viral athleticism

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that donations to walkathons and other athletic fund-raising events rose 12% in 2007, according to a recent survey.

Despite a bumpy economy, all of the organizers in the survey predicted that their events will raise more money this year than they did in 2007. Projected increases for 2008 averaged 12 percent.

While the survey focused on the central definition of these events as “athletic,” it’s interesting to note that these sorts of fundraisers are the kind that encourage, and even require, participants to garner additional support from their own networks of friends, family, and colleagues (and to encourage them to do the same).

In other words, these are campaigns that encourage and reward viral behavior.

It’s the same spirit that powered the recent America’s Giving Challenge — the most successful participants found ways to empower their supporters to evangelize on behalf of the cause.

One powerful way to do this is to provide a widget that supporters can place on their own blogs or profile pages, but a similar ripple effect can also be created simply through links, blog posts, and Twitters.

Nonprofits can build their own widgets now with Sprout (here’s an example of Beth Kanter’s latest creation), post them on their websites, and allow others to share the widget on their own sites and blogs.

So, good news. Successful viral campaigns don’t have to involve any athletic activity at all. (However, it might be better for some of us if they did.)


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