Everyday people are also great celebrity fundraisers.  Lauren Leffler isn’t a movie star, a famous pro athlete, a popular politician or anything of the kind.  She’s quite simply a person dedicated to helping a good cause in her own unique way.

Her story is an example of a special fundraising event with the potential to receive a tremendous amount of press coverage without the benefit of a famous celebrity.  Oh, and later in this post I also share how this event could be even better.  But first . . .

What is Leffler doing?

She’s riding her bicycle across America this April.  In fact, she started her 4020 mile journey last Saturday, March 27 in San Francisco.

In a telephone interview with The Daytona Beach News-Journal Leffler said, “If I’m going to bike across America, I might as well do it for a good cause.”  Leffler is a 4th-year medical student at the University of South Florida.  

How did she choose the Shriners Hospitals for Children as the beneficiary of her trek?  They inspired her decision to focus on pediatric orthopedics as her life’s work.

Having rotated through many hospitals and institutions throughout my schooling, I have yet to come across another that is quite like Shriners. This organization is amazing! From caring for burns to correcting club feet, the good they accomplish for children is unparalleled, all for free,” says Leffler.

Look at an example of a pretty good grassroots special event fundraising page on the Shriners Hospitals website.   You’ll find ways to donate, a fundraising graphic on the campaign’s progress, and also a letter from Leffler sharing her story where she issues all of us a catchy challenge: 

I will be ecstatic with any donation you are willing to give, but I would like to propose a challenge. The route I have planned in this adventure across America is projected to be 4020 miles long. My challenge to you would be to join the “Penny-a-Mile” club; that is, to donate a penny for every mile that I ride. Of course, if you would like to create your own “nickel-a-mile,” or dime or dollar club, that would be all the better!”

Also note that her goal is to raise $40,200 which ties neatly to her 4020 mile long journey.

This is an event that can easily catch fire and go viral: Leffler is doing all this on her own initiative.  She has a connection to the charity.  It’s a unique story more of the media is very likely to pick up.  I’m sure Shriners is working on publicity.  And all of us can help by using our own social media networks and communities. 

How could this fundraiser get better?  How can its chance for success be improved?

  • Set up a blog to monitor Leffler’s progress across America
  • Have a map showing her route and where she is at the end of each day
  • Leffler could use a smart phone to connect to the web (e.g., email, Facebook, Twitter) and send daily anedotes of her trip.  Even stories of racing to get away from dogs nipping at her heels.  Getting soaked in a rain storm.  Chats with people along the way cheering her on. 
  • Leffler can use the phone to take photos and videos for uploading to her own page on FlickR and YouTube
  • Shriners could also use mobile marketing to text updates to their donors, have mobile ads, use text to give, and more!

Simple things like this – easily supported by Shriners – would go a long way to keep supporters engaged, add fun, and increase the odds of it going viral.  And that means more money raised!

What grassroots fundraising efforts are you inspiring?  Where can you find your everyday celebrities?  How can you make it easy for your supporters to help you?

And if you want to answer Leffler’s challenge, click here to donate and pledge.