Ben Carlson Foundation Increased Donations 74%!

Ben Carlson
Ben Carlson

We are all looking to attract more donations to impact change in our communities – So how did the Ben Carlson Foundation increase donations over the past year to fuel their mighty cause?

Founded in 2014, the Ben Carlson Foundation was created to honor the heroic legacy of Ben Carlson, a lifeguard who selflessly sacrificed his life to rescue a swimmer in Newport Beach, California. Established in his memory, the Foundation provides annual scholarships to student-athletes and works to improve ocean safety measures to protect lifeguards and the general public locally and internationally.


Mightycause really did help us with our peer-to-peer fundraising and I will use it again and again and again not only for Ben Carlson Foundation but also for some other organizations.

Ben Did Go event

For the past 8 years, the Ben Carlson Foundation has hosted an annual paddle-out event, “Ben Did Go.” Ben Did Go is an incredible athletic event where over 110 participants endure a 30-mile prone paddle across the Catalina Channel from Avalon to Newport Beach. Participant paddlers are encouraged and challenged to raise a minimum of $1,500.

Kaity Van Amersfort, the CEO of C&R Management
Kaity Van Amersfort

In 2023, the Ben Carlson team brought on board Kaity Van Amersfort, the CEO of C&R Management, an association management firm that helps effectively manage event planning, membership, administration, and finances for nonprofits. Tasked with making their 8th anniversary the best one yet, Kaity knew that expanding their peer-to-peer efforts to a dedicated peer-to-peer online platform would greatly streamline their event. That’s when they found Mightycause.

The Ben Carlson team turned to Mightycause’s peer-to-peer fundraising pages and fundraiser templates to create an easy and simplified way for participants to create and share their own fundraising pages. Learn how the Ben Carlson Foundation was able to achieve a 74% increase in donations:

What was the main challenge you faced that led you to Mightycause?

We used GoFundMe, they’re actually a really great platform, people do fabulous things on it. Pertaining to our paddle though, there were just a few things that we couldn’t do, we couldn’t monitor the progress of individual paddlers and to participate in this paddle there is a suggested donation of $1,500 that paddlers are asked to raise. So when I came on board with Ben Carlson Foundation (BCF) almost a year ago and we were talking about the paddle and some of the challenges we had to try and increase donations – we talked about fundraising and I said “well we could explore some peer-to-peer fundraising platforms that we could use instead of GoFundMe.”

When we started going back and forth with the Mightycause team, they really helped me understand that the platform would help us in being able to see what individual paddlers were raising and giving them a template to be able to share the information. Previously, we could never physically see how much money each paddler was raising. We get thousands of donations. So it would be impossible to have somebody say “yep, here’s all my tracked 237 donations that I got.”

So within the Mightycause platform obviously we could really track that a bit better. The cool thing about Mightycause is, we as an organization, could share their pages, or other people on the board could share their pages. So there was way more opportunity to be able to boost fundraising in some capacity by using this platform. 

What were the key factors that influenced your decision to choose Mightycause?

The ability to share the pages individually and create custom templates. All of our paddlers, while they’re super passionate about this project, didn’t all actually know Ben personally. Being able to give them the tools to write a story about why they’re doing this was key to enabling donors to increase donations. Otherwise they were taking the old page and just sharing it and saying, “Hey I’m participating in this paddle, give me money.”

Within these tools I could really set up some templates that shared the story about Ben that they could use that got way more specific on why people should donate to this cause. Also just the easy access of being able to take a link and put it on their own page. The ease of use in this was really nice. 

The backend platform from an admin perspective was also really nice. Super easy tools to use. I also got some nice takeaways from some of the webinars that I participated in and the support team was very responsive to me. So it was nice to have some on the ground support that I don’t think we had with GoFundMe before.

What were your goals for your fundraising campaign?

The goal was $150,000 and we clearly blew that out of the water. And it just kept growing, and that’s a tribute and testament to our people who believe in this cause so much, there’s no doubt…but I also think the fact that we had a tool that was just so much easier and better to use than we previously had helped us get over that bump too.

