Creative Mind + Passionate Cause = Fundraising Success

I can feel like new ideas are hard to come by in fundraising. Galas, auctions, appeals, raffles – lather, rinse, repeat. You can get so caught up in the everyday “grind” of getting to the next milestone, or through the next crisis, that it’s easy to just assume what you’ve been doing is all you should do, because it’s been working just fine.

Or maybe it’s early March, we’re all tired of gloomy weather, and I have cabin fever.

But it’s absolutely essential in donor engagement to be constantly testing the status quo, and seeing how you can tweak, adjust, disrupt or change the narrative

Today’s lesson?

Meet Your New Donors Where They Are

Ian Charnas is the Director & Co-Founder of the Sears think[box] a public access innovation center on the grounds of Case Western University, so he’s certainly what you might call a creative person. Like “syncing his wiper blades to his car audio” creative. He’s also passionate about many things: STEM (he auctioned off the patent for those synced wiper blades, and gave all the profits to charities that encourage kids to be makers), his community and to preventing suicide.

His link to suicide prevention is personal, having lost his mother to suicide when he was a child. So he wanted to find a way to bring his passion and his creativity to bear in a way that would make a difference and bring attention to one of the most preventable causes of death in the world.

He decided to create a fundraiser that would reach a new audience, people who hadn’t been as personally affected by suicide as he was,  but who would still want to support suicide prevention. And he wanted to reward them for giving and activate them and their social network to spread the message.

His solution? Forbidden Emojis

Charnas has created 36 emojis that should exist, but don’t. He explains why in an entertaining video, with tounge firmly planted in cheek. It turns out that they were “forbidden” by a triumvirate of Apple, Google and Unicode, because they were too controversial, but he managed to uncover them. Now that they’re “freed”, you can have them on your phone, just by donating to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. As more money gets raised, more emoji’s get unlocked.

Here are a few reasons I feel this idea is a real stand-out;

  • It appeals to not only to base supporters, but brings in people just there for the tech/fun new emoji’s aspect
  • There is an exclusivity to the reward, giving you something most people don’t have
  • It motivates donors to share the message, since more donors mean quicker unlocks
  • It causes a “where did you get that?” reaction even if donors don’t directly share the fundraiser
  • It brings online charitable giving out from behind a website, and into people’s feeds, texts and social network

All these elements, combined with Mr. Charnas’ creativity and passion, make for a disruptive and beneficial fundraiser, as well as a lesson we can all take to heart – look for ways to take your passion, and bring it outside your organization and into the lives of potential donors. If you lead with creativity, the message can and will follow.