The last year has seen a lot of virtual 5ks, walks, and runs, but when Mojave Desert Land Trust tried their first digital fundraiser, they truly took it to the next level.
Colleen McGrath, Development Manager at Mojave Desert Land Trust told us that she joined the MDLT team after the event was in place, but it was her work responding to COVID and bringing in the personal touch that helped their Miles for MDLT event reach success in 2020, and come back for more in 2021.
Here’s how they pulled off their virtual hike-a-thon:
About Mojave Desert Land Trust
The mission of Mojave Desert Land Trust is to protect the Mojave Desert ecosystem and its scenic and cultural resource values. They’ve conserved more than 80,000 acres of prime desert habitat, forever weaving together National Parks, wilderness areas, and wildlife linkage corridors. The organization works closely with a broad range of desert community members and visitors, as well as with local, state, and federal agencies. MDLT offers hands-on learning and volunteer opportunities to residents and visitors of the desert.
Historically, MDLT hadn’t run many in-person peer-to-peer fundraisers, so when they decided to host their Miles for MDLT fundraiser it was all new to them. As they worked to understand this new fundraiser, COVID hit and forced them to adapt to a fully virtual event. But with some careful outreach and the resource of a beautiful national park, they nearly doubled their fundraising goal.
Since this was a new event, MDLT didn’t have past fundraisers to rely on. They turned to personal connections and individual outreach to bring fundraisers on board. Their Executive Director made calls to high donors, they presented the fundraiser to board and staff, and they asked staff to share with friends and family.
To inspire fundraisers to get involved, they took advantage of their biggest resource: the park itself. Fundraisers were asked to create a fundraising page, then have friends and family donate in honor of them hiking trails in the park. Many fundraisers took pictures and shared updates as they went so that their supporters could see the beautiful desert they were helping to preserve.
Within the first day, they had reached the original $10,000 goal and increased their goal to $20,000.
CauseVox’s Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Tools Powered-up MDLT’s Virtual Hikeathon
One of the biggest factors in helping MDLT be successful as a new fundraising event was the customer support and ease of use of the CauseVox site. Colleen was new to setting up a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, and had been working with offline donations for a long time. She said that “Jenna [CauseVox Customer Success] took time to help set up the website, but once I got in there it was super easy to use.”
Having someone with her every step of the way helped Colleen to feel confident as she took her first steps into the digital fundraising world. But what was even better was that CauseVox was so straightforward and easy to use. Colleen’s fundraisers caught on quickly and needed minimal support in setting up their pages.
The site’s functionality even helped to show fundraisers what they could do to be more successful in getting donations. CauseVox peer-to-peer fundraisers see a pre-built template when they create their page. Colleen was able to create a boilerplate fundraising appeal for personal pages that lived in that template, and put in an image that fundraisers could use right out of the gate.
But it also prompted fundraisers to add personalization to their pages, and that’s where the MDLT fundraisers really went above and beyond. Many fundraisers shared information about the hikes they were planning, posted pictures of the desert, and made their pages unique.
From there, the updates feature of CauseVox took them a step further. Fundraisers shared how their hikes were going and pictures they had taken along the way. The updates feature encouraged fundraisers to stay in touch with their donors throughout the process. Not only that, it gave fundraisers more opportunities to share their personal stories in an organic way that drew in donors and illustrated the progress each fundraiser was making.
Colleen also made sure that her fundraisers had plenty of support from MDLT. She created a toolkit with information and templates, plus shared a timeline for how they could fundraise.
By the end of the campaign, they had raised nearly $20,000.
CauseVox’s Activity Metric Helps Hike-A-Thon Participants Meet Their Goals
After the success of the 2020 event, MDLT chose to run a similar event in 2021. Colleen noted that CauseVox had gone even further in making the page easy and functional for fundraisers.
Early in 2021 CauseVox introduced the Activity Metric function, which lets you and your participants set goals and track progress on your page. MDLT used the feature to track the miles that their fundraisers had hiked and it was a huge success.
Colleen said “Having the feature of letting people track their miles gives people a sense of accomplishment.” It was a great incentive for fundraisers to keep pushing themselves and reaching their goals, but it also helped to connect fundraisers and donors. Colleen explained that “ Some people took that as a challenge and are hiking 100 miles.” Their fundraisers truly wanted to go above and beyond now that they could track their progress.
The tracker let donors see how they were doing and get invested in their progress. It’s pretty inspiring to see the mile tracker move up mile by mile and a great motivation to donors. In combination with the updates tool, donors can feel like they’re right there with the fundraiser.
The second year around MDLT also expanded their reach to potential fundraisers with social media pushes, an email campaign, and a press release to incentivize new fundraisers. This was more effective than they expected. Colleen shared “We’re getting all new people. Even the participants…a handful of them are staff, but I would say it’s 85-90% new people.” Some of these fundraisers aren’t even local to the desert and are hiking local paths instead.
1. Updates Are Key
One of the most important elements of MDLT’s success was that their fundraisers stayed engaged on their page throughout the campaign. Not only did fundraisers share text updates about reaching their goals, they also shared pictures as they went. This continuous communication from fundraisers to donors created a strong connection that helped donors feel they were a part of something. They could support a friend who was completing an impressive challenge (like hiking 75 miles) or watch a family member share photos as they explored the park.
2. Keep It On Theme
MDLT made sure that they kept their focus throughout the campaign, and that meant bringing all of their work back to the park and exploring nature. One of the best ways they kept on theme was to find the perfect prize sponsor. In 2020 that was Patagonia, a brand that makes outdoor gear. In 2021 they partnered with Teva, a favorite for hiking sandals. Choosing prizes that connected back to the activity made the prizes more interesting and appealing to fundraisers.
3. Peer-to-Peer Means New Acquisitions
One of the things Colleen was most excited about with this new campaign was seeing all the new donors roll in. When you ask your supporters to fundraise for you, they expand your reach far beyond your current database. “It’s a great introduction to Mojave Desert Land Trust,” she said. She also shared that a high percentage of the donors were first time donors, and was careful to note that they needed their own stewardship. “I’ve been sending thank you postcards to people who make a donation and then we’re also following up with an email about what we do.” Using a peer-to-peer campaign is a great way to reduce some of the effort of finding first time donors.
4. Personalization Goes A Long Way
When they were starting in 2020, MDLT knew they had an uphill climb with finding fundraisers because this was a new event. In order to counteract that, they relied on one of the most powerful elements of fundraising: personal connections. Instead of sending out general emails or press releases, they made one on one phone calls to top donors and supporters. That individual touch was what made success possible in their first year.
Run Your Walkathon Fundraiser On CauseVox
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