Check Out This Creative New Fundraising Idea

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Corporate giving programs are an effective and popular way to connect your employees to causes while making a real social impact. But creativity is key to participation, and too many campaigns lack the pizzazz and tools needed to grab anyone’s attention.

First, if you’re serious about creating a vibrant employee giving program, make sure you’re offering resources to make this easy. Automatic payroll deductions, some kind of matching program, and real-time reporting streamline the process of managing and participating in these programs (that’s where a volunteer and giving platform like Causecast’s makes all the difference.)

With the right tools in place, you’re poised for launch. But you need the spark of creativity to really take off, by capturing the hearts and minds of would-be donors.

That’s the position that PBS recently found itself in as the prestigious nonprofit assessed a new landscape where funding for the arts is at risk. So PBS decided to host a charity telethon for itself in an online streaming marathon of the classic children’s favorite, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating an innovative and modern crowdfunding campaign with the help of partners. Tiltify led the charge of bringing together causes with streaming and online games; Twitch offered its popular live streaming space to host the campaign; and Causecast, through its Causecast Foundation, handled all of the donation processing to 157 local PBS affiliates across the country.

If you haven’t heard of Tiltify, you might want to take a closer look. It’s a platform that creates opportunities for livestreaming to be directed towards charity. (Full disclosure: I'm a shareholder.) Tiltify is ground zero for innovative fundraising ideas, seamlessly integrating with streaming hubs like Twitch and allowing gamers and other viewers to donate live. But what makes this modern telethon so different is that users can interact with each other and celebrities in ways that were never possible in the days of Jerry Lewis. Technology allows users to see their names pop up onscreen as soon as they donate, chat with other viewers, get instantaneous feedback, and affect what is happening on the stream through their participation.

“Tiltify empowers gamers and makes giving back more of the norm,” notes Founder Michael Wasserman. “Gaming is a $20 billion industry in the U.S. alone. If just 2 percent of that was redirected towards charity, it would offer a staggering boost to good causes around the world.”

Our viewing habits are far more fractured than they once were and it’s impossible to recapture the audience share of the three network universe of yore. But there are still places where legions of people gather at the same time and can be directed towards philanthropy. Click on Twitch or YouTube and you’ll find millions of users who are livestreaming video games and eSports events, as broadcasters or viewers. Last year, 100 million users watched 16 billion minutes of broadcasts per month on Twitch from 1.5 million unique broadcasters. Some reports list Twitch as the fourth highest-trafficked site in the U.S., behind only Google, Netflix and Apple, sharing more data than other video streamers like Hulu and Amazon.

With some streamers having their own followings of millions, the possibilities for serious fundraising are immense. For the celebrities who get involved, the casual, low-tech experience is an attractive diversion from the grandeur and hoopla of a formal fundraiser. For the streaming viewers, these stream-a-thons are often surprising, giving the audience a rewarding opportunity to see celebrities and influencers in a more intimate and interactive light. For the streaming broadcasters, a livestreaming fundraiser can cast a wider and more positive light on their shows, helping to spread the word about their streams. And for nonprofits, this added channel of fundraising offers an exciting new path towards awareness and engagement.

“We think this is the future of fundraising,” says Wasserman. “Think of the possibilities. Think about how you can help with disaster relief in a more immediate and resonant way. You can now broadcast very easily from a lot of these areas, people can see what’s going on and be inspired, and people see the changes going forward. You can actually create a conversation and answer questions about what you’re doing to help, all while showing things that are happening live.”

For PBS’ campaign, a livestream marathon round of 886 episodes of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood worked like a charm, coaxing viewers to donate to PBS throughout each episode. The result: over 7 million online viewers contributed a total of $42,145 in just 18 days.

This type of multimedia crowdfunding approach is a unique way for nonprofits to engage a broad base of supporters, in this case both the older generations who fondly remembered Mr. Rogers as well as Millennials, who prefer to use modern donation platforms.

One key to successful fundraisers is bringing out what’s most unique about the cause or nonprofit and then engaging donors through that special sauce. PBS had a coveted library of a classic children’s television show; the nonprofit or cause around your desired giving campaign has something else to offer.

Tiltify is eager to engage the nonprofit community and show them the possibilities, building a new stream of donors with nothing more than a laptop. Companies interested in creating a livestream fundraiser as part of a giving campaign will find that this is an excellent way to get employees excited about giving and make a real difference for their favorite nonprofit partners.

Ryan Scott