Walking Through the Web
In the ‘90s, regional AIDS walks were among the most successful charity events in the country. Corporate sponsorship was plentiful, and businesses sent teams in the hundreds to participate.
But all that has changed, according to AIDS Project Rhode Island, which saw a downturn in corporate involvement for its annual AIDS Walk as early as 2000.
“Historically, local corporations were the backbone of our annual walk,” AIDS Project Rhode Island Executive Director Chris Butler recalls. “With corporate downsizing and mergers, we were suddenly forced to depend on unaffiliated, individual fundraisers to raise more funds than ever before.”
AIDS Walk Rhode Island felt that pain most sharply while planning its June 2005 walk. Corporate sponsorships, matched gifts and walk teams from companies that previously had been responsible for 25 percent of walk funds no longer could be factored into the fundraising bottom line. For a walk netting approximately $100,000 annually, it was a significant loss.
For the first time since the walk’s inception, AIDS Project Rhode Island faced a fundraising challenge: how to get a smaller number of walk participants to raise more money. In previous years, walkers raised $130 on average. To make up for the 2005 walk’s fundraising divide caused by the lack of corporate support, that average would have had to at least double.
Butler turned to the Internet to identify new methods to bridge the gap and discovered services that would allow event participants to create personalized Web pages to raise money online.
A new source
“We hoped that online personal fundraising would allow us to get a handful of walkers creating personal fundraising Web pages,” she says. “We had heard from other AIDS organizations that walkers with personal Web pages raised significantly more than walkers fundraising in traditional methods, like pledge forms, since they were so easy for walkers to use.”