Pillars is a not-for-profit agency that aspires to build healthier communities by making connections and changing lives. As a comprehensive organization, Pillars provides quality mental health services, social services and education for people of all ages, providing services for more than 10,000 individuals and families in 38 communities surrounding the Chicago area.
Active Network's Corporate Challenge focuses on the promotion of wellness and giving to employees, volunteers and constituents. On a mission to empower employees to enjoy the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle while providing the opportunity to support a cause that makes a difference, the program effectively launches an athletic team to participate in an endurance event while raising funds for a non-profit. The major goals of this program are to establish a cause marketing campaign, save money in employee direct healthcare costs, utilize little resources from the organization, and create a unique and unforgettable experience for employees.
Pillars was looking for a new avenue to generate funding for its own organization. Amy Beros, Director of Special Events, notes that Pillars had never conducted an employee fundraiser of this kind before. "We have over 250 team members at 10 different locations, so getting all those people to know one another is a challenge. We decided this would be a way to get the employees together to do something for each other and raise some much-needed funds for our programs."
Familiar with Active.com from running in the Chicago Half-Marathon the year prior, Amy looked into Active Network a bit further and discovered its Corporate Challenge program. She came up with the idea to create Team Pillars, a running team comprised of Pillars employees, family members and friends, that would help raise funds by participating in the 2008 Chicago Half-Marathon. She contacted an Active Network representative in February, received approval from Pillars' CEO for the event, and by March, the organization was signed up for the Corporate Challenge program.
Through the turnkey Corporate Challenge program, Pillars had access to a professionally designed fundraising Web site that aligned with the organization's existing website, online donations and fundraising capabilities, virtual online training plans for employees to achieve health and fitness goals, fundraising and fitness tracking to record individual progress, assistance with the fundraising kick-off, fully designed recruitment materials, weekly team emails, and employee recruitment and fundraising guidance.
Pillars' fundraising page launched at the end of April and the kick-off event was held in mid-May. The sign-ups immediately started coming in.
At the kick-off, Pillars offered to reimburse the sign-up fees for the first 10 employees who signed up to participate in the Corporate Challenge. Pillars also extended the opportunity to participate to employees' families and friends to further encourage sign-ups and awareness. Then each employee, family member and friend was given an individual fundraising page, created through Active's Corporate Challenge program, so they could personally reach out to their networks and encourage donations.
As for out-of-pocket expenses, Pillars was able to keep this to a minimum. The organization reimbursed the first 10 sign-ups, valued at $50 each, and bought approximately $100 worth of prizes to reward employees raising the most funds. A pasta party for the participants was donated by the community and Active Network was paid a portion of all online transactions processed.
Amy notes that perhaps the biggest key to Pillars' success was getting everyone involved, whether they were running or not, through communication. To ensure employees' commitment to the fundraiser, Pillars consistently communicated with employees to provide team updates, fundraising statuses and employee recognition. "We rewarded our participants every month with gifts that were donated by the community, ranging from gift cards to movie tickets. This worked really well to keep employees motivated."
A final best practice Pillars can attest to is working with the right fundraising partner. "One thing that's important to mention is how helpful everyone at Active Network was throughout the entire event. Anytime a team member had a question regarding his or her webpage or had any fundraising questions at all, the Active team responded immediately! It made it so much easier from a team leader standpoint knowing that I could email Active at anytime and receive a response right away."
Pillars is an example of a not-for-profit that saw the value in the Corporate Challenge program to raise money, gain awareness, and develop a unique team building experience to support its causes.
Team Pillars set out with a goal to raise $10,000. After the conclusion of the Chicago Half-Marathon and Corporate Challenge program, the team nearly doubled its goal by raising $19,200. Pillars Community raised more money than its corporate counterparts, including Coca-Cola and Merrill Lynch! The organization's proceeds from the half-marathon helped to support Pillars' programs such as Constance Morris House, a shelter for domestic violence victims and the Child and Family Development Center, which offers Head Start, affordable daycare and infant-toddler programs.
As for the future, Pillars is already planning its 2009 Corporate Challenge event with Active Network. "Knowing what a success this year was, we're planning to do the Corporate Challenge for both the half-marathon and the 5K next year to get even more people involved!"