It’s no secret that the internet has granted the modern age a new vehicle for raising funds. According to a recent article in Forbes, “Crowdfunding exploded onto the internet a few years ago,” and since then hundreds of new crowdfunding sites of launched, including industry leaders like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe.
According to a recent feature in The Atlantic – out just this month -, GoFundMe has become the largest crowdfunding platform in the world. In fact, apparently 50 million people gave more than $5 billion on the site through 2017, the last year fundraising totals were released. With stats like this, it is tempting to believe that GoFundMe and similar online crowdfunding vehicles are replacing the efforts of more old-fashioned fundraising: think, car washes, bake sales, walk-a-thons.
But the recent feature in The Atlantic also notes the downside of sites like GoFundMe, including lack of personal connection, background information and in some cases, lack of accuracy and even rampant elitism. (“Who you know” determines success). At least one study cited by The Atlantic determined that “the average campaign earns less than $2,000 from a couple dozen donors; the majority don’t meet their stated goal.”
Maybe the competition diminishes results on a large site like GoFundMe? For example, more generous stats exist for another popular website, Fundly. According to their stats, the average non-profit campaign raised $7,000. Still, this is hardly a self-sustaining model for any non-profit.
So is there still a place for old-fashioned fundraising in the modern age? The students at one local parochial school, St. Catharine of Siena, in Mount Penn, Pennsylvania, certainly think so.
On October 11, the 80-year old school held its annual Walk-A-Thon for Education, a live event held each fall and used to raise critical funds to meet its non-government subsidized budget for curriculum, technology, safety, scholarship, and capital improvement line items.
The 258 students in Grades PreK through 8 were asked to address by hand 10 letters to friends and family requesting sponsorships in any amount for the Walk-A-Thon, a roughly 1 mile round-trip. In return for the sponsorships, the children pledged to pay it forward by collecting gently used shoes for an international group, Soles4Souls.
Each year, pledges come in from all corners of the country, from as far away as Florida and California. Corporate sponsors also sign onto the effort. This year’s Corporate Sponsors for the St. Catharine Walk-A-Thon included such local businesses as:
McElderry Drywall, Inc.
Vision Custom Tooling
Lords & Ladies
Hollinger Law Office
NextGen Security, LLC
McGinn School Apparel, Knight’s Rental
Bean Funeral Home
Working Dog Press
The Egner Group at RE/MAX of Reading
Historically, the Walk-A-Thon event is one of the largest fundraising efforts of the school year, bringing in nearly $25,000 from hundreds of donors, and this year is no exception.
In this modern age, where fundraising asks can be made just by pressing a button, why are events like this annual Walk-A-Thon so important? Mrs. Marcella Kraycik, Principal of St. Catharine of Siena, points out: “Our annual Walk A Thons, Pay It Forward Campaigns, and last spring’s PlayDay empower our students to take part in the efforts. Our students take ownership by walking, doing good deeds, and playing with prayer partners. They are proud of their contribution and rise to the occasion. These “active” school wide fundraisers build a sense of school community, develop leadership skills in our students, and generate much pride for our beloved Saint Catharine of Siena School. Our fundraisers are based on the core values and mission of our school and faith.”
Stacey Bibbo, mother of a 5th grader at St. Catharine, makes an effort to take a day off of work each year for the event, saying: “The SCS Walk-a-Thon is my favorite event of the school year. When the students arrive at the A-Field [the midway point of the Walk-A-Thon] paired up with their prayer partner (older kids and younger kids holding hands) it is the highlight of the day. I love feeling the sense of community and seeing the school spirit. This is such a wonderful school tradition that provides lifetime memories for the students. It is important to me to support this fundraiser for such a great school but also to sustain this event for future classes.”
Other event volunteers agree. School parent and Walk-A-Thon volunteer, Ryan Gonzalez, tells why this event is so important to him: “Outside of the obvious that volunteering and/or giving back makes you feel good, [the annual Walk-A-Thon] also further reinforces to our children the importance of generosity. Sharing this particular experience of volunteering at St. Catharine’s Walk-A-Thon side-by-side with our boys further shows them that they too can make positive changes in their community or the lives of others. Not only that but everyone gets to spend a little extra time outside being active. Win-Win!”
Actually, when you take a close look at it, the annual St. Catharine of Siena Walk-A-Thon appears to be a very successful means of “crowdfunding” after all.