Why Hundreds Showed Up to Support One Man: The Power of a Focused Community

This past weekend, I was asked to help out with a project for one of my in-laws. The company they work for was putting together a fundraiser for one of their own—a carpenter who is battling serious disease. He’s been unable to work for long stretches of time while undergoing treatment.

The idea started with another employee, who insisted that something had to be done to help a friend. Through the power of community, an event was held where hundreds of fellow employees, friends, and strangers showed up to help, financially and in spirit.

Aside: Everything about it screamed Love Drop to me, the idea that a community, led by passionate and dedicated people, with the right skills and tools, could make a significant difference in someone’s life. Are you supporting Love Drop yet?

Friends helped for days to clear and clean the space, rent equipment, and set up tables. They left their families behind to stay late or get to work early to make sure everything was ready.

The day of the event, many spent hours buying, preparing, and serving up food that was absolutely delicious. Barbeques, beer coolers, and buffet stations were set up, and even a bounce house was inflated for the kids.

A cash register was manned by no less than two people to keep up with traffic. The atmosphere was infectious—one of celebration, generosity, and camaraderie.

And people were generous—they let us keep their change, charged hundreds of dollars on their credit card, and bought raffle tickets by the dozen. The subject of our fundraiser was visibly humbled and overwhelmed by what was happening around him.

Why do some fundraisers flop completely, and others draw unmanageable crowds? What made this one a success? How did a community come together with such force to make a lasting impact on this man’s life?

I think it comes down to eight factors:

  1. Something/someone people care about: If we were trying to raise money for children in Africa, the results would have been vastly different. It’s not that children in Africa are any less important, but they don’t have the same emotional impact a friend in need does.
  2. An existing network: Likewise, If we had set up at our local grocery store or tried going door-to-door to raise money, the effort required to raise the same amount of money would be huge. We leveraged our existing network of people who had a vested interest in the results.
  3. Passionate leaders: The people at the helm of the event must be insanely passionate about what they’re trying to achieve and not be afraid to show it.
  4. Strong organizers: Passion would not be enough to pull something like this off—you need to have the logistics click into place to get good results. “The organizer” may or may not be the same person who is driving the “passion” component of leadership.
  5. An immediate benefit: In the case of this weekend’s event, the money you donated got you the benefit of food, drink, and the company of good friends.
  6. Money: The people organizing and helping with the event must have access to at least some financial resources to buy the various things they need.
  7. People: The best intentions and plenty of money still won’t get things done on the ground. You need a crew of people who are willing and able to show up at 5 AM to do what it takes to make the event a success.
  8. Simple focus: We didn’t need a spreadsheet to tell people how their money would be spent—what they handed to us would go to benefit their friend directly. That’s a powerful simplicity.

To what would you attribute the success of some of the best fundraisers you’ve witnessed? I look forward to your comments.