Guest post by Juliana Bunim
UCSF’s innovative social media-based fundraising campaign Challenge for the Children, through a collaboration with Causes.com, ended Thursday, raising more than $1 million for the new children’s hospital at UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay.
More than 50 teams signed up for the eight-week contest that encouraged individuals to contribute via social networking tools, such as Facebook and Twitter. Teams competed for prizes throughout the contest leading up to two grand prizes, the right to name two prominent spaces at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, currently under construction in Mission Bay.
Because the campaign’s number one goal was to increase community involvement at Mission Bay, the winning teams were determined by who had the greatest number of individual donations rather than the largest total sum donated.
The competition blew away its initial fundraising goal of $100,000 due to a creative strategy by first place team, Zynga. The social media based gaming company generated more than $800,000 in donations from donors thanks to a candy cane integration launched in their FarmVille game earlier this month. When players purchased seeds for the red and white peppermint sticks, they received a teddy bear to place on their farm with 100% of proceeds going to the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.
“The fact that we have surpassed our goal tenfold is truly astounding, and I can’t thank our incredible family of supporters enough,” said Mark Laret, CEO of UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. “I am inspired by the compassion of all those who support UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, one of the foremost pediatric healing centers in the world. Your generosity will help us build new, world-class facilities, enabling us to make an even greater impact on children’s health care.”
Topping the leaderboard behind Zynga was Paddy O’Brien, a 12-year-old bone cancer patient now in remission who was treated at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Benioff, whose gift with his wife Lynne contributed $100 million to the hospital that now bears their name, finished in third place.
“All of the teams did a remarkable job,” said Laret. “Zynga’s candy cane seed initiative was incredibly innovative, and having one of our own patients dedicate himself to this cause and play an integral role in shaping the future of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital is particularly meaningful,” Laret said. “I can think of no two challengers more deserving of naming a space in our new hospital.”
There was also a strong commitment to the contest from within the UCSF community. Several teams were captained and joined by UCSF faculty and staff, including teams led by Cindy Lima, Executive Director Mission Bay Hospitals Project, UCSF service-dog Lani, UCSF University Relations, Development and Alumni Relations, Campus Life Services and UCSF Partners in Care Infusion.
Paddy, who finished with donors and over $12,000 dollars, says his strategy was simply to ask friends and ask them to ask friends. “At first I thought ‘Wow, winning this would be a long shot. I didn’t think I’d beat [team leader] Ashton Kutcher,’” Paddy said. “But it turned out we did pretty good!” Paddy also won several prizes along the course of the Challenge, including an iPad and a luxury box for 10 guests to the San Francisco 49er game on January 1.
“Doing this online competition we were blown away,” said Paddy’s mother, Alma O’Brien. Throughout the competition the O’Briens sent out weekly Challenge updates recruiting and updating donors. “When Paddy was sick we sent out a weekly update, so we did it in a similar way,” said O’Brien. “The momentum was high, but it’s not a physical prize. He’s not winning a car, or $10,000. He gets something with longevity which is so much more meaningful, and what he wants. Paddy really realizes, appreciates and is amazed by what people do. Whether it be generosity or donating time, he’s right there doing things with them.” And, while O’Brien says Paddy likes his own name, she said he hasn’t decided yet what he will name the space.
The funds were raised for the 183-bed children’s hospital, part of $1.5 billion UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, a state-of-the-art and sustainable hospital complex at Mission Bay that promises to transform care for women, children and cancer patients when it is completed in 2014.
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