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Fun and Creative Fundraising Campaigns: If You Build It, They Will Come


By Allison Gauss

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

You already know fundraising is hard work. But all work and no play makes it even more of a struggle. People are much more willing to help if your campaign is fun or creative.

Do you remember the scene from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, where the title character gets his friends to whitewash a fence by saying how much fun it is? Once the kids saw the activity as fun, they couldn’t wait to lend a hand. You don’t, however, need to be manipulative like Tom to make a fundraising campaign that attracts lots of participants.

In this post, we’ll look at the success of creative fundraising campaigns like the Ice Bucket Challenge and discuss how you can build fun and creativity into your own fundraising campaign.

Case Study: The Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge succeeded for many reasons, but fun was a major one. They took a fundraising campaign for a terrible disease and made it a fun, social experience that everyone wanted to be a part of. The very premise of the campaign is the silly and funny image of people dumping cold buckets of water on themselves. I would watch my friends do that even if it wasn’t for a good cause. The social ties are strengthened by the participants “challenging” their own friends and family in their videos.

Another reason the Ice Bucket Challenge spread so widely and so quickly was the campaign’s accessibility. Other than a camera or smartphone to record with, the fundraiser didn’t require any special equipment. You could do it anywhere, anytime.

The brilliance of the Ice Bucket Challenge was that anyone could do it, but everyone did it their way.

Start with the Rules

“Wait, wait, wait. Why would I make rules if I want people to be creative and have fun?”

Because when they are well-designed, rules spawn creativity and fun. After all, what is a sport or game without rules?

For example, lots of people love to watch and play baseball. But it wouldn’t work without a strike zone or if you didn’t have to run the bases in a certain order. If there were no rules, there would be no baseball. Another way to look at it is you need to create the premise of your fundraising campaign. Once people know where to start, they can create their own adventure. An example of limits spurring creativity in the digital realm is Twitter. Twitter wouldn’t be Twitter if you weren’t limited to 140 characters.

To create a fun campaign that people can get creative with, you need to set some parameters but also leave room for interpretation.

Last year's campaign at the Classy office
Last year’s campaign at the Classy office

One way to do this is to ask people to perform a simple, but unusual, task. A great example of this is the Red My Lips campaign, where participants wear striking red lipstick to promote awareness of sexual violence. Anyone can put on lipstick and then talk about it when friends ask why they changed up their look. The campaign also leaves room for people to choose what shade of lipstick or even where to wear it. And as these pictures from our office show, guys get involved too.

(Or, in a very famous example, Movember has done an amazing job at incorporated self-expression and fun to raise awareness. And now, they’re one of the largest foundations in the world for men’s health.)

The Keep a Breast Foundation recently launched their #CHECKYOURSELFIE campaign for breast cancer awareness month. The campaign asks people to commit to a monthly self breast exam and post a picture of themselves holding three fingers to their (clothed) chest with the hashtag #checkyourselfie.

By incorporating personal pictures on social media, the campaign will spread among friends and people can follow the hashtag to learn more. Keep a Breast also offers a free app to help users do routine self-checks.


Getting Some Momentum

So once you have an idea for your fundraising campaign, you need people to participate. To get started, you can use a soft launch like any other peer-to-peer campaign. Reach out to staff, board members, volunteers, and your best fundraisers and ask them to participate or spread the news.

You can reach a lot more people if you incorporate social media and pictures/videos. It seemed people never tired of watching others douse themselves in cold water, and every person who watched a funny video was exposed to the Ice Bucket Challenge’s cause. Not everyone donated but the more people who found out, the more got involved.

Another point to consider when launching your creative fundraising campaign is what options people have if they want to help. The Ice Bucket Challenge asked people to either donate or make a video and even strangers who just watched the videos were passive participants. Make sure your audience knows that they can help even if they don’t want to take a challenge or record a video. Make room for all kinds of support.

People are drawn to your work because they are inspired by your mission, so let them use that inspiration in new, creative ways. And don’t forget to have fun!

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