Pelotonia is one of the most successful nonprofit fundraising campaigns to emerge in the past 10 years. The organization was founded to fund life-saving cancer research through a three-day event based around cycling, entertainment, and volunteerism.
This year’s event will take place from August 3rd through 5th in downtown Columbus, Ohio. If you want to ride in the event, donation requirements range from $1,250 to $5,000 depending on the route you choose to ride. If you don’t want to ride in the event, you can also be a “virtual rider” with a $100 minimum donation.
Pelotonia has generated over $157 million in funds for the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC) and the Richard J. Solove Research Institute since the event’s inception in 2008. Just last year, Pelotonia pulled in a record $26.2 million for its cycling event in August. The best part is that 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar is donated to cancer research.
The ultimate goal of Pelotonia is to improve the health outcomes of cancer patients and the health of its participants. Doug Ulman, CEO of Pelotonia, says he wants to create a community that truly understands the cancer journey and allows everyone to thrive against difficult circumstances. He is fueled by the “why” and wants to create a country-wide movement that drives high-risk, high-reward cancer research.
While Pelotonia has seen an enormous amount of success in its short run, they know that they can achieve even more by being innovative. That’s where their brand-new app, PULLL, comes into play.
PULLL: A New Type of Fundraising App
PULLL is a revolutionary fundraising app, developed and powered by Pelotonia, that allows users to generate funds for cancer research through exercise such as cycling, running, or walking. The app is a free activity-tracking app that uses the location tracker in your smartphone (Android or Apple) and unlocks funds from corporate donors depending on how many miles you complete for each activity.
Pelotonia’s goal for the PULLL app is twofold. First, they wanted to be able to generate fundraising income without having to stage cycling races across the United States. The last Pelotonia cycling event in August 2017 had over 8,000 people riding in it and 3,000 “virtual riders” as well. The app creators believe they could have more than 100,000 active and engaged users by the end of 2018.
Second, they wanted to promote healthier lifestyle outcomes for their donors, and joining the fitness tracking movement was the logical choice. PULLL gets users active while providing them the opportunity to be involved in a larger community. Friends and family can also opt to “boost” your efforts, which means they’ll match the amount you earned with a donation of their own.
PULLL is spelled with 3 L’s not because someone fell asleep at the keyboard but because the creators wanted to represent the idea of striving to do more—one more donor, one more breakthrough, one more cure. According to Miguel Perez, Pelotonia’s vice president of mission and brand, “We always want one more.”
Fundraising the Pelotonia Way
Nonprofit fundraising campaigns are marketing campaigns in overdrive. Some of the most successful nonprofits—like The Salvation Army, World Wildlife Fund, and Habit for Humanity—are not only successful because of their noble charity goals. These organizations achieve success because they are household brands that have marketed themselves as well as any private business. Many prospective donors donate to nonprofits because their personal brand aligns with the nonprofit’s brand.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, Pelotonia has taken these lessons and distilled them into one of the most effective fundraising campaigns in recent memory. Pelotonia’s quick growth has necessitated the need for a huge branding push, and their merchandise has been a primary tool in their success.
Pelotonia has placed its logo on all sorts of merchandise to create a positive psychological association. Car magnets, t-shirts, yard signs, and even tattoos of the logo abound throughout Columbus.
Unlike a corporate logo, like that of Coca-Cola, Pelotonia’s logo conveys more than their products. Their lime green arrow, pointing from left to right, has come to represent cancer survival and a way to be part of an inspirational community.
If you are thinking of taking Pelotonia’s lead and creating your own personal or professional fundraising campaign, their list of do’s and don’ts of fundraising will guide you in developing the next great nonprofit.
- Make a personal connection to your fundraising campaign.
Fundraisers feed off personal interest. Golf tournaments, concerts, cook-outs, and wine events are excellent ways to engage and reward your donors.
- Host a fundraising party (of any size).
Fundraising events don’t have to be huge or complicated events like Pelotonia. You can hold small parties with just a few refreshments or even turn a wedding into a donation event. Some couples, like the Culvers in Rhode Island, decided to replace their wedding gifts with charitable donations.
- Write a personal letter.
People respond to personal stories, and personal storytelling can be incredibly powerful for building your brand. Pelotonia reports that some people decided to donate because of a simple, personal letter. Never underestimate how much people appreciate even the simplest of gestures.
- Be creative with your fundraising.
One rider for Pelotonia set out a Keurig in her office and placed a sign requesting donations for her ride. Have fun with your ideas—you never know when the simplest idea, like a fitness tracking app, will become the biggest donation craze in the country.
- Forget to thank your donors.
Personal touches raise your fundraising campaign above the rest. Thanking donors, even with simple letters, can make a huge impact on them and entice them to donate in the future.
- Lose sight of corporate matches.
Companies often match their employees’ tax-deductible charitable donations, so check with your donor’s human resources department if they have this policy. Every little bit counts, and the company may want to get in on the tax breaks.
- Be afraid of personal appeals.
In-person connections still matter in our social media-driven world. If you have donors you know personally, sometimes a quick in-person meeting can mean the difference between receiving a donation or not.
Pelotonia’s staff speaks from experience when they say that putting together a fundraising event can be difficult. You may worry that everything needs to be perfect for people to consider donating to your cause. Yet, if you have a compelling story, little details can be forgiven.
A Community of Survivors
“There’s always a story to tell with each rider,” said Teddy Parsley, who lost his father to brain cancer more than eight years ago. His entire family started a tradition of cycling after their father passed away, and now they ride in Pelotonia every year in remembrance of their father.
The beauty of movements like these is that they support cancer research efforts in the hope that families will not suffer the same tragedy in the future. Doug Ulman has created a community of survivors and inspirational people with Pelotonia. Hopefully, efforts like the PULLL app will help bring more people into their community and inspire countless others to follow in their footsteps.
If you are interested in participating in the Pelotonia fundraising event in Columbus, please follow this link and sign up today!
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