How PAL-Reading went from Summer Zero to Heat Wave Hero

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With the help of about 60 volunteers, PAL-Reading Services (“PAL”) records an incredible 2,500 hours of print material a year (roughly 47,500 pages), and upon request, provides free digital recordings to people with vision impairments and other disabilities.

Since 1975, the Toronto-based charity has served over 1,200 print-challenged individuals across Canada, but—like many not-for-profits across Canada—PAL was having trouble fundraising over the summer months.

To help spur donations, PAL’s board and staff decided to participate in the initial Great Canadian Giving Challenge in 2015. Founded by The GIV3 Foundation and CanadaHelps, the challenge aims to inspire Canadians to make donations during the summer months when they’re usually busy camping, boating, swimming and vacationing with their families.

When Canadians make a June donation to any charity through or, that charity is automatically entered to win a $10,000 prize. Charities are automatically given 1 entry for every $1 they receive. With each donation increasing a charity’s chance of winning the grand prize, Canadians have all the more reason to give generously. Now in its third year, the Great Canadian Giving Challenge generated more than 65,000 charitable donations across the country in 2016, and charities who actively participated in the initiative in both 2015 and 2016 raised 164 per cent more last year.

In their second year in the challenge, PAL’s senior program manager Mark Fielding says his organization received double the amount of donations ($29,000 total), and they’re looking forward to topping the amount this year. To help other charities maximize their participation and raise much-needed funds over the dry summer months, he offers the following tips:

Ramp up your social game – Mark says, “One of the best things about this initiative is how simple it is for charities to participate. There’s very little overhead or prep work, and you can accomplish your fundraising goals with a simple social media campaign. Like most nonprofits, PAL can’t afford an in-house graphic designer, so it’s incredible that pre-built graphics and banners are available for download on that charities can customize for use on Twitter, Facebook and their websites. Last year, I found these graphics were a huge help in generating awareness and excitement among our base, and I’d encourage all charities to take advantage of these resources.”
Create a killer email campaign – “While social media is vital for charities, I find an old-fashioned email campaign still works best in terms of drumming up excitement. I love the Great Canadian Giving Challenge because it gives PAL an excuse to communicate with our donor base, who always enjoy hearing from us and are in many ways looking for an excuse to donate more. My advice is to send your first email out in the latter half of May to let people know the challenge is around the corner, then send weekly emails in June followed by a wrap up email with results in July. All your emails should have as little text as possible (don’t be too wordy!), with clear call-to-actions and links for people to donate. Last year, we also encouraged people to forward on our email, and this resulted in reaching a bunch of new donors. Finally, when creating your email campaign, it might be wise to create something a bit more transferable, so your board members can personalize the note and send it off to their friends.”
Enlist the help of an “angel” – “While the Great Canadian Giving Challenge gives Canadians incentive to donate throughout the month of June, I found that having an angel that’s willing to match the total donation amount is an even bigger selling point in terms of encouraging participation. PAL is lucky enough to have a generous supporter who is willing to donate dollar for dollar. Knowing their donation is going twice as far really motivates our base to become involved in the challenge,” says Mark.

The summertime can be a challenging time for charities and if you’re feeling the heat, you’re not alone. The Great Canadian Giving Challenge can help simplify fundraising during this time and give you an opportunity to boost donations.

To learn more about boosting your summer donations, see how your charity can participate in the 5th annual Great Canadian Giving Challenge.

This post was originally published on Hilborn by CanadaHelps


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