Non-Profit Challenge: Creating a Virtual Fundraiser

Prospect High School, located in Mount Prospect, Illinois has a nationally-recognized band program. The band has marched in parades from coast (Macy’s in 1989 and 2002) to coast (Rose Parade® in 1985 and 2006) with a stop in-between at the Fiesta Bowl Parade (where they won the Fiesta Bowl National Pageant of Bands). They have also performed for the president of the United States on three separate occasions and marched in the Lord Mayor of Winchester Parade in London. When not marching, it is the concert season where students are organized into two levels of bands, the Symphonic Band and the Concert Band.

The Challenge
The Prospect Marching Knights were appearing in the 2006 Rose Parade. While a great honor for the band, this could be expensive for the individual members. The Band Boosters’ organization was developing a fundraising program to help defray the costs of band members making the trip to Pasadena.

How to hold a fundraising event that could thank the community for its support, give all members an equal chance to raise money for their trip, make it an event in the community and tap into possible donations from supporters that did not live in the community?

The Solution
I developed a concept for a multi-site, virtual car wash. At the event we gave away over 700 free car washes at 10 locations all on the same day (our goal was 300 cars and we more than doubled that estimate). But the key wasn’t what happened the day we ran the car wash, or that the car washes were free, the key was in the preparation – and this is the part that made it a virtual fundraising event.

We asked all band members to get donations for every car the band washed (so doubling the estimate paid big rewards). This meant that we could turn a pledge of $.05 per car into a $35.00 donation. And it worked. We raised nearly $20,000; receiving over $5,000 at the locations where people gave us donations -- with the rest coming from the pledges.

To make it all work, I prepared a complete package of information. Here are links to the individual parts of the program material:

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