When we reached $150,000 our chairperson said, “$150,00 is good, we’re sold!” But some people on the board were like, “oh let’s go to $175,000, we can get it”  while others thought “I don’t know, $175,000, we’re not gonna make it.” Then we got to $175,000 and people were like, “oh my god, we got to $175,000, let’s keep going, we’ll make the goal $200,000.” But others said, “No, no, we’re good. We’ll keep it here. We’re not gonna get to $200,000, we can’t raise $200,000.” Then we got to $200,000. And after that, I don’t think anybody had any more discussion about it because we just went way over what we thought we were going to get for this particular year.

Could you share a little bit about your implementation process of using Mightycause for the first time for your event?

I would say I am somewhat familiar with some fundraising nonprofit management softwares because I do work with some other clients. So I’ve used some other platforms and they can be really difficult to work with, I’m just gonna be honest. They’re really difficult, it’s not easy. Some other platforms are maybe not set up specifically for these fundraising capabilities, although they do try sell you on that. 

But with Mightycause, it was really the ease of use on the backend, being able to create different templates for people to use, letting people create their own if they wanted to. So we weren’t forcing them to use anything. They had an option of using a template or they could create their own story. 

Fundraiser Template
Fundraiser Template

The fact that you could easily share it to social media channels certainly helped. We have a ton of young people who participated. So if we didn’t have that, I’m not sure we would’ve had as broad of a reach. 

And then I would say, implementation-wise, I got a lot of support on the backend from the support team and I watched a lot of Mightycause webinars. I think there are some really great videos and other resources available through Mightycause. At no point did I ever feel like I didn’t have the support that I needed to make sure that paddlers were successful in their fundraising efforts. It was pretty seamless. I even actually used Mightycause for another organization after and we kind of changed what were trying to do so it was a little bit different. But anyway, I had such a great experience with Mightycause and everything that went along with it.

Was there anything surprising that came about from this year’s campaign?

Honestly, I didn’t think we’d get over $200,000 but within the last two years, the organization itself has had some really positive momentum in creating some more substantial committees. And so there was a specific committee that I think they might have met a few more times and we maybe strategized a little bit more on how we were gonna get the word out for the particular event in hopes of more donations. 

But the board also has had some strategy on some other topics that we had. But over the past two years, creating some strategic committees within the organization has made the organization better. Because everybody knows what their job is or what their volunteer job is. Everybody knows what they should be doing. We kind of know the initiatives. And so when you have board members who are ready to make an impact, the thing you wanna do is give them a tool that works. So in being able to use Mightycause, or other software that makes their job easier, I always like to say “Use me as a tool for your success. What can I do to make you more successful as a board member and lead us to more donations?”

What was the reaction from your board?

They were happy. I think that they were excited that we had a tool that could really give us some more key performance indicators, meaning we could see what everybody was fundraising and again being able to just share a link on many different platforms. They could text it, send it in their own email, that kind of thing. So I think everybody was very excited at the opportunity to get to be more visible in this fundraising. So we always knew like, “yay we raised $125,000,” that’s still a feat and an amazing right in itself. But the fact that we just had more visibility on the inner workings of that, what it looked like and ease of use really, I would say, fueled the increase in donations and satisfied the board with this particular event. 

Is there anything else you wanted to share about your overall experience with Mightycause?

We are inundated with technology tools to use that are supposed to make our lives easier and that’s not always the case. But I will say in this regard, Mightycause really did help us with our peer-to-peer fundraising and I will use it again and again and again not only for Ben Carlson Foundation but also for some other organizations. 

The fact that on the backend it’s easy to use for an administrative person like me who needs to be able to set things up quickly and make it very easy for others to use is just so critical. If it’s making my life harder, I’m probably not gonna invest in it. I need tools that my volunteers and boards can use that are efficient, fast, and easy to use, and definitely Mightycause it fits that mold. 

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