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Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: How Cathedral High School Students Adapted to Digital Philanthropy

Connor Forde | 10 min read

Learn how Cathedral High School embraced digital fundraising to empower their students to raise money and awareness for the annual tuition assistance campaign, and for a philanthropy fund that makes a direct impact of support for their extracurricular passions.

Highlights from Luck of the Leprechaun Student Fundraiser


Raised with BoostMySchool


Comments posted in support of students


Gifts received during month-long campaign

About Cathedral High School.

Cathedral High School, located in central Indiana, is home to approximately 1,200 students in Grades 9-12, and more than 100 faculty and staff members. Building on the same mission that established the Fighting Irish tradition in 1918, Cathedral High School provides a holistic education encompassing spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional and physical growth. Committed to establishing a lifelong connection with philanthropy as part of a student’s education, Cathedral combines the annual tuition assistance fundraising efforts with empowering students to raise money and awareness for a philanthropy fund that in turn supports the programs and activities that become integral to their holistic education.

Jean Smith, Director of Philanthropic Engagement, on what makes Cathedral High School valuable to the community.

Luck of the Leprechaun – The Remix.

The summer of 2020 found Jean Smith, Cathedral High School’s Director of Philanthropic Engagement facing a very distinct challenge. Every September, Jean and her advancement office colleagues would launch the Luck of the Leprechaun student fundraising raffle as a part of a strategy necessary to meet their 2.4M annual fund goal. The unforeseen arrival of COVID19 meant that students would no longer be able to safely sell raffle tickets. The value of this campaign came largely from the student’s engaging with their families, friends, and communities while sharing the benefits and impact a Cathedral High School education provided them personally. It was an integral part of both raising money for tuition assistance and fostering lifelong philanthropic young people.

The challenges ahead brought many questions for the advancement team to consider. How would buy-in from the school community be created without the large raffle prize to offer? Will another online program suffer because of the digital fatigue already created by the effects of the pandemic? How would they recreate the personalized engagement provided by a face-to-face visit from a student? How would their efforts be perceived when so many in their communities were facing economic and health issues from the pandemic?

As they carefully weighed each challenge, their commitment to the students and a strong belief that the School’s place in the Indianapolis community is one of honor and service reimagined the traditional raffle fundraiser to a digital peer-to-peer campaign called Luck of the Leprechaun – the Remix. Their first ever peer-to-peer digital fundraiser was set in motion and would prove not only to raise the necessary tuition assistance funds but provide valuable lessons in philanthropy for the students.

Cathedral students would not be selling raffle tickets, but would now support their school community in a more personal way.

Jean Smith, Director of Philanthropic Engagement, describing the challenges of shifting from a raffle to a digital peer-to-peer fundraiser.

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You.

Needing to completely shift strategies and the format for giving over last year, Cathedral first pivoted to selecting to partner with a giving platform that would support creating and tracking 1,200 individual fundraising landing pages. Collaborating with BoostMySchool, a giving and engagement platform designed exclusively for schools, Cathedral began the process of rolling out the P2P fundraiser. To participate, students were given access to a personal fundraising page and a fundraising toolkit shared via email to help them follow best practices. They were also given time and assistance to further personalize their fundraising page during a class period.

Although converting to a fully digital fundraiser removed the inherent hype associated with an in-person kick-off event, the campaign was launched with equal excitement by every teacher dedicating a portion of class time to airing the advancement team’s fun video introducing the fundraising campaign and its logistics. With guidance from BoostMySchool, the team then focused on teaching students how to set up their unique giving pages, building a communication system that would serve as the knowledge base for students’ reference throughout the month-long campaign, and creating incentives to keep the students engaged with the campaign and with their donors. A minimum goal of $250 was set for each student and would earn a “Free Day” from school if reached. Additionally, once students reached the benchmark of raising half their goal, they were permitted to dress out of uniform for an extended period of time. Cash prizes were awarded to the top student fundraisers, top sports team fundraisers, and top club fundraisers.

Student video created for fundraiser

P2P – More than Fundraising for This Mission Driven School.

True to their mission - transforming the hearts and minds of a diverse group of students to have the competence to see and the courage to act – the Luck of the Leprechaun campaign quickly saw students becoming social entrepreneurs. They developed skills such as marketing, cooperation, and storytelling to help them shift from “selling” a game of chance in support of their school, to “selling” the personal significance and impact of it on their lives. With autonomy and digital tools, they began to actualize their hopes and make the overall goal a reality.

A valuable component that remained from the raffle fundraiser of years past was the presence of the traditional philanthropy fund. Supported by a portion of each student’s personal giving page donations, this fund would provide assistance to up to two clubs or activities of each student’s choosing. The more money they raised on their personal page, empowered the student to make a direct impact of support for their extracurricular passions. The use of BoostMySchool to accurately track student donation page totals allowed the community to see in real-time which clubs and activities were benefiting.

