Facing multiple lockdowns, border closures and an immuno-compromised community, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation has bucked the trend of fundraising in 2021, raising over $1.9million for its most recent flagship event, Walk4BrainCancer.

Cure Brain Cancer Foundation CEO, Lance Kawaguchi, outlines how embracing digital platforms helped the charity overcome the challenges of COVID-19, to not only strengthen its connection to community but also achieve one of its most successful fundraising campaigns to date.

The not-for-profit sector has undoubtably been one of the hardest hit during the global pandemic. A rise in unemployment and reduced disposable income have lowered donation rates exposing the already razor-thin margins many charities are operating at on a day-to-day basis.

Add to this prolonged lockdowns, border closures, ever-changing restrictions and an immuno-compromised community, and like many other charities across the world, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation faced the difficult decision of removing our main income source of face-to-face fundraising events.

As CEO it has always been my mission to maintain a strong focus on the people and families living with brain cancer who we support and advocate for. The move to digital fundraising therefore not only made sense from a health and safety point of view, but also in terms of financial viability for our organisation. We were able to keep our costs low and increase our margins to ensure the most fundraising dollars were directed to key outcomes and the people who need it most.

Our approach

Cure Brain Cancer Foundation had embraced digital fundraising last year, and this year we were able to leverage the lessons we learnt to make the 2021 Walk4BrainCancer event the biggest yet – raising over $1.9million for our cause.

Here are some of the keys to the success of this digital campaign:

We created a flexible and inclusive approach

Our Walk4BrainCancer events are normally held at a set distance in major centres only. The digital event offered participants the flexibility to choose their distance and location, which was really important when catering to an immuno-compromised community and ongoing pandemic-related constraints. People of all abilities could join in the walk within regional and state-specific restrictions, with some participants walking in their backyards or even their own hallways if they were unable to get outside.

We developed fundraising incentives to engage a broad audience

Usually, Walk4BrainCancer participants have a close connection to our cause. By including fundraising incentives with broad appeal, we were able to engage new participants who may not have participated in our previous in-person events.

A Vespa motorcycle was donated and used as a major prize in a draw for every participant who raised more than $500. We also held a matched giving day, where an anonymous donor matched all funds donated on one day (up to an approved amount of $100,000).

All incentives were promoted well in advance to build awareness, excitement, and engagement with current and potential participants.

We embraced digital platforms to support and amplify stories

At Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, we exist to support and advocate for our community. Digital platforms allowed us to tell community member stories in a safe and effective way – reaching more people than we could with an in-person event, and ultimately, raising more money.

In addition to our official Walk4BrainCancer Facebook page, we also developed a community forum to enable our community to share their personal stories and connection to brain cancer, as well as their fundraising journey. Where face-to-face events provide a vital connection for our community, the forum replicated this in a digital sense and provided the opportunity to come together in a safe environment.

With the permission of the participants, our team was able to share stories from the forum to show the support for and from our community, despite being physically isolated. This helped to motivate others, build community connection and drive momentum for the fundraising campaign.

We continually demonstrated impact throughout the campaign

In addition to sharing stories from our community, it was important to highlight exactly how funds would be used. One of our four organisational values is integrity. This means we make every decision with the cause at the forefront of our minds and serve our community through honesty and transparency.

Throughout the campaign, we announced research projects that Cure Brain Cancer Foundation is funding including our Early Career Fellowship. By showcasing the very real outcomes that participants are helping to support, we were able to showcase a tangible outcome, align to our core values and the needs of our community, and drive individual fundraising efforts.

The result

Through embracing digital platforms, we achieved our most successful Walk4BrainCancer event to date – in reach and awareness, funds raised, average funds raised and funds donated directly to our cause.

In 2021, we expanded our virtual Walk4BrainCancer across borders to our first ever international event in New Zealand.

We heard and shared more stories from our community, creating an important and powerful connection to those directly impacted, despite physical lockdowns and isolation.

Importantly, through a significant increase in fundraising, we were able to raise as much as possible to find a cure for brain cancer.

Of course, face-to-face events are important and will remain a key component of our fundraising strategy when it is safe to do so. However, with the success of this campaign, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation is committed to leveraging the power of digital innovation to create the best outcomes for our cause and for people living with brain cancer.

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