MedShare, an international-relief group that sends medical supplies overseas, started several years ago encouraging donors to create their own Web pages and to ask friends and relatives to make online donations toward the cost of a shipment.
It also figured out a way to help charities that want to ask their donors’ friends and relatives to give again and again.
MedShare has so far reached out to nearly 800 people who have given through a donor’s fundraising site, sending them letters with personalized, handwritten notes.
Almost 20 percent of the recipients of the notes, which seek a gift to MedShare’s annual fund, have made additional gifts to the charity.
“It’s a great gateway for donors,” says Dave Pass, MedShare’s chief advancement officer.
“It’s peer to peer, it’s personal. It’s someone you know asking you for a gift, then once you are brought in the door and a good experience is created, we can walk you into being a regular or higher-level donor.”
This month, a $20,000 shipment from MedShare is going to West Africa, thanks to the contributions of nearly 200 donors who were recruited by two recent college graduates who set up a Web page to raise money to benefit a hospital in a rural area of Sierra Leone.
“This is a cool way to acquire donors,” Mr. Pass says, noting that the approach is far more cost-effective than direct-mail campaigns, which the charity also runs. “It’s similar to the way participants in charity runs and walks might raise money—getting their friends to support them. We just do it without the race.”