In service to others, Cathedral partnered with Coats for Kids and started a community food pantry as a part of the Luck of the Leprechaun fundraiser. For those students struggling to meet their monetary donation goal, they could choose to donate a coat or food item to support the local charities. Five food items or one coat represented a $10.00 credit toward their fundraising goal.

The Fighting Irish – Competing to Achieve Together.

Marketing is truly a team effort when it comes to successful peer-to-peer fundraising, and Jean and her team posted regular class leaderboard updates, incentivized faculty, and promoted weekly incentives to keep students excited and engaged. But it was the Fighting Irish community that truly brought the competitive edge to the campaign.

Every other day, the school community would receive an up-to-the-minute tally along with the latest incentive to drive competition. The friendly banter and competitive chatter went beyond the students to include the staff and faculty. Faculty customized their own campaign pages allowing the advancement office to easily track their progress using the BoostMySchool platform. This made competitions more visible and therefore compelling as was the case with the student services department – known to be the “cheerleaders” of the school.

They challenged the academic departments to reach their goal early in the campaign in order to take advantage of the most dress down days available. And with each student customizing and sharing their fundraising page with their personal networks – the school saw online donations from nearly all 50 states – something not possible in the past with door-to-door raffle ticket sales. Creating a fully online fundraising campaign was instrumental in reaching beyond their local community and engaging a broader audience.

Image: U.S. donor map automatically generated by BoostMySchoolU.S. donor map automatically generated by BoostMySchool

Tracking Success and Seeing the Green!

Jean Smith, Director of Philanthropic Engagement, on finding opportunity when shifting to an online student fundraiser.

As most donations were made digitally, it was easy to track and share campaign progress via social media, text links, and by email. The students were empowered with a medium they understood. Using the BoostMySchool campaign page template, students were able to easily customize their pages and make it their own with minimal assistance beyond the initial tutorials that were created and shared. The size of the student body made it imperative that the giving platform was user friendly and intuitive. The key ingredients – customize, customize, customize. The students created giving pages that included videos and photos and represented their personal relationship with Cathedral. This proved to be a powerful call-to-action for those receiving the link asking for a gift.

Initially, the advancement team was concerned that engagement rates would be lower if students weren’t selling face to face, but to their delight the School ultimately realized increased participation rates. They also counted on the internet being ubiquitous and donors feeling freer to give any amount – not just the face value of a raffle ticket. Plus, with the digital giving event requiring fewer overhead costs (no large prize to pay out, cost of printing raffle tickets) and much less management from the advancement team, parents, or volunteers (all tracking was accessible in minutes using the BoostMySchool platform), Cathedral was able to actualize more of the money raised.

Now having the ability to see real-time donor stats, the advancement team spent crucial time developing creative incentives to boost student engagement. In the past, they waited for volunteers to enter the ticket sales information and create an analysis for distribution - which left little time for noticing unique engagement opportunities among constituent groups – classes, alumni, staff, or parents.

Each night, Jean and her team would review the real-time data made available on the BoostMySchool platform and craft games, fun graphics, social media post challenges, and announce prizes in an effort to keep the fundraiser above all the other online noise that students faced. The platform also offered the ability to track and quickly determine which student pages were thriving, and who needed more support before the campaign ended.

The Pot of Gold – Data Driven Future

Jean Smith, Director of Philanthropic Engagement, sharing campaign outcomes.

The Luck of the Leprechaun ended with a rainbow – by raising $236,242 – an impressive 112% of their goal! The reimagined campaign was launched with a new giving platform partner and focused on students being able to share their personal stories. They quickly learned that the community, students and faculty found tremendous value and fun in raising funds for Cathedral in this way. The highly personalized ask proved to be powerful in an era where many donors are more discerning of exactly where their donation is going.

The added gold was in the data gathered. With BoostMySchool, they now had the crucial donor data needed to assist with indispensable retention planning. In the past, they lacked the manpower necessary to manage raffle ticket sales data. They now, not only had bio and contact information, but could report on which constituency group the campaign most resonated.

Despite some apprehension prior to launching this unique peer-to-peer student fundraiser, it was evident that Cathedral High School didn’t need any luck at all. With the support of a fundraising partner and an engaged student body this fundraiser not only raised money, but reinforced student philanthropy by helping them feel more connected, tap into more resources, and become a stronger community overall.

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Written By

Connor Forde

Connor Forde is an experienced Account Executive at BoostMySchool. Driven by the impact of philanthropy on schools, he takes pride in providing exceptional guidance to the teams he works with to create engagement among their community. Connor leads schools by identifying, executing and analyzing successful advancement strategies that fit their strategic needs.