A Hero's Crowdfund: How VMI Alumni Rallied For Officer Dic Donahue

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It is amazing to think that it has been nearly a month since Boston’s tragic Marathon Bombings. The way the Boston community has come together is nothing short of inspiring.

For one of our clients, the Virginia Military Institute, there was a particular connection to the events that unfolded. On April 18th, Boston Officer Dic Donahue, a 2002 VMI graduate, sustained life threatening injuries after being shot during an intense manhunt for the suspects of the murderous bombings.

His alma mater was there to help.

Quickly after the news broke, a few of Dic’s classmates from VMI organized a crowdfunding page on Indegogo to help raise awareness and financial support for “Dic and his wife, Kim and their young son.” After closing last week, the campaign successfully raised $81,306 for Dic and his family, all the while also keeping supporters well informed on Dic’s progress, and serving as an outlet for sending along other means of encouragement.

Crowdfunding has recently been a hot topic in higher education, receiving coverage both in the Chronicle of Higher Education and CASE Currents Magazine, and has proven to be an excellent opportunity for advancement to engage next generation givers. In 2012, crowdfunding campaigns raised almost 2.6 billion with the majority going to philanthropic projects. In 2013, Crowdfund Capital Advisors predicted that number to reach 4.3 billion.

Crowdfunding is peer-to-peer fundraising online. It is personal, simple and community focused. As explained by crowdfunding expert and Indiegogo Edu Lead, Bre DiGiammarino, “crowdfunding is not something new, but it is particularly relevant for today when people are more connected than ever before.” Bre also cited that IndieGoGo’s experience in crowdfunding, which now expands over 196 countries and territories, has surfaced that there are three key reasons why people contribute: “some give because they care about a campaign’s purpose and want to participate, others because they care about the perks that they receive for a contribution, and others because of the pride they have for an organization.” On a side note Bre also shared that crowdfunding pages with video benefited from a 114% boost in contributions.

Advancement leaders like Andrew Gossen of Cornell University and Margaret Paine of Middlebury College have paved the way for institutions to use crowdfunding, utilizing both emerging platforms such as USEED and homegrown solutions such as MiddStart

Simply having a crowdfunding platform is not enough. As evidenced by Officer Donahue’s campaign, there are several elements that are crucial to success. Here three ways that the VMI community did an exceptional job of supporting their hero:

• Keep Supporters Informed:

From recounting the details of the shootout to providing updates on Dic’s condition, the owner’s of the crowdfunding page did an exceptional job of telling a compelling story. By actively updating their page with press accounts from the Boston Globe and ABC News supporters could access the story from multiple vantage points. Also, there was a clear call to action as to where the funds would go.

• Cross-Promotion:

In combination with the IndieGoGo page, a Facebook page was also created to support Dic in his recovery. Reaching over 10,000 “Likes,” the page has provided an excellent way to direct people to the fundraising effort, while serving as an additional channel to keep supporters in-the-know with exclusive updates. In addition to the Facebook page, along with many alumni, VMI promoted the crowdfunding page from their Twitter account.

• Providing Other Ways to Give:

From providing an address for “notes of encouragement”, to creating a Facebook page where supporters could send along their best wishes, the leaders of this campaign made sure that all could feel involved even if they were unable to make a financial gift. The outpouring of support that ensued strengthened the campaign further.

We are incredibly proud of VMI and their alumni community. “Rah Virginia Mil!”

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