When we ask people to sponsor a team for a walk or run, we want them to make a connection with a mission. Their sister had breast cancer, the child of a friend is in remission for leukemia. The runner or walker or biker becomes a means to the end of raising the profile and funding for that cause. They are racing, as it were, for the cure.

Crowd fundraising  is equally powerful, but for a different reason.

When supporters pledge $35, $50 or $100 toward a friend or colleague’s personal goal, they’re acknowledging a one-to-one connection with that person.  The individual is their cause.

As I found out last month, it’s an incredibly efficient way to harness supporters and raise money even for the smallest charities.

The Passion Connection

My  journey started with a decision to participate in the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, a five-week competition of 270,000 CrossFit athletes. I knew the five weeks would be both glorious and humiliating. So I hedged by ensuring my hard work, while unlikely to result in a spot in the Regional games, could benefit something else I cared about: Hand to Hold, a Central Texas organization that supports families who have children in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Making the connection between these two passions was easy. Having a child who spent more than two months in the neonatal ICU was daunting and scary. Starting CrossFit two years ago was also daunting and scary, but at least it was my choice. Both taught me that I am stronger than I imagine.

The Power of One for the Win

Once I made that connection, turning my CrossFit Games Open journey into a personal fundraiser was easy. I finally had the opportunity to try the everydayhero fundraising platform as a consumer rather than talking about it as part of my day job on Blackbaud’s marketing team.  I set up my personal fundraising page during a lunch break and began sharing it by the end of the day. Within two weeks I’d made my fundraising goal.

Most of my supporters don’t have a connection to Hand to Hold’s mission. Not all of them knew me when my son was in the NICU. Very few have personal experience with premature birth (although the odds — 1 in 9 babies born premature in the US — say that some of them eventually will).

But with a simple go-between, I was able to turn our connections into a story we could all get behind.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Bills is director of customer marketing at Blackbaud, a volunteer for Hand to Hold, and a member of VoodooCrossfit512 in Austin, Texas.

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