Building a Supporter Community: Stone House Raises Number of Participants As Well As Funds for its Wilderness Heals Hiking Event
Using Sweet! by Blue Sky, Blue Sky Collaborative’s online peer to peer fundraising platform, Stone House created a customized fundraising website to register and engage hikers/volunteer fundraisers for its Wilderness Heals event.
The Stone House in Roxbury, MA provides a caring and a safe home for adult and child survivors of domestic abuse. Its annual Wilderness Heals hiking event raises funds for the families it serves through the support of its participants and their efforts to secure pledges.
Wilderness Heals is typically a three-day, all-female hike that covers several parts of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, although the COVID-19 pandemic changed that in 2020 and 2021. Wilderness Heals is Stone House’s largest fundraiser of the year, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020. Each hiker is required to raise a minimum of $1500 ($1000 in 2021), but most raise over $5000. Over 70 hikers participate and have the option of backcountry camping or staying overnight in Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) huts. A celebration at the AMC Highland Center concludes the event.
Many hikers participate in Wilderness Heals year after year, forming a tight-knit community of supporters. As their fundraising and the number of hikers participating blossomed, Stone House wanted to maintain and grow that strong sense of community beyond the hike, providing a place for hikers to go and communicate with one another. More importantly, they needed a website that facilitated their intricate hiker registration process and peer to peer fundraising efforts. Their online presence needed to accommodate certain capabilities such as uploading changing cancellation policies and be customized to specific needs such as generating reports on hiker health information to ensure hiker safety during the event.
Solution: Sweet! by Blue Sky
“We’ve been using Blue Sky’s peer to peer fundraising platform for developing the Wilderness Heals website for five years now and typically raise around $200,000 annually,” said Catherine Lawrie, community engagement manager at Stone House. “We keep the website up throughout the year so that we have a visible presence and our community of hikers can have a place to gather, get updates and stay in touch. It’s been very helpful to have all the event and fundraising information in one place and available for anyone to access. We’ve had numerous new hikers come to us and join the event because they found the website, liked its look and were impressed with the functionality and navigation.”
Located at WildernessHeals.org, the website built on the Sweet! by Blue Sky platform enables Stone House to achieve several goals:
- Presenting a visually-appealing and professional online presence,
- Engaging and growing their community of hikers,
- Providing their fundraisers with the tools to easily recruit and collect pledges,
- Generating customized reports on their hikers, donors and fundraising status, and
- Conducting more efficient and cost-effective peer to peer fundraising.
“Blue Sky has helped us with engaging visitors on the site, making any updates and customizing features such as our registration, which is rather complex and requires hikers to upload forms and information,” said Lawrie. “We can also run reports on our hikers and donations, and automatically generate thank you notes to our volunteers and donors.”
Using the customized website developed with Sweet! by Blue Sky, the Stone House has found tremendous success, raising over $1M in 5 years through its growing community of hiker/supporters and the ease with which they can secure pledges.
In 2020, the Wilderness Heals hike was conducted virtually due to event restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each participant hiked on their own. Despite that and income limitations among donors, supporters still raised $154,000. In 2021, the hike will be a one-day event without an overnight stay to maintain continued compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.
“We’ve been very happy with the Wilderness Heals website we’ve built using Sweet! by Blue Sky,” said Lawrie. “The Blue Sky team is very personable and responsive when we need help with something. Because of Blue Sky’s great customization work and assistance with the site, we have made it easy for our close-knit community to stay involved and make a difference in the lives of the people we support, even when we couldn’t gather and do our usual hike in 2020.”
Hikers who are interested in participating in the Wilderness Heals annual event should reach out to clawrie @ stonehouseinc.org.
About Blue Sky Collaborative
Blue Sky Collaborative was founded in 2002 on the belief that peer to peer fundraising is the best way to empower communities to drive impact and make unprecedented change. Several hundred organizations, charities, non-profits, and schools in multiple languages use Blue Sky Collaborative’s fundraising software, which supports events and campaigns of all types and helps to raise millions of dollars every year.
Blue Sky Collaborative offers clients easy-to-use peer to peer fundraising sites that are designed and branded their way and grow their fundraising while keeping costs low and transparent. The SWEET! and Blue Sky Give platforms exist as a direct result of user input and experience and the company’s commitment to collaborate with clients on a software system that puts them first. From donors, executive staff and volunteers to teachers, sponsors and committee members, fundraising success is a team sport on which Blue Sky serves as a valuable partner.
Blue Sky Collaborative has offices in metrowest Boston, Massachusetts, and Annapolis, Maryland.