Be a Sport
Established more than 50 years ago, Alyn Hospital is a nonprofit facility in Israel devoted to the rehabilitation of children and young adults with physical disabilities, regardless of their religious or ethnic background.
American Friends of the Alyn Hospital is the New York-based awareness- and fundraising arm of the hospital. It was primarily volunteer driven until about eight years ago, when Cathy Lanyard was hired as executive director — a move that marked the organization’s desire to have more of a presence to donors than just as a check processor.
Here, Lanyard — who was named one of FundRaising Success’ Top Women In Fundraising for 2007 — discusses AFAH’s fundraising program and shares advice on how to engage youth in your organization’s mission and fundraising.
FundRaising Success: What is a noteworthy way your organization raises funds?
Cathy Lanyard: About six years ago we created an international charity bike ride [Wheels of Love]. Nine Israelis rode for five days, 300 miles in Israel, and raised $55,000. Last year, 425 rode. More than half came from the United States and Canada. And together, the 425 rode a new 300-mile route the same five days and raised $2.5 million. So, in six years it’s grown from raising $55,000 to $2.5 million, and the participation has gone from nine to 425.
FS: Who takes part in this event?
CL: Obviously, they’re avid cyclists, but they also strongly believe in charity and they love Israel. So, if they love those three things and you tell them that the charity they’re going to ride for is for physically disabled children, many of whom may never ride a bike in their life, it’s a very empowering message. And we use that throughout the ride.
FS: Is the ride your primary method of fundraising?
CL: Right now the bike ride makes up 50 percent of our income. The rest comes from direct mail, foundation grants, bequests and other projects. We’ve also created what we call the Mitzvah of Love project. This is something I really want to continue to nurture and explore different ways of promoting it.
FS: What is Mitzvah of Love?
CL: Mitzvah is the Hebrew word for “good deed.” The bike ride became so successful, but it’s for adults and it requires going to Israel. I wanted to create something for young people here in the United States, something that would give kids a real hands-on feeling. I can’t give them a hands-on experience of what it’s like to be disabled, but they could organize an event — anything that is exercise based — and have the experience of learning how to organize something. The whole idea is doing something because you can for kids who can’t.
It was also in response to the ever-increasing number of phone calls I was getting from either school directors, principals, teachers and/or parents who wanted a meaningful charity experience for their kids.
FS: What advice can you share in terms of engaging youth?
CL: Fundraisers and nonprofits always talk about the transfer of wealth from generation to generation, but when they talk about that, they’re most likely talking about 70- and 80-year-olds transferring wealth to their children, the 50- and 60-year-olds. My idea was to empower 5- to 17-year-olds, our undiscovered mini-philanthropists.
I think you have to give them a project that’s flexible. Make it something that is meaningful to them. This is so empowering for children and such a great thing that a parent and child can do. … And there’s no finer example we can show our children than this. I think also that it’s part of empowering them to see how it’s actually possible for one person to make a difference — even a young person. It’s not about waiting until they’re grown up.