How One of my Students Collected Nearly 1,300 Boxtops

This is the story of how Kristianna Cory “KC”  Hoffman acquired nearly 1,300 boxtops (a.k.a., Boxtop$ for Education) as an extra credit assignment in my MKTG 470 course.  KC blew me away when she turned in 1,297 boxtops on the last day of class.  The key to her success was successful networking through personal selling, email, and social media.  With KC’s permission, I am sharing her story…

#helpKCpass college – the hashtag that saved it all

well, maybe not saved… but definitely helped

When I first got the email over the summer about collecting boxtops for extra credit, I was interning at a little distribution office in Trenton, NJ. That very same day, I drafted my own email to send out to the company about the opportunity. The exact email read as follows:

Hello lovely employees of Hughes Enterprises!

One of my marketing professors for this upcoming semester has emailed and informed us that she holds a contest each year for extra credit.  She asks her students to collect Boxtops for Education and at the end of each semester, gives out bonus points based on the number each person has collected.  Extra bonus points go to the person who collected the most!

She then gives all these boxtops to her son to bring into his school! The school gets money from each boxtop, students get extra credit in class, and it all benefits a great cause (2 if you count me passing my class)! Talk about a win-win.

So the point of all this (and yes, I promise there is one) is that I am asking for you to please bring in any boxtops you may have lying around your house (or your parents, brothers, sisters, kids, aunts, uncles, friends, etc.).  I will be putting a collection box on the front desk and you can just swing on by and drop them in there. Easy peasy!

Thanks in advance for your help! 

KC Hoffman’s College Degree – Made possible by James Madison University and Hughes Enterprises

Your lovely Hughes Intern,
KC Hoffman

That same day, I got some replies to my email like this one:

Not to sound dumb but what is a box top?

To which I replied with an explanation, link to the Boxtops For Education website, and an attachment with examples of products with boxtops (all found on the Boxtops For Education website!!). Turns out the guy had 9 kids, all home schooled, and almost every single product at his house had a boxtop on it! Jackpottt!!!

I also got some teasing replies like the one below:

I hope a couple extra credit points are not that detrimental to you graduating. Should have hit the books a little harder!

Ha. Ha. Ha. Hope he doesn’t close his deals with jokes like those :-p

Anyway, the response I got to this ONE simple email was astounding. By the time I left Hughes a mere 2(?) weeks later, I had over 300 boxtops and I had yet to cut out a single one on my own. I by no means ever expected that much involvement. And on my last day of work, I baked treats for everyone, and then handed out little personal goodie bags to those who had contributed boxtops with a note that said “KC Hoffman’s College Degree – Made possible by James Madison University, Hughes Enterprises, and ___(insert their name here)___”. They all got a good chuckle out of it and I got well on my way to those extra credit points.

That same week, I also posted to Twitter and Facebook a simple message asking for friends to send me boxtops as well, using the same hashtag of #helpKCpasscollege – it was a little humorous and also informational but it was so long ago that I can’t find the actual Tweet. But knowing social media, I actually doubted anyone would even read it.

But again, to my surprise, about a month later, 3 different friends had told me that they had bags of boxtops for me! They had apparently, like me, just told a few people about it and collected bags worth, barely doing anything themselves. One of the girls was one of my friends from elementary school, whom I hadn’t talked to since literally 5th grade! So I met up with them all over Thanksgiving break to get the boxtops and to personally thank them for helping out. All had offered to drop them off in my mailbox but 1) I hadn’t seen any of them in a while and 2) I thought it would be better to thank them in person.

Last but not least, I told my mother about the assignment. Who then told all her friends, her one class of college students, and my Grandmother, who then in turn told all their friends. Next thing I know it, I’m coming home to visit and my mom’s telling me to close my eyes and hold out my hands because she’s got a surprise for me. I do what I’m told and she put a bag of about 20-25 boxtops in my hands. I thank her profusely and she goes, “But wait, there’s more!” (she likes to make things dramatic like that) and proceeds to hand me, one by one, 18 more bags of boxtops, each bag from a different person. I didn’t even know how to react.

And when I went to my grandma’s house, at least 10 more bags. And this happened all semester. Until I reached almost 1,300 boxtops.

Now, If you want to know how I did it, the answer is simple: I didn’t.

And that’s the God honest truth. I MAYBE cut out 7 boxtops on my own.

Everyone else did it for me. They’re the reason that I collected so many boxtops. They’re the reason I got the extra credit I did. And they’re the reason Professor Clarke’s son’s school is getting the money from them.

All I did was put it out there. When I could, I tried to be funny, genuine, and make an impression that people would remember. One that they would remember as they were putting that box of Frosted Flakes in the garbage. Did I have any idea that it would be this successful? No way. I thought people would read it and forget about it 30 seconds later. But for some reason, it stuck. Whether they wanted to contribute to a good cause, help out a coworker, or make sure KC passed college, they collected boxtops and made an effort to give them to me. And in return, I made a genuine effort to thank them and remind them of where their contributions were going (and not just to my GPA).

The bottom line is that word spreads. I sent my message out through 4 mediums: email, Twitter, Facebook, and my mother. I did not promise them anything, bribe them, or even guilt them into cutting boxtops out. I also did not pester them. I announced it once and reminded them every now and then, that was it. I didn’t blow up their phones or social media feeds telling them that I was collecting. I sent it out, and let it be.

And I had over 30 people contribute, many of whom I didn’t even know. Friends told friends who told friends and that was the end of that.

I also framed it in a way where it wasn’t all about me. Yes, I used the joke about “helping KC pass college”, but I also made it a point to let everyone know that there was a reason for the collection, a bigger reason. I also made sure to point out just how easy it was to do. Deep down, people like to be charitable. And it may be a hard truth, but most people like the easiest and least amount of work kind of charity that can still make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like their making a difference. And what’s easier than cutting out some cardboard from something that’s already at their house? No extra money spent, barely any time and effort involved, yet still the warm and fuzzy feeling of helping both a college student “friend” and an educational system.

And there ya have it folks. That’s all I did. It wasn’t magic, or buying everything off the shelves, or bringing scissors to Wal-Mart and stealing them of the tops of containers. I just took a few seconds and used the connections that I already had, and some that I didn’t even know I had. I played on their willingness to help, their desire to contribute to a bigger cause, and their need for minimal effort. And ya know all those sayings about everyone doing a small part and making a huge difference? Well, I think this was a pretty prime example of that.


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