MOVE Maryland is raising funds for nonprofits across the state with a single virtual event - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Oct. 8, 2020 11:18 am

MOVE Maryland is raising funds for nonprofits across the state with a single virtual event

Here's a look the model behind a new initiative from the Ulman Foundation that's drawing organizations large and small to a Nov. 7 fitness series.
MOVE Maryland is Nov. 7.

MOVE Maryland is Nov. 7.

(Photo via Facebook)

The switch to virtual that so many events are undertaking this year is often done out of necessity at first. But once it’s underway, it can spark something new.

That was the case for the Ulman Foundation, the Locust Point-based nonprofit that supports young adult cancer patients and survivors.

As the foundation team was getting creative with new ideas for fundraising in the wake of the pandemic’s pause on in-person events, they hit on an idea for peer-to-peer fundraising that brings together many nonprofits. It resulted in a new initiative that’s raising money for nonprofits across the state: MOVE Maryland.

The culminating event is a virtual fitness series on Nov. 7, in which participants who signed on to raise money (minimum $200) for a local nonprofit will work out for the cause in a series of classes to the sounds of DJ Kopec. The day itself is a virtual take on an event that might typically be a run or bike ride.

They’re also using the tools of the web leading up to the event. Participants sign up and choose which org they want to support. Then, they put the word out to raise funds via a peer-to-peer model, by leveraging their own social networks. Thus, the causes nonprofits support can be a beneficiary of all the followers participants are amassing.

The behind-the-scenes organizing leading up to it shows a collaborative approach to fundraising that’s bringing together different kinds of nonprofits.

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While Ulman Foundation is driving the initiative, MOVE Maryland is a newly created, standalone brand. A new kind of project needed a home outside the foundation, said Katie Norton, Ulman Foundation’s senior director of external relations: If it were branded as an Ulman Foundation project, it might’ve been a bit weird to promote and explain why different kinds of nonprofits were coming together with one that has a distinct focus on young adults with cancer.

“So the new brand focuses instead on what we all have in common — operating in and supporting the wellbeing of residents of Maryland,” Norton said. “That is a much easier ‘sell’ — we’re all joining into an initiative to collectively move Maryland forward.”

There was intention around lowering barriers in the form of entry. It didn’t charge entry fees or create minimums in fundraising totals or participants for nonprofits. And it offered resources for the nonprofits to market their fundraising and involvement.

Rather than a format that risks not reaching a goal, there is a structure that rewards. Ulman Foundation is retaining 25% of the funds raised in order to cover overhead of running the event instead of drawing on its own donor dollars — “therefore, the better they do, the better we will do, so we are incentivized to create really great collateral/brand, and to support the nonprofits well in their recruitment and support of their participants,” Norton said.

Additionally, nonprofits who raise particularly high amounts of funds will be able to produce videos to run during the event, and they’ll get shoutouts during the sessions.

While the event is still approaching, Norton said she’s already seen the benefit of having strong, established relationships can allow new initiatives to get off the ground. A strong relationship with a CRM company allowed the platform to be customized quickly. And they called on plenty of connections among nonprofits in the region to reach others who might be interested in signing up, notably Maryland Nonprofits, fundraising consultant Vince Connelley, the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, and corporate partner RCM&D.

So far, more than 70 nonprofits signed on to the event, and it’s drawing in a range of sizes and missions, as well as representation from regions around the state. Norton said it was a key that “we created this event in such a way that truly any type of nonprofit can use it to further their mission.”

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