‘Peer-to-peer’ pipeline to sustainability

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In its sixth year, San Diego Kroc Center’s campaign nets over $100,000.

As budget cuts threaten arts and physical education programming in many public schools, The Salvation Army is offering dance classes, guitar lessons, soccer clubs, theaterprograms children may not find elsewhere.

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in San Diego recently held its sixth annual Heroes Program and Scholarship Campaign to ensure longevity in these programs. The goal: engage 100 volunteers over six weeks to raise $90,000 and award over 2,000 scholarships to people in the community.

“A donation to the Heroes Program and Scholarship Campaign goes beyond supporting the Kroc Center’s scholarship fund,” said actor-comedian Mark Christopher Lawrence, who led the campaign. “It’s an investment in helping children, teens, adults and seniors get healthy, discover new talents and reach their potential.”

The campaign raised $109,689 in total using a peer-to-peer fundraising model, which taps into an organization’s existing base of supporters by equipping them to champion a cause on the organization’s behalfthereby building a bigger army of supporters and donors organically.

During the recruitment phase, leaders are chosen to represent program areas, including fitness, arts and education, ice skating, day camp and church. Those leaders then recruit people actively engaged in their respective programs, to volunteer. Once all 100 volunteers are recruited, they are trained with the information and skills needed to solicit financial support from family and friends. Each volunteer also has an individual fundraising goal ranging from $500 to $1,000.

The campaign started in 2009 with a $60,000 fundraising goal, and has since been raised incrementally to $90,000. Nearly $520,000 has been raised in the campaign’s six-year history to provide more than 13,200 scholarships to people in the community who can’t afford programs at the Kroc Center.

One recipient joined the Kroc Center after a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis to start walking again.

The scholarship fund also afforded Ricky, a 7-year-old foster child who came from an abusive home, the opportunity to make friends, express and grow his faith, learn to read and discover that he’s good at math and loves skateboarding. Ricky’s foster mother, Heather, said giving to the scholarship fund is like giving life to children like Ricky, who wouldn’t have opportunities otherwise.

“It’s such a wonderful place and it’s a place that people can feel confident giving money to because it’s being used in the right way,” she said. “I’m evidence that it’s being used in the right way.”

Maria, a working, single mother, said the scholarship program helped especially during school breaks. “If my daughter didn’t have this Summer Day Camp scholarship, I wouldn’t be able to go to work, and we couldn’t survive,” she said.

Kroc Centers across the country have expressed interest in adopting this fundraising model. The Hawaii Kroc Center already jumped aboard to raise $20,000 in its inaugural year using a peer-to-peer model.

“The heroes campaign means sustainability for the Kroc Center’s fundraising efforts over a long period of time,” said Maria Todaro, director of communications and community development at the San Diego Kroc Center. “It’s an effort that gets the community invested in the success of the center, and creates a pipeline for identifying and cultivating potential major donors.”


Photo: Actor Mark Christopher Lawrence from TV shows—“Chuck,”  “Glee,” and “Seinfeld”— led this year’s Heroes Program and Scholarship Campaign.

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