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What the Betty White Challenge Taught Nonprofits

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By Korrin Bishop

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Published January 28, 2022 Reading Time: 5 minutes

Timely events with emotional hooks inspire donors to give. The recent “Betty White Challenge” is an excellent example of this. The challenge drove impactful donations for animal rescue organizations everywhere.

The Betty White Challenge offers relevant lessons for nonprofits looking to unlock generosity through timely events. Below, we’ll provide further details on what the Betty White Challenge is, how it got started, and the five lessons nonprofits can walk away with. Regardless of your size or cause sector, there’s something we can all learn.

What Is the Betty White Challenge?

Betty White was an American actress and comedian who passed away on December 31, 2021. She starred in popular shows, such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, and was adored by her fans. Additionally, she was known as an animal lover and supported several animal welfare organizations and causes.

In honor of her enduring love for animals, fans suggested the Betty White Challenge be held on January 17, 2022, which would have been her 100th birthday. The event asked for people to donate $5 to animal rescues or shelters in her name.

Posts about the challenge went viral on social media through the hashtag #BettyWhiteChallenge, creating an informal, giant crowdfunding campaign. Rather than a specific organization, the challenge targeted a cause.

How Did Betty White Protest Animal Abuse?

Along with her philanthropy work for animal causes, Betty White took a stand against animal abuse.

Betty White originally had an offer to star in the 1997 film As Good As It Gets, which was nominated for an Academy Award. However, she refused to be in the movie, as the script included a scene depicting animal abuse.

Additionally, she joined fellow The Golden Girls actors in an anti-fur public service announcement that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) produced in the 1980s.

What Is the Morris Animal Foundation?

Morris Animal Foundation was one of the many organizations Betty White supported during her life.

The foundation bridges science and resources to advance the health of animals. The nonprofit supports research that finds solutions for serious health threats to animals. It has invested over $142 million into more than 2,850 studies.

The nonprofit shared that one of her last philanthropic acts for them was to establish the Betty White Wildlife Fund in response to the Deep Water Horizon oil spill’s impact on marine life. The fund has continued to grow and respond to critical wildlife emergencies.

Morris Animal Foundation also participated in the Betty White Challenge and shared stories of her support of their work throughout the event with their audience.

What Animal Charities Did Betty White Sponsor?

In addition to Morris Animal Foundation, Betty White sponsored many other animal charities, big and small, similar to those we highlighted on the Classy Instagram page during the challenge.

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Some of those charities included:

5 Lessons the Betty White Challenge Taught Nonprofits

The Betty White Challenge was an unexpected and highly impactful movement this year for many nonprofits. It also provided several key takeaways that all nonprofits can keep in mind moving forward.

1. Use timely events to drive awareness

Classy’s report Why America Gives found that 55% of donors completed donations to new causes based on a timely appeal, such as being asked to give after a natural disaster or event in the news.

Your nonprofit can track news and influential figures within your field to drive awareness for your cause. If people are already thinking about a subject due to a recent event or anniversary, they might be looking for ways to support your mission.

Anniversaries of events are particularly useful for time-based peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities that can activate fundraisers while tapping into an even wider audience.

2. Lean into your storytelling

The Betty White Challenge was so successful because it aligned perfectly with Betty White’s life story. The challenge wasn’t just a nice thing to do, but a way her fans could truly honor her legacy.

Many nonprofits were able to share their own stories of collaborating with Betty White or how she had impacted the work they do. Having those stories to tell created an emotional appeal that resonated with donors.

As with your other campaigns, time-based appeals should lean into storytelling as a way to connect with your supporters and show them how their donation will make a difference.

3. Make a greater impact through influencers

It’s easier for a time-based campaign to go viral when it’s not just your nonprofit tweeting about it. The Betty White Challenge spread far and wide thanks to many celebrities and influencers sharing about the event on their social media pages.

Time-based giving opportunities are one of the reasons why nonprofits should consider partnering with influencers. Your influencers and brand ambassadors can keep you updated on social media giving trends they might spot. They’ll also be able to share with their followers that they’re participating in a time-based campaign, which can encourage their audiences to join as well.

4. Keep your message simple and searchable

Participating in the Betty White Challenge had a low barrier to entry. The call to action was simple: Donate $5 to an animal charity of choice.

Asking for a $5 donation was an accessible amount for most supporters. The implied message here was that even small donations can make a big impact, so everyone can help.

The campaign also leveraged an easy, searchable hashtag that helped it travel quickly across social media: #BettyWhiteChallenge.

While you can include additional messaging on your campaign page and offer donors options to give more, make their gift recurring, or choose to fundraise on your behalf, keep your outreach message short and to the point.

5. Remember, nonprofits are better together

This challenge didn’t target one organization. It targeted a cause. As a result, many organizations benefited from the event.

The Betty White Challenge was a great reminder that nonprofits don’t always have to compete. Challenges like this show how to increase crowdfunding by working together on a similar cause. As the fundraising amounts of several nonprofits showed, there were plenty of donations to go around.

Consider how partnering with another organization for a timely event can increase your reach and brand awareness.

The Quick Checklist for Timely Fundraising Campaigns

If a timely event pops up, don’t panic. With a few simple steps, you can create a campaign within the same day to quickly leverage the moment.

To create your timely campaign:

  1. Build a campaign donation page on Classy.
  2. Send an email to your network and post on your social media channels once the campaign page is live.
  3. Send another email to your network and post again on your social media channels the morning of the event.
  4. Monitor your supporters’ activity on social media during the campaign to be able to engage with and share their posts for greater reach.

Leverage Timely Events Like the Betty White Challenge to Drive Awareness and Donations

The Betty White Challenge raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a diverse range of nonprofits working to help animals. It’s an example of how timely events can drive donations and encourage nonprofits to work together for the greater good.

Use this checklist and these lessons learned from the Betty White Challenge to spring into action should the moment strike.

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