Charitable Donations: Platforms/Channels

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Charitable Donations: Platforms/Channels

Charities and non-profit organizations have leveraged the power of social media, crowdfunding websites, and email campaigns to drive successful charitable donations for their fundraising campaigns. In the modern socially connected world, it is difficult to successfully drive donations using just one platform/channel. Hence, the below report presents seven case studies of successful charitable donation campaigns in the US that have combined two or more channels. In all seven, social media comes across as a common platform. The non-profit organizations mentioned in the report are Project EPIC, the American Red Cross, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Heart Association, Susan G. Komen, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

Project EPIC

  • Project EPIC was a non-profit organization founded by Spencer Cromwell and Srivatsa Dattatreya. The main aim of the organization was to help homeless people in New York City by providing them with backpacks containing Essentials, Provisions, Information, and Care (EPIC).
  • In July 2014, the co-founders launched a crowdfunding website (currently defunct) to encourage donors to donate. They also explained the nature of their campaign through a YouTube video. The co-founders created the campaign to raise $25,000.
  • Each backpack contained essentials like clothing, sanitary items, and toiletries, provisions like drinking water and packaged food, information like maps of New York City, and care items like pen and paper. In their YouTube video, the co-founders said that the backpacks were not a solution for homelessness. Instead, they were intended to help homeless persons to clean and hydrate themselves and find their way to a bigger non-profit organization.
  • The crowdfunding website gave donors in-depth updates about their donation and the campaign. It also allowed them to share their support with their friends and family via social media.
  • Through the support of 162 donors who contributed to the campaign, the co-founders raised $30,291.

The American Red Cross

  • The American Red Cross created the "Team Red Cross 2017" fundraiser to raise funds to support the 2017 Boston Marathon. With over 60 runners participating in the marathon, the fund was created to help people during the time of their greatest need.
  • Since the Boston Marathon was held on April 17, 2017, the American Red Cross conducted the crowdsourcing fundraiser in April 2017 to coincide with the marathon.
  • The fundraising campaign had a peer-to-peer element in it, in which individual runners could obtain sponsorships for their participation. Also, supporters had the option of donating to either an individual runner or to the whole team.
  • The American Red Cross used the website created for the event to spread the word, as well as the power of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The fundraising campaign featured traditional crowdfunding images that were personalized to Boston.
  • The American Red Cross used multiple crowdfunding websites to raise funds. It raised $10,250 on GoFundMe against a goal of $10,000. On Fundly, it raised $542,909 against a goal of $500,000.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

  • In January 2017, the ACLU launched a fundraising campaign in protest against the Trump administration's executive order that banned the entry of immigrants into the US from a few countries. The ACLU lawyers even filed a lawsuit against the executive order that resulted in the staying of certain provisions mentioned in the executive order.
  • ACLU used its website to display its message and encourage donors to donate for the civil rights of immigrants. ACLU even used social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to spread its message.
  • ACLU used the words "fight for immigrants' rights" in their campaign and requested popular social media influencers to support the campaign.
  • The campaign was a resounding success. Within two days, ACLU raised $24,164,691 from 356,306 online donations, more than six times what they typically raise in normal annual online donations. Even celebrities like Sia and Rosie O'Donnell contributed $100,000 each.

The American Heart Association

  • The Heart Walk is an annual walking event conducted by the American Heart Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to funding cardiovascular research in the US. The American Heart Association raises funds from the event to save lives from heart disease and stroke, major illnesses in the US.
  • The American Heart Association invites companies and individuals across the US to participate in the annual Heart Walk. The organization uses its website to display relevant information about the event. It also has its mobile apps on the Apple Store and Google Playstore. The organization encourages participants to spread awareness about the event on all social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
  • The Heart Walk is an annual three-mile event held across several locations in the US. For beginners and heart disease survivors, there is a one-mile Red Cap route. The organization spreads awareness about the risk of heart disease and the event through brochures like this one.
  • The Columbus (Ohio) leg of the 2018 Heart Walk was held on August 25, 2018. The 2018 event featured 666 teams and 6,831 participants across the US. Against a goal of $1,000,000, the organizers managed to raise $1,051,571.31. Thus, the platforms/channels used to attract potential donors resulted in a successful campaign.

