College Students from University of Montevallo Win United Way’s Social Media Challenge

Team Falcon 5, Winners of United Way's Social Media Challenge.
Team Falcon 5, Winners of United Way’s Social Media Challenge.

Five teams from four different colleges and universities in Central Alabama competed in the United Way Social Media Challenge, sponsored by blr | further, to raise awareness of United Way while giving students a chance to show off their social media savvy.

Teams from University of Montevallo, Birmingham Southern College, Samford University and Lawson State Community College competed for prize money and a chance to present at United Way’s annual meeting in front of some of the area’s top business leaders.

United Way’s Social Media challenge offered students, particularly those interested in pursuing professional careers in marketing and communications, the opportunity to gain real-world experience, while promoting United Way’s value to the community. Five Montevallo seniors were selected and given the opportunity to compete as Montevallo’s team, three marketing and two communication majors: Matt Crowson, Madden Saverse, Taylor Teems, Emme Long and Mollie Wyatt.

“It’s really hard to find ways for students to get hands-on experience doing digital marketing,” said Carolyn Garrity, an assistant professor of marketing from Birmingham Southern College.

Garrity teaches a class called Principles of Marketing, and divided her students into groups where each team was assigned to create a social media campaign for United Way. Each group had the option of presenting their campaign to United Way and blr | further, to be one of the five teams selected to compete in the challenge.

“This is a great way for students to get real-world experience,” Garrity said. “Birmingham Southern College strives to prepare our students by engaging in job-related projects outside of the classroom. We were pleased to partner with United Way and blr to help our students and our community.”

Montevallo’s team, The Falcon 5, engaged their school and community to promote United Way and their local agencies. Using “Montevallo United” as their theme, they helped spread the word through social media as well as making an appearance at Montevallo’s annual Artwalk.

“We wanted the chance to give back to the United Way and help as much as possible, because they’ve helped programs that mean a lot to us,” said Madden Saverse, one of the team members. Saverse works for the Arc of Shelby County and was previously an Eagle Scout member of the Boy Scouts of America – both partner agencies of United Way.

Samford University had two teams participating in the challenge, divided into blue and red.

Team Blue’s idea was to create the Five-for-Five social media challenge, highlighting United Way’s support of the five counties in Central Alabama.

The team challenged followers to post a picture/video of themselves high-fiving a friend or family member while tagging five friends in Facebook, asking them to participate. They had 25 hours to respond, or they would be asked to donate $5 to United Way.

Team Red took on the moniker “Red for Birmingham,” asking followers to consider the legacy they would leave within their community.

“It was an interesting challenge,” said Cameron Gonzales, leader of Team Red. “Five different groups created and ran their own campaign, so you saw a lot of different takes around a similar idea. It was an interesting challenge to differentiate your team and stand out.”

The Social Media Challenge ran from October 10 – December 10, 2016, giving each team two months to run their campaigns to raise awareness and new donations.

The Falcon Five from Team Montevallo won the challenge by reaching more than 1,000 people, raising hundreds of dollars and creatively promoting the value of United Way within the Central Alabama community.

“To reach more than 2,000 people and raise hundreds of dollars in just 60 days is pretty amazing, considering this was our first year,” said Chip Graham, SVP of Marketing and Communications for United Way of Central Alabama.

“We are thankful for Blr | Further sponsoring the event and the teams, who took the time and energy to compete. We look forward to making this an annual event and engaging future teams to learn more about social media marketing while also helping their community.”

United Way of Central Alabama serves Jefferson, Shelby, Walker, Blount and St. Clair counties by providing solutions for the most important needs in the community. Through our partner agencies and community initiatives, we improve lives and community conditions by building and mobilizing resources. To learn more about United Way’s impact in your community visit

2nd place winners from Birmingham Southern with representatives from blr|further.