By Peter Panepento
When Anthony Carbajal stood in his kitchen and spoke into a video camera last August, he didn’t have a script.
The words — and the tears — just poured out naturally.
In early 2014, Carbajal was diagnosed with ALS — the same disease that had already gripped his mother and grandmother. By summer, when the Ice Bucket Challenge was at its apex, he recorded perhaps the most poignant and powerful video among the millions created worldwide.
In telling his family’s story, he became an Internet sensation who would share a couch with Ellen DeGeneres and a hug with Taylor Swift. He also raised more than $3.8-million for ALS Therapy Development Institute.
Carbajal, who was recently presented with the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum’s annual Cash, Sweat and Tears Award for his volunteer fundraising efforts, says he never expected his video to gain so much attention.
But as he reflects on its success, he says it holds lessons for charities that are looking to connect their supporters with their peer-to-peer fundraising programs.
“The biggest thing is being authentic and translating that authenticity to their audience and helping them believe it,” he says. “Yes, you have a cause, but if the people contributing don’t feel the need or understand the story, they aren’t going to be as involved.”
Carbajal says his video grabbed so much attention because it showed true emotion and had a clear message. And while it was deeply personal, it also spoke to the challenges all ALS patients face.
Such clarity is uncommon in nonprofit communications. Often, charities focus on themselves, rather than the people they are working to help.
But the most successful groups are able to clearly and emotionally tell the story of the people they help — or the problem they are trying to solve.
Their supporters do the rest — amplifying their message with their own personal tales and making the ask on behalf of the organization.
Carbajal says his example shows that approach in action. ALS TDI, he says, is clear in its messaging and in its goals. In turn, Carbajal says, he is able to connect his own very personal story to the organization whenever he speaks about his disease.
What was the most powerful peer-to-peer fundraising lesson you’ve learned from the Ice Bucket Challenge? Post a comment below to share your thoughts.