Several years ago, I had the honour of working with UNICEF Canada to develop sponsorship properties for it’s then new Trick or Treat for UNICEF program. I will never forget having our first client meeting where I learned for the first time that they were ending their Halloween coin collection program. To many Canadians (and Americans), the decades old little orange and black coin boxes were a Halloween institution. I certainly had fond memories of collecting money for children in Africa and elsewhere.
In place of the coin collection, UNICEF introduced a new month-long program in schools for children to raise funds for schools in Africa. There were several reasons for this change. (Imagine the logistics of the cross-country coins.) However, the most important of them was the fact that there was little room to grow the program. While many expressed surprise at the change, the ending of the coin collection is part of larger trend. Door-to-door solicitations have been on the decline and both telemarketing as well as direct mail appeals are under pressure. However, events with peer-to-peer fundraising pledges are on the dramatic rise in terms of dollars raised and the number of events. This is the approach that UNICEF is now taking.
Perhaps the best example of the peer-to-peer (or social fundraising) is the Weekend to End Women’s Cancer (originally Breast Cancer). This year’s event in Toronto raised nearly $11-million from 4,600 participants and four other events across the country each raised millions of dollars as well. The key to this success are the thousands of participants that raise money individually or in teams. The average in Toronto was more that $2,300 per participant.
Far more modest events as well are having great success from peer-to-peer pledging. The average golf tournament in Canada nets $17,000. However, Victoria Hospital Foundation shows what’s possible when participant’s are turned into fundraising volunteers. One participant, Rick Leaderhouse, raised $13,350 in pledges on his own for this typical golf event, and he was not alone with the next participant, Dr. Louis Poulin raising $12,145. Golf tournaments where the participants get pledges is still a new idea compared to securing pledges for walks, bikes and runs. As the idea continues to grow, millions of dollars will be raised.
Some events come with much larger feats for the participants to complete including amounts that must be raised. These events usually involve overseas travel. The first of these that most people had heard of was a small group climbing a mountain such as Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for charity. Next, came people participating in overseas marathons. Now, organizations like the Arthritis Society organize hikes in Iceland and cycling expeditions in France as part of their Joints in Motion fundraising program. For these more ambitious locations, participants must each raise or contribute more than several thousand dollars. Joints in Motion has raised more than $30-million since it began. Charities in Europe raise even more. Cancer Research UK has had as many as 60 of these expeditions in a year trekking destinations like the Great Wall of China more than eight times per annum.
The internet has transformed pledge-supported events. Blackbaud reports that those people using email and social media to seek pledges raise six times as much as those that do not. The reasons for this include the facts that more friends and family are contacted if the internet is used and people tend to give more when using a credit card versus cash. Sites like FirstGiving.org and Crowdrise.com permit people to establish their own web profile and page to raise funds for their cause while services such as Memlink.com and Artez Interactive design custom pledge sites for charities. The side benefit of these personal pages is that the participants that maintain an active presence tend to become more engaged in the charity.
Kiva.org, the charity that provides micro-loans to people in developing countries has developed a great visualization of the power of peer-to-peer engagement. In the video, you see how Kiva has grown to over 615,000 lenders. This success is due in large measure to the power of social fundraising with lenders recruiting friends and family to join them.