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Downes Murray International News

Online tools can help supporters raise funds from their networks

Three roller-derby players from Iowa barreled 640 kilometers across Texas on roller skates for 15 days in March to raise money and awareness for multiple sclerosis.

Dani Bock, Libby Claeys, and Melissa Dittberner started the unusual fundraiser in 2010 when they skated across South Dakota, and they’ve moved on to a new state every year.

Inspired by Ms. Claeys’s aunt, who has the disease, the women of “Sk8 the State for MS” have skated 2 200 kilometers and raised more than R217 000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“People are looking for a more creative and meaningful way to raise money,” says Betty Ross, a vice president at the charity.

Nonprofits are starting to offer on-line tools that help supporters make the jump to becoming fundraisers. Seeing the potential in helping passionate supporters raise money for the cause, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society built a do-it-yourself fundraising platform in late 2012.

Last year, do-it-yourself fundraising events produced R43 million, about 2.5% of the R1.8 billion the organisation raised that year in all special events.

“It’s a small percent over all, but it’s one of our fastest-growing revenue channels,” says Ms. Ross. 

Attracting new money
Movember, one of the most famous efforts, asks men to grow mustaches every November and show them off to raise money for prostate cancer and other men’s health issues.

More than 187 000 people have set up individualised web pages to raise money for Charity: Water, often asking for donations in lieu of birthday presents.

Peer-to-peer fundraising gets results, says Madeline Stanionis, creative director of M+R Strategic Services, a fundraising consulting company.

“These are typically people who are donating who might not have donated before, so it’s not as if charities are cannibalising their own fundraising. They’re typically bringing in new money and new donors.”

Donors seek the charity
In do-it-yourself fundraising, a nonprofit can take its message to many more people than it can reach on its own, thanks to supporters’ social- media networks.

After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, David Allen, a tattoo artist in Toronto, organised 30 tattoo shops to create Japanese-style tattoos for customers, donating the proceeds to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) via iRescue, the charity’s peer-to-peer platform.

“We had no connection to these folks, and somehow they found us and they raised R540 000,” says Nancy Haitch, vice president for strategic development. “You never know how people find you, and I think that’s also one of the beauties of a site like this – it’s a great awareness builder.

”Peer-to-peer fundraising typically brings in about R1.1 million a year for the IRC. 

Staff training
While it may sound effortless to let others do the grunt work of bringing in new supporters with cash in hand, do-it-yourself fundraising still takes up staff time in the form of training and support.

Staff members who assist in these efforts are part tech support, part reality check, and part cheerleader. They need to be willing to train older people on the technology or step in to help set practical goals for starry-eyed supporters.

Many large organisations have at least one employee dedicated to these programmes and say they plan to have more. Because peer-to-peer fundraising is so personalised, it’s relatively easy for small groups to get involved.

“If you’re a small organisation and have 30 really strong supporters, you can actually make those 30 really strong supporters into fundraisers, which is much more useful and beneficial to the organisation than simply asking those 30 people to donate,” says Ms. Stanionis.Recognising the efforts of do-it-yourself fundraisers is vital, says Ms. Ross of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The Wisconsin chapter of the charity was an early leader, she says, because it acknowledged fundraisers’ hard work. The chapter’s monthly newsletter identifies every person who organised an event “regardless of whether it was R100 or R10 000.

”Ms. Stanionis agrees. She recommends that groups ask do-it-yourself fundraisers to train others who want to start their own efforts. It’s another way they can strengthen ties with people who care enough about the cause to ask their friends to support it, too.

Small gifts can also be a great way to reward supporters who raise money, says Ms. Stanionis.

“People love to have things that say who they are as a person” she says.

“So giving people tools that allow them to express their values visually through T-shirts and bumper stickers are great premiums.” 

Turning volunteers into fundraisers

  • Make sure do-it-yourself fundraising sites and instructional materials are clear and easy to share through social media.
  • Provide prompt and friendly support to people running fundraising efforts for your organisation.
  • Acknowledge the volunteers’ hard work. 

With acknowledgement to The Chronicle of Philanthropy Visit 27 March 2014

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