PledgeStar's online fundraising system helped students at Saint Joseph's School in Los Angeles, California, hold a wildly successful at-home jog-a-thon in the midst of a global pandemic as well as a distance learning mandate across the county. The number of students who raised more than $200 doubled from previous years and three times as many students raised over $100. This was a complete shock to Principal Kevin Donohue, who knew that over 70% of the student population qualified for free or reduced-cost lunch and were also faced with the challenges of learning at home.
Last year, Donohue thought about doing something different for the school's annual jog-a-thon. He knew he wanted to expand the event to include more community members, so he invited them to come to campus to participate in a PE day at school. But COVID-19 quickly changed his plans.
"We started looking at, ‘well what can we do instead?'" he recalled. "We knew we were moving donations online anyhow, so doing the entire jog-a-thon online was worth a try. But to be honest, our hopes weren't that high."
Donohue was nervous for several reasons. First, COVID-19 had shut down many local businesses, and several parents and caregivers in his community were out of work. He wasn't sure many people would be able to help with donations. A majority of the students at the school came from families that struggled financially, so he knew that most people weren't in the position to donate even before COVID-19's impact on local businesses. What's more, Saint Joseph's school had never used an online platform before so he feared many of the families wouldn't participate.
"When I came to Saint Joseph, we weren't very modern," Donohue said. "We had a paper newsletter, the jog-a-thon was take home packet based with pledges written down on paper. It was really limiting our reach, especially in a digital world. I did some research on partnering with an online management system. It's confusing because there are a lot of options out there." Donohue eventually reached out to the Archdiocese of LA, where two of his colleagues recommended PledgeStar. "I was nervous because going online was a big transition for us, but Emily at PledgeStar was awesome," he said. "And in a big transition like that, customer service is the most important thing to me."
In the end, Donohue encouraged his students on social media platforms with videos of his early morning runs, challenging them to keep up with him. He ran over 57 miles in the two week time period allotted for the fundraiser, and students responded by biking, skating, jumping, and running to match his mileage. They sent in videos of their fun activities for school staff to repost on Facebook and Instagram, renewing the sense of community they had before their school closed.
"In the end, it was worth it," said Donohue. He is happy to report that the school offered more financial aid this year than ever before, and PledgeStar played a big part.