STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WTAJ) — In just two weeks, 43 students in the Penn State Smeal College of Business were able to raise over 10,000 cans of pet food to be donated to the local animal shelter, Centre County PAWS.

It was all for a Management 326: Organizational Behavior & Design class project, led by instructor Neil Fogarty. Fogarty’s assigned this project on team building for four years now, but says this class blew previous numbers out of the water.

“And they did this during a COVID environment? Again, I was just knocked off my feet,” says Fogarty.

Due to COVID-19 precautions — students had to find new ways to fundraise. They set up crowd sourcing platforms like GoFundMe, advertised on social media, and sent personalized emails.

Justin Fisher, a senior, raised the most cans in his class with 1,631.

His secret strategy?

“We prioritized who we marketed to. For example, in two weeks you don’t have time to reach out to any old guy on the street,” says Fisher. “You want to send out emails, personalized, to your family and friends first. You want to mention them by name. You want to express the purpose for why you’re doing that and make them believe in your cause.” 

He says these efforts couldn’t have come at a better time.

“In terms of helping cats and dogs, now more than ever it seems they are in desperate need because when people suffer so do their pets,” says Fisher.

The final donation to PAWS was a combination of physical cans of food and money.

“The fact that we could actually donate so much financially means that we gave PAWS the ability to purchase exactly the type of food they need for the correct animals,” says Fisher.

When the class told the PAWS director via Zoom just how much they raised, Fogarty says she was stunned.

“And then all of a sudden when she recognized I said 10,375, I mean her eyes just got so big they almost took over the entire screen that we had,” says Fogarty.

Over past four years, Fogarty’s classes have donated more than 31,000 cans of pet food to local shelters, which Fogarty says is a testament to the energy and drive of his students.