We’ve all been a part of the viral video phenomenon in recent years. Justin Bieber started his career because millions of people got excited about his videos and started sharing them with their friends. It can be easy for us to get excited about online videos…but maybe not as easy to get pumped up about raising money for a good cause.
In January of 2011, the Life Teen youth group at Incarnate Word parish in Chesterfield, MO set out to raise $5,000 to support an organization whose mission is giving clean water to people in Nicaragua. It was a challenging goal, but by the end of January they had raised $27,000. How did they do it?
The principle behind the fundraising effort was straightforward but difficult: for the entire month of January, the teenagers vowed to drink nothing but water and donate all of the money that they would have spent on other drinks toward the campaign. Yeah, but you’re asking right now, how does that add up to $27,000? That’s a lot of Diet Coke. We all know that teenagers have a hard time giving their money away. I know when I was in high school, all of my extra money went to gas for my car and Taco Bell.
So here are the three keys to the success of the campaign:
1. It was about drawing them into a deeper mission.
The secret behind the campaign was that it quickly became about more than just giving money away and drinking only water. It became about a community of faith. By “fasting” from other drinks for a whole month, the campaign became a community-building activity for the teens. Sure, it was a fundraising campaign, but it also became a spiritual journey. It became a witness at the lunch table for their friends outside of youth group, and adults in the parish were amazed at what they saw and wanted to find a way to contribute. The campaign was going viral in more ways than one.
2. Social Media Needs to be apart of your strategy.
Young adult volunteers on the Core Team built a website to track the progress (www.authenticremedy.com), and every teen changed their Facebook picture to the campaign’s logo for the whole month. It became “cool” to be a part of this movement.
3. Spreading the message by Word of Mouth
Teens started turning in their money each week, but soon something wonderful began to happen. After a few weeks, their friends were taking notice – they started giving up water themselves and asking if they could donate to the cause. Schools started taking notice and took collections during mission weeks for the cause. Then parents and other adults in the parish were inspired, and a few asked if they could “match” the total that the teens raised at the end of the month.
It all added up to $27,000, an energized parish, and a community of committed, aware, generous teens.
The next time you consider a fundraising activity, think about how you can bind people together and build up community around your cause. Make sure it’s about more than money. It has to be about more than that. Make sure it’s about the people you are helping and that it’s leading to a deeper relationship with Christ.