Unless you live under a rock, you probably either took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or know somebody who did. In a matter of weeks, ALS raised over $100 million, and equally as important, gained a significant level of recognition as millions of people went to their website to learn more about ALS and its mission. This represents a new crop of potential donors for the organization for years to come. ALS is a great organization with a very sympathetic mission, but there are so many other organizations that have equally sympathetic causes that have not been able to make the big splash ALS has.
The truth is, you never know what is going to trend out there. The goal is to be innovative with your approach … and hopefully get some famous/high net worth people behind you. While ALS seems to have cornered the market in results, other organizations can try to be creative in their approach, moving away from dinner dances and golf outings. Here are some ideas that we have come up with:
Hop Aboard the Health Craze:
The social-movement of achieving good health through an active life-style has been growing. People want to stay healthy; and they will appreciate if they can stay healthy while helping out a good cause. A bridge should be created between the Non-Profit and a healthy outing. A good way to do this is to create events that allow the donors to engage in fun, physical activity with friends. These events can come in the form of runs, hikes, swims, building repelling, or anything else active. These events are communal in nature, bringing in larger groups of participants than many other types of events, and will create a fun opportunity for people to be healthy. Health-conscious events raise awareness for the Non-Profit in the community, which will ultimately raise donations. They also put more emphasis on people within your organization to leverage their contacts for increases in donations. This also includes such things as mud runs, obstacle courses, and zombie runs (which also capitalizes on the Walking Dead phenomenon).
Tap Into Pop Culture:
If you watch TV, cooking shows are in right now. Find a way to tap into the cooking craze. Consider a cooking competition with local chefs as judges or a cook-off against a local chef. You could have people pay to be contestants, participate in the audience, the food could be served in a restaurant with the proceeds going to your charity, or whatever else you may think of. If done during restaurant week, it could garner a lot of press and generate some buzz about your organization. The same thing could be done with a local dancing with the stars.
Try a Challenge:
If you have adventuresome members, staff, volunteers, or supporters, then you can challenge people to donate money to get them to do something they would not normally do. Such as dining on a bug (aka Fear Factor), climb a rock wall, jumping out of a plane, or anything else you or they can think of. This can be a low cost, effortless idea, which can blossom into something viral as more and more people volunteer to perform the challenges. Videos of these challenges then hit the internet and maybe you too will have an ALS blockbuster.
Other events that we have seen that sound really cool are: virtual galas complete with avatars and on-line auctions; table wars at fundraising events where people can donate via text or in person, and where each table’s donated amounts are listed on the screen for all to see.; An idea that we see a lot is videotaping the delivery of your mission through candid discussions with constituents showing your impact and ending with a direct request to your audience for funds. We see this messaging … pushed through websites, newsletters, etc.
No matter what event/fund raising concept that you choose, the goal is to push it out through social media. As ALS proves, the more you get others to like and share the information about your event and your cause, the more effective your event and cause will be, and the larger your base for future events and donations.
Kenneth R. Cerini, CPA, CFP, FABFA
Ken is the Managing Partner of Cerini & Associates, LLP and is the executive responsible for the administration of our not-for-profit and educational provider practice groups. In addition to his extensive audit experience, Ken has been directly involved in providing consulting services for nonprofits and educational facilities of all sizes throughout New York State in such areas as cost reporting, financial analysis, Medicaid compliance, government audit representation, rate maximization, board training, budgeting and forecasting, and more.