There have been many stories around the world of generosity shown in response to the terrible earthquake that hit Haiti in January. But the one that I love the most is undoubtedly that of little Charlie Simpson, who responded to what he saw on TV about the disaster by deciding to do a sponsored bike ride around his local park in the hope of raising £500 for UNICEF through an online fundraising page.
Check his page today and you’ll see something that every fundraiser must dream of – a totaliser showing that Charlie has actually beaten his target by over 41 thousand percent!
That amount is still growing daily too, as people from as far afield as the USA and Australia come to hear about this great little fundraiser’s story and log-on to his fundraising page to add their donation and words of support. And no wonder, when you realise just what an international media profile little Charlie now has! Type ‘Charlie Simpson UNICEF’ into YouTube and you’ll see interviews and reports from news stations all around the world charting the growth of his fundraising efforts. There’s even a 14 second promo with pop supremo Simon Cowell helping Charlie promote his website! A Google search for the same phrase returns some 4,500 results – and a quick flick through confirm that they really are all about the ‘real’ Charlie Simpson.
Now, UNICEF clearly supported Charlie really well once they’d heard that he wanted to fundraise for them – in pretty well every photo and video he’s wearing a branded T-shirt and the charity’s PR team must have helped with many of the media interviews. But it all started with him (and his mum) setting-up his fundraising page. And what is so great about the whole thing is that it is very much Charlie’s campaign through and through. It’s just that, thanks to the power of social media, this particular little boy’s fundraising went truly global over a very short period of time – in a way that even a big charity like UNICEF would have found impossible to achieve using traditional approaches.
As well as being a heartwarming story in the face of a terrible disaster, this is also a great example of how the adoption of online fundraising platforms like JustGiving and the promotional power of social media sites are transforming the way in which mass-market fundraising happens. From traditional campaigns, planned and initiated by fundraising teams within charities – to highly personal, donor-led campaigns that can spring-up from anywhere without any prior warning and engage with online-savvy audiences in ways that traditional approaches simply can’t.
This is a change that we’re seeing more and more as adoption of the freely available online tools involved becomes increasingly widespread (see the $93 Club as another great example of this), and is undoubtedly something that any fundraiser looking to maximise on online fundraising will have to learn to capitalise on going forward.