On July 27th and 28th, the American Cancer Society will be hosting what it is describing as “the largest contiguous event Second Life has ever seen” in the form of its third annual ‘Second Life Relay for Life’.
Building on the great success of the charity’s ‘real world’ Relay for Life events (now also run here in the UK by CRUK), in 2005 a group of Second Life residents worked with them to re-create the event within the virtual world. In its second year, over 1,000 people took part by walking their Second Life avatars along a custom-designed track – raising more than $41,000 (in ‘real world’ US dollars).
This year is planned to be bigger and better, with a community goal of $75,000 and all sorts of fundraising events, including an auction of items created by top Second Life designers.
Admittedly, in comparison to some of the ‘real world’ sponsored events run by big name charities, $75,000 isn’t a vast sum. However, by working with Second Life residents to pioneer this type of community involvement, the American Cancer Society is achieving far more than purely raising funds on the day. They’re successfully communicating their cause in a new and highly engaging way to an online audience who get to support the charity in a way that is most interesting and relevant for them.
I’m often heard mis-using a JWT quote about the future of advertising, because I think it’s a very strong reminder for all fundraisers: “The future of fundraising is to stop interrupting what people are interested in and to become what people are interested in”. This is an excellent example of a charity doing exactly that
If you have an opportunity, do head-on down to the event to see it for yourself (it’s free to join Second Life and really pretty easy). Alternately, if you find Real Life enough to handle without adding a Second one then don’t worry, I’ll post some snapshots from the event afterwards so you can see what you missed.