 7, 2021

EVANSTON – As fall quarter comes to a close, dancers across campus are dusting off their bibs and preparing for Northwestern University Dance Marathon’s (NUDM) winter canning season.

Canning is a long-standing NUDM tradition and one of the most fundamental, accessible ways dancers can raise money. Throughout the school year, canners spread across Evanston and the surrounding suburbs to ask pedestrians and stopped cars for donations. Canners dress up in fun costumes, dance at stoplights and make creative signs to draw in donations.

For first time dancers, the prospect of asking for donations on the street can be quite daunting. Despite this, first-year student Mary Caserio did not let her age or experience get in the way of her determination to reach a $1,000 fundraising goal.

“While I was nervous at first, I quickly learned that canning is a great way to raise a lot of money for Chicago Youth Programs,” said Caserio.

It’s often a game of trial-and-error before dancers find their “sweet spot” with this fundraising technique. However, with the right location, time frame and NUDM elevator pitch, canners are able to bring in numerous donations in a short amount of time. A prime place to can is at tailgates before football games, according to Freshman dancer Elizabeth Savin.

“I would tell a first time canner to try and push themselves out of their comfort zone and talk to anyone,” Savin said. “People are very friendly and excited to donate to NUDM.”

It’s all too common that dancers shy away from canning due to the fear of being rejected. While any canner is bound to receive a “no” here and there, when one door closes, another one opens.

“Try to see each rejection as a practice round or free advertising,” Caserio said. “When I canned at football tailgates, I was sometimes rejected by people I asked directly, but someone else in the vicinity offered to donate.”

For Savin and Caserio, canning is not only an ideal method to monetarily support NUDM but also serves as an opportunity for them to connect with their community and advocate for NUDM’s mission.

"Canning raises awareness for NUDM and Chicago Youth Programs. If you’re enthusiastic while canning, people who donate will be genuinely interested in learning more,” said Caserio.

So, as the snowy Chicago winter approaches, get out, grab a can, some friends (and maybe a coat), and take the streets of Evanston by storm!

All dancers need to participate is an NUDM bib, a labeled can, and a destination - all of which is provided by the Dancer Relations committee. Dancers are welcomed to pick up a can and bib in Office E of Norris and reach out to for more information.

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