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Running for love: A lifetime of devotion.

FirstGiving helps Team Hoyt raise 70% of its funds at the Boston Marathon.

When Doug Gilliard, a trial lawyer from San Diego, came to Boston in 2004 to run his first Boston Marathon, he had a feeling that his prior experience with online fundraising via FirstGiving might benefit a small nonprofit whose booth he noticed at the pre-race expo.

“That’s where I first met Dick Hoyt,” said Doug, referring to the man whose story of unending love and devotion to his son Rick — born 49 years ago a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy — has become an inspiration to thousands of people around the world. In 1977, the two began competing together in distance runs and triathlons, with Dick pushing or pulling Rick, in running chairs and boats, every step and stroke of the way. Although they still travel the world and race in as many as 35 events a year, the Boston Marathon is their hometown race, and has always been their favorite event and biggest fundraiser.

“In 2004, they had a small donations jar on the table and only two other runners,” said Doug, who the following year became the team’s Race Director. “I thought FirstGiving’s platform would be ideal for them, because it allows their supporters to easily set up individual fundraising pages with information not only about the Hoyts — including pictures and links to motivational videos — but also with personalized stories of each individual’s experience: why they’re running, and what they are trying to accomplish.”

Each year at the Boston Marathon, thanks to an ever larger team of runners and supporters, the Hoyt Foundation’s fundraising has steadily grown, from $4,370 in 2005 to $57,000 in 2009. Kathy Bower, the Foundation’s office manager and unofficial cheerleader, pit crew boss, and all-around do-everything person for the team, notes that the Marathon accounts for a full 70 percent of the Foundation’s annual donations — and that that couldn’t happen without FirstGiving.

“Thanks to the ease with which our team’s supporters can donate through FirstGiving,” said Kathy, “we’re able to raise funds we couldn’t have otherwise. So far this year, almost 85 percent of our donations for the race have come online — which means, in the end, that more worthy nonprofits will be able to benefit.” In 2009, the Foundation donated $25,000 each to Easter Seals of Massachusetts, for their summer camp programs, and Children’s Hospital Boston, to help train disabled people to use specialized communications devices, much like the one Rick uses.

With the help of FirstGiving, Dick and Rick have been able to turn a heartfelt story and a small donations jar into a thriving organization that truly lives its motto: “Yes you can!”
2010 Design: Beth Pickard (for FirstGiving/Boston)
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Shaving for dollars.

FirstGiving helps the CNMC’s Cancer Center raise three-quarters of a million dollars.

It takes courage for cancer patients to deal with the loss of their hair that often comes with radiation treatments. It takes even more courage when the patient is a child.

And so when the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Washington D.C.’s Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) held its first-ever “Be Brave and Shave” fundraising event on November 15, 2009, area police, firefighters, and sheriffs — as well as local dignitaries and celebrities — showed up in droves to shave their heads in solidarity with the courageous kids whose bravery is so inspiring.

Grace Easby-Smith, the Children’s Hospital Foundation’s Associate Director for Annual Leadership Giving, turned to FirstGiving to provide a platform by which the “shavees” could enlist online donations from their own networks of friends and family, through FirstGiving’s personal fundraising pages. “The pages were so simple to create,” said Grace, “that people were able to quickly personalize them, with photos, target fundraising amounts, their own personal stories, and a large, can’t-miss Sponsor Me button right near the top of the page. They could even link the page to their Facebook application.”

The inaugural “Be Brave and Shave” event — the first for which the CNMC had enlisted the services of FirstGiving as a formal fundraising method — turned out to be a great success, raising approximately $200,000 in the month leading up to and including the day itself, with another $100,000 coming in during the week following the event. In all, a total of $750,000 was raised, with over $300,000 of that coming directly through participants’ FirstGiving fundraising pages.

“We couldn’t have come anywhere near these numbers if we didn’t have this type of online tool,” said Colleen Avis, a volunteer organizer at CNMC and the driving force behind the event. “The viralness of the FirstGiving platform is what makes the difference.”

CNMC was so satisfied, in fact, that in 2010, the organization plans to use FirstGiving in six major fundraising events. Including, of course, the next “Be Brave and Shave.”
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The things people do to beat breast cancer.

FirstGiving helps supporters of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation raise money.

They want to put on a bake sale. Or run a marathon. Or celebrate an anniversary. They want to do anything, actually, to raise as much money as they can to help eradicate the breast cancer that has turned their lives — and those of family members, friends, and loved ones — upside down.

These are people who are not connected with any nonprofit organization. They are just individuals who want to do … something — anything — that will make a difference. Which makes it perfectly serendipitous that when they call in to the offices of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), they’re likely to get the friendly ear of Elizabeth Smith, the organization’s Development Associate. Ever grateful for the callers’ desire and enthusiasm, Elizabeth suggests a range of fundraising ideas they might consider … and then immediately tells them how they can go about setting up a FirstGiving personal fundraising page.

“Because the nature of breast cancer is very personal, people’s motivations come from the heart,” said Elizabeth, who is one of a small, 13-person team at BCRF, an organization that provides funding for groundbreaking research programs at top medical centers worldwide. “A FirstGiving fundraising page allows this emotion and passion to come through, by letting people personalize their pages with stories and photos.”

BCRF has been working with FirstGiving since 2006, and the Foundation’s staff has always appreciated the value of FirstGiving’s easy-to-use, professional format. “It adds to the positive, enabling experience that donors need — especially in the face of a disease as devastating as breast cancer,” noted Lucretia Gilbert, BCRF’s Development Director. “Once people set up their FirstGiving pages, they’re off and running, and feel truly empowered to make a difference.”

With FirstGiving, BCRF has been able to increase the amount of money raised online in each year of the partnership — including during the current climate of economic uncertainty. In all, since 2006 BCRF has raised over $70,000 through FirstGiving, via more than 50 individual fundraising events.

In addition to helping raise money, the FirstGiving platform has enabled the Foundation to save money, too — money that would have otherwise been spent on fundraising administration. “The FirstGiving tool is something we couldn’t afford to build internally, by ourselves,” said Lucretia. Add to that FirstGiving’s ability to maintain donor information, automate the distribution of personalized communications, capture new donors and educate them about the organization, and always employ the latest, state-of-the-art technology, and you’ve got an extremely creative solution to an extremely difficult problem.