How Susan G. Komen Created Communities of New Supporters & Recouped Revenue During COVID-19

+175k
Donations Made
13k+
New Group Members
+56k
Fundraisers Created
$31
Average Donation

Executive Summary

The February 2020 COVID-19 pandemic brought an end to in-person events, including Komen Race for the Cure® and MORE THAN PINK Walk®. Worse, income from Facebook fundraisers dropped by 40%.

For the first time in its decades-long history, Komen had to contend with the grim prospect that it might fail to:

  • Provide medical care, screenings, and support to women
  • Reach investment research goals to advance cancer cures
  • Build the community of survivorship and co-survivorship that events create

But Komen is known for taking up the fight on behalf of those in need. Which is why they partnered with GoodUnited and set out to create a series of digital peer-to-peer fundraising on Facebook that would not only recoup lost revenue but also attract fresh supporters.

Susan G Komen

Founded in 1982, Susan G. Komen is the world’s leading breast cancer organization, and the only nonprofit that addresses breast cancer on multiple fronts: community health, global outreach and public policy initiatives. 

Since its inception, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has poured $2.9 billion into groundbreaking research, community health outreach, advocacy, and programs in over 60 countries. The organization’s efforts have helped contribute to the 40% decrease in cancer deaths between 1989 and 2016.

Race for the Cure® is a breast education and fundraising event for breast cancer treatment and prevention. The MORE THAN PINK Walk® is Komen’s signature fundraising event. Both events are intended to build community, raise funds for cancer research initiatives, and honor those who have lost their battle with the disease.

Altering an Approach to Facebook

After COVID-19 made Komen’s in-person events impossible, doubling down on Facebook, where they’d had success with birthday fundraisers, seemed like the natural choice.

But supporters were hesitant to ask their friends and family to donate at a time when so many were facing their own financial and personal challenges. On the other hand, fundraisers for causes that could be directly tied to COVID-related relief – shelters, first responders, and food insecurity – surged.

Komen needed a new way to keep its peer-to-peer fundraisers while being sensitive and empathetic to the current circumstances.

We needed to identify a new way to keep this stream of peer-to-peer fundraising going.
Josh Hirsch
Social Marketing Content Manager, Susan G. Komen Foundation

GoodUnited had been helping Komen maximize the potential of Facebook birthday fundraisers. So when they offered a newly developed service, Facebook challenges, Komen said yes.

Trying Something New Pays Off

In January 2021, Komen and GoodUnited partnered to put together the first month-long Facebook challenge. The goal was to acquire 6,500 supporters.
It didn’t take a lot of convincing for us to move the peer-to-peer fundraising to a challenge format.
Josh Hirsch
Social Marketing Content Manager, Susan G. Komen Foundation

Facebook challenges are unique in that once supporters sign up, they’re added to a Facebook group where they share their experiences with cancer, participate in a physical challenge such as performing burpees or running, all while raising both awareness of and funds for breast cancer.

Facebook’s targeting allowed finding individuals who were new to the cause and had an affinity for Komen’s mission. 

The ads that prompted them to opt in were so successful that within the agreed-upon budget, over 13,000 supporters joined the group, with 90% new to Komen, and 10,500 agreeing to provide their emails. In addition, over twice the projected dollar amount of donations was raised.

Building Community Connections

As part of the Facebook challenge test, GoodUnited prompted participants to opt into Facebook Messenger, where dynamic messaging, developed and personalized in collaboration with Komen, prompted them to start their own Facebook fundraisers. Supporters were taught how to raise money, and were praised and recognized for their efforts. 

Along the way, they shared their own experiences, reminisced about loved ones who had passed from cancer, and cheered each other as they completed physical challenges. Rallied by a passion to fight cancer, differences in gender, fitness level or relation to the cause only served to enrich the community. 

Whether it was a small number of burpees a day or more vigorous exercise, everyone was cheered on by their peers. What’s more, almost no involvement was necessary from Komen to get conversations started and build up mutual support. 

Friendships were formed. Stories that brought supporters to tears shared. Pledges to participate in further fundraisers taken. 

A community was formed organically, just like at in-person events.

I watched this group grow a sense of community organically and double the number of people in the group.
Josh Hirsch
Social Marketing Content Manager, Susan G. Komen Foundation

Facebook Challenges & In-Person Events Make a Strong Team

Since Facebook challenges are location-independent and Facebook’s targeting provided access to an inexhaustible pool of potential new supporters, Komen realized they could run multiple challenges in multiple locations throughout the year.

And as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic passes, Komen would resume in-person events alongside Facebook challenges.

This means that Komen has acquired another tool in their arsenal to fight cancer with.

You’re still able to connect with supporters by telling your organization’s story and how they can be the hero through a new approach to peer-to-peer fundraising that employs the gamification mindset.
Josh Hirsch
Social Marketing Content Manager, Susan G. Komen Foundation

The Process

As Komen was no newcomer to peer-to-peer events, staging them online was like second nature. GoodUnited provided the copy for the messaging in Google Docs so Komen could easily request changes and approve content. 

GoodUnited also created a test environment where Komen could see exactly what users would experience and provide feedback accordingly. 

Finally, a dashboard showed all relevant metrics – whether opt-in rates or how much money was being raised – updated in real time, so Komen could see how everything was performing whenever they wanted to.

It's a very smooth process with approving content, everything live online, and having that test environment for us to walk through the end user experience ourselves.
Josh Hirsch
Social Marketing Content Manager, Susan G. Komen Foundation

Conclusion

COVID-19 made it harder than ever for cancer patients to access vital care, manage health, and receive the moral support that is so necessary when faced with a potentially terminal illness. 

Nonetheless, Komen was able to harness the power of social media to recoup revenue, go on providing life-saving medical services, fund research into cancer cures, and build new communities of supporters that lifted each other’s spirits during such a challenging time.