“Our Kids Don’t Have Recess” — A Peer-to-Peer Story

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Stephanie Beaudoin’s students had a problem — they couldn’t have recess.

“When we were in school, everyone’s favorite subject was recess,” Beaudoin joked. But for many of the students at The Education Cooperative (TEC) in East Walpole, Massachusets, recess isn’t part of their routine. Many of TEC’s students have multiple disabilities that inhibit movement, communication, and vision and are unable to use traditional playground equipment, and the local playgrounds aren’t accessible to kids with special needs. Beaudoin and the rest of the TEC staff decided to hold a fundraiser to collect money to build a fully-accessible, inclusive playground that could be used by all of their students.

The TEC team decided to organize a peer-to-peer fundraising event that allowed teachers and other community members to raise money for the project — a fundraising strategy the school had never used before. “We had no idea how it was going to go, because we’d never done it before,” said Beaudoin. The event, the TEC Walk N Roll, quickly picked up steam. As of October 16, 2015, the organization had already met and surpassed its $5,000.00 fundraising goal for the event, which is scheduled for October 17. Event fundraisers have surpassed the $7,000.00 mark, and Beaudoin hopes that other organizations can learn from their experience and experience the same success.

Here are some fundraising lessons we can learn from TEC’s fundraiser:

Your story is your most important asset

The TEC team has a compelling story — they’ve got a group of students that don’t get to experience the joys of recess. It’s a short, compelling statement that gets peoples’ attention and leads to additional questions. Why don’t students get recess? What do they need so they can have recess? How can people help?

“It’s really helped our fundraising to have that story. It’s succinct,” said Beaudoin. “Because it’s a very specific cause, it’s easy to tell our story. Our kids don’t have recess. It’s simple.”

And it’s working!

Try to have a tangible goal

Beaudoin attributed much of the organization’s fundraising success to the fact that donors are working towards a tangible goal. She commented that TEC has been getting comments from donors who are excited about the fact that their money is going toward building a playground; they’re excited about helping the organization reach an attainable, focused, tangible goal. “Even if you have an abstract organizational mission but you can connect it to something tangible, I think you’ll be more successful,” said Beaudoin.

Your event doesn’t have to be elaborate to be successful

Instead of a 5K or half-marathon, which are popular peer-to-peer fundraisers, the TEC event is a short walk that will take participants and TEC students in a loop around a local park. The gentle course makes the event accessible to all of TEC’s students. “It really is just a walk in the park!” laughed Beaudoin. The simplicity of the event doesn’t detract from peoples’ enthusiasm about the project; instead, that simplicity lets participants focus on fundraising and highlights the need for an accessible, inclusive playground for TEC students.

Make it easy to find your event page

TEC linked to their fundraising event on their main website’s donation page, and they’ve shared the event through social media and email. But they took making their event accessible a step further. “Our IT person was able to create a redirect from our website,” said Beaudoin. “That’s been really good because [the URL] is short.”

The shortened URL means that it’s easy for Beaudoin and the rest of the team to remember the URL and to share it by word of mouth. Beaudoin said that most people who either donated or participated were already familiar with the organization’s website (www.tec-coop.org), so the IT department added the suffix “/walk” to the address. The new URL re-directed browsers to the event page. Beaudoin and her team could tell people to visit tec-coop.org/walk, which made navigation easy for their supporters.

Use your organization’s network

“Don’t overlook your staff as potential fundraisers when you’re running your event!” advised Beaudoin. She noted that many of TEC’s staff members are the event’s most enthusiastic fundraisers. Staff members received 2-3 emails about the upcoming event, and many of them enthusiastically adopted the cause. “We’ve gotten so much support from our internal community,” said Beaudoin, who noted that fostering a sense of excitement in TEC staff was an important part of getting them involved. “It’s all about connecting the organization’s staff with the mission,” she said.

The TEC Walk N Roll event is Saturday, October 17, but the fundraiser will continue to the end of the month. “We’ve been pleased with the success of the event so far, and I think everyone will have a great time on Saturday,” Beaudoin said. She hopes that the TEC team holds other peer-to-peer fundraising events in the future, and she’s excited about involving members outside the school’s internal community to reach new fundraising goals.

Thanks to the TEC fundraiser and the generosity of donors, TEC is well on their way to building the new playground in Summer 2016. Beaudoin and her fellow TEC staff are thrilled with the results of their first peer-to-peer event. “For our first event, and for not expanding beyond our internal community, we’ve already met and surpassed our goal,” Beaudoin said. “The support is blowing us away.”

If you want to learn more about peer to peer fundraising, check out these resources:

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