By Sheri Panovka, JF&CS’ Senior Writer.
When I turned 50 this past January, I wanted to do something that would involve volunteering or charitable giving. I actually began thinking about it a couple of years earlier, inspired by others in the community who had done that kind of thing. I wasn’t sure exactly what to do, but I knew I wanted it to connect to JF&CS. And I knew I wanted my friends to do it with me.
“The answer started crystalizing when my older son became a bar mitzvah. After talking about his mitzvah project, he decided to donate his monetary gifts to organizations that help individuals with developmental disabilities and children, including JF&CS. We really liked the idea of giving up something for others who need it more.
Alex wasn’t the first kid I knew who donated his or her gifts, as several others in his class asked people to donate one thing or another to various organizations. In fact, the concept of peer-to-peer fundraising goes way back. Even when I was very young, I remember friends participating in certain activities and sending out letters asking others to sponsor them.
While the idea is the same, the way we go about raising money has evolved. New technologies help organizations reach donors in new ways. JF&CS is leveraging the power of technology to make it easy for our supporters to raise funds aside from traditional letter campaigns.
Our new peer-to-peer platform offers the ability to reach out to a network of friends through email and social media and to illustrate what their donations will support.
Now, I would never ask friends for birthday gifts for myself. But this new platform gave me the perfect opportunity to celebrate my big milestone by asking for gifts for people in need. Excited to be the first to try it, I launched my campaign in December 2014 with a goal of $5,000. My friends clearly thought it was a great idea: By January 31, I raised more than $7,300 for JF&CS’ Annual Campaign.
In March, our then-CEO Gary Miller leapt on board for his 65th birthday. Gary raised $3,790 (beating his goal, too) for the JF&CS Emergency Financial Assistance Fund.
I wanted to know why others used this tool to raise money for JF&CS. So I called Dr. Harold Enoch, a dentist who volunteers at Ben Massell Dental Clinic.
“There is nothing I need as far as a gift for my birthday,” said Dr. Enoch, who celebrated his 60th birthday recently. “I wanted some way to give back. I think it would be so easy for everyone to do it.”
If you would like to make an upcoming milestone — a birthday, anniversary, bar or bat mitzvah — more meaningful, consider the power of peer-to-peer fundraising and the difference it can make.
To start your own campaign or to get more information, visit ytfl.org/fundraise.