The TOMS Formula for Friendraising Events

We all talk about it, but what really IS “friendraising”, and how important is it for your nonprofit? Read this month’s example and decide for yourself.

toms shows fundraising calendar family foundations.png

On April 5, Houston will be part of a worldwide friendraising event called “One Day Without Shoes”. This annual event, where thousands of people voluntarily go barefoot to raise awareness for the millions of people in the world who don’t have a choice, was started only 4 years ago by TOMS Shoes. Just one year earlier, TOMS burst into the world’s consciousness with the mantra of One-for-One: that is, for each pair of shoes that TOMS sells, it promises to give away one pair of new shoes to a child in need. Today, TOMS gives away shoes to children in 23 countries, including the U.S. Through September 2010, TOMS had given away over 1 million pairs of shoes.

Although TOMS Shoes is a “for-profit company with giving at its core”, the “One Day Without Shoes” campaign has all of the elements of a successful nonprofit friendraising event. Participants are asked to register online (1 – email addresses are captured) and pledge that they will go barefoot for at least one hour on April 5 (2 – builds empathy for TOMS’ beneficiaries). Locally organized events are encouraged (3 – creates communities of like-minded individuals), and the organizers are motivated to promote their events (4 – word-of-mouth advertising) with the challenge that the largest, registered gathering will win a speaking engagement with TOMS founder, Blake Mycoskie (5 – incentive). The resulting PR from this one-day blitz? Priceless.

Can you come up with a friendraising concept that follows the TOMS formula? Even though your nonprofit’s founder may not be a former Amazing Race contestant, and the plight of your clients may not be as easy to replicate as going barefoot, your organization must have some unique feature(s) that can be highlighted. As next month’s blog will demonstrate, there are creative ways to let people know what it feels like to “walk in your clients’ shoes” (sorry).

Friendraising events are most successful when heavily supported by content on the Internet, which means the largest cost will likely be in man-hours expended. However, by hosting a non-fundraising event, you lower the threshold to new “friends” who are potential volunteers, if not future financial donors. It also provides a nice respite from fundraising for your current donors.

If your development plan doesn’t include a friendraising event, think about adding one. And if you want to experience “One Day Without Shoes” first-hand, the Association of Fundraising Professionals(AFP), Houston Chapter is hosting a walk that will start in Cleveland Park at Jackson Hill on Tuesday, April 5 at 6 p.m. Click here to register. Hope to see you there. Until next month.

toms shoes friendraising calendar family foundations.jpg
Richard Beeman