Susan G. Komen

  • The Susan G. Komen 3-day is an annual fundraising event organized by Susan G. Komen, the largest breast cancer non-profit organization in the world, to spread awareness about breast cancer.
  • The event is a 60-mile walk spread over three days in which participants camp for two nights, either in a hotel or outdoors. The event is sponsored by the Bank of America, and each walker raises $2,300 to spread the word in the fight against breast cancer.
  • The organization uses its website featuring videos of breast cancer survivors and previous participants to spread awareness about the event. It also leverages social media to encourage participants by mentioning the event on its Facebook page, its Twitter page, and its Instagram page.
  • In 2019, the 3-day event was held in seven locations across the US: Seattle, Michigan, Twin Cities, Philadelphia, San Diego, Dallas/Fort Worth, and the New England region. The Seattle event was held between September 15, 2020, and September 17, 2020, and raised $1.1 million in donations.
  • Since 2003, the annual event has featured more than 500,000 participants combined and raised funds of value more than $863 million.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is a non-profit hospital that treats some of the sickest children in the US for free. The hospital operates totally on donations, and public contributions account for more than 75% of those donations.
  • Besides having its interactive website that encourages patrons to donate, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital also leverages the power of social media to drive donations. The hospital interacts with donors through its Facebook page, Twitter page, Instagram page, and YouTube page.
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital also uses email campaigns to engage with its previous donors. By keeping a newsletter list and sending periodic emails to its donors, the hospital keeps them informed about the status of their contribution. This helps the donors to relate to the cause they are supporting. An example of such a newsletter is presented below.
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is also a top spender on TV advertisements among hospitals and clinics in the US. As per a report, the hospital spent $8.7 million on a campaign featuring 15 advertisements that ran a total of 2,212 times on US national TV in April 2017. The campaign asked people to donate $19 per month to St. Jude and become its "Partner in Hope." The campaign was a success as 133.4 million viewers watched the ad, and the average view rate was 95.51%.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)

  • The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America is a non-profit organization founded in 1953 that treats patients with asthma and allergies. The organization raises money for its operations through donations, fundraising events, sponsorships, public education programs, and other sources.
  • The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America holds several awareness campaigns throughout the year to raise funds. A list of these campaigns can be found here. The organization engages with its donors and followers through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
  • The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has created a list of donors who have contributed in the past. The organization uses email campaigns effectively to drive more donations. By sending personalized emails to donors like the one below, the organization increases its chances of driving charitable donations.
  • AAFA has declared the month of May as the "National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month." Throughout May 2018, AAFA celebrated the awareness month by organizing events like Twitter chats, Air Quality Awareness Week, and Food Allergy Awareness Week, among others. While the organization did not reveal the funds it received through the May awareness month, the 2018 Annual Report of AAFA stated that it received a total revenue of $3,596,142 in 2018. AAFA also gained 6,479 new donors in 2018.
  • In the above annual report, AAFA stated that it received 39% of its revenue in 2018 from foundations and corporate grants, 39% of its revenue as Program Service Revenue, 14% of its revenue as donations from individuals, 4% of its revenue from the US government, and 4% from other sources.

Research Strategy

Since the initial hour of research found three major platforms/channels that drive successful charitable donations: social media, crowdsourcing/crowdfunding, and email campaigns, we have presented case studies that showcase successful fundraising that has used two or more of these platforms. Unsurprisingly, given the social connectivity in the modern age, social media comes across as a common platform in all seven case studies. Both crowdfunding and social media campaigning reach a wider audience and manifest in donations in a short time period. However, personalized email campaigning is a one-on-one process that takes a long time to manifest in the form of donations. Hence, both St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) that both use email campaigning for driving donations have not disclosed the monetary aspect of their short time fundraising campaigns. In spite of this, we can estimate the success of St. Jude's campaign by its TV viewership figures and the success of AAFA's "National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month" by the new donors it gained in the same year.


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