Make-A-Wish Canada’s Rope for Hope Builds Strong Ties With Supporters

When Make-A-Wish Canada set out to launch a new national-scale peer-to-peer fundraising program, it wanted to create an experience that its supporters would always remember.

With Rope for Hope, it struck gold.

Rope for Hope gives supporters the opportunity to rappel down the side of a building in one of 10 Canadian cities after they have collected at least $1,500 in pledges from their friends and co-workers.

While the fundraising minimum is steep, the chance to shimmy down the side of an iconic structure has become an attractive draw for Make-A-Wish Canada supporters.

In 2016 — just the fourth year of the carefully-planned event — more than 600 people took part in the campaign and raised $1.4 million for the organization at 10 sites across Canada.

“It’s not a typical walk or run,” says Cheryl Woods, Make-A-Wish Canada’s director of chapter development & support and the organizer of Rope for Hope. “It’s adrenaline based. And we see a lot of people repeating because of the experience.”

Rope for Hope is among a wave of new, fast-growing P2P programs that are giving hope to Canadian charities that are looking to find novel ways to engage with their supporters.

According to the recently released Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada Benchmarking Survey, seven of Canada’s 30 largest P2P programs in 2016 were founded within the past 5 years. This marks a stark difference with their U.S. counterparts, as only one of the top 30 U.S. programs was founded after 2011.

It is also one of three new campaigns that joined the top 30 in 2016. SickKids Foundation’s Great Cycle Challenge and Princess Margaret Cancer Center’s Journey to Conquer Cancer are the others.

“Canadian nonprofits have had great success experimenting with new types of peer-to-peer campaigns,” says David Hessekiel, Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada’s Founder and President. “We’re seeing a great deal of innovation as nonprofits are looking for new ways to engage supporters beyond the more traditional walks and rides.”

Rope for Hope exemplifies this creative approach.

Because Make-A-Wish Canada is a chapter-based organization, Woods said it wanted to create a P2P campaign that would be easy to replicate, but would also capture the unique identity of communities across Canada.

Rope for Hope provides all of these elements. While walks and rides are common for chapter-based organizations like Make-A-Wish, rappelling is much more unique.

Supporters are eager to take part because it provides them with a rare thrill — a thrill that they are willing to raise significant sums to achieve.

It also draws considerable attention in each community. TV and print media love the visuals — and participants are eager to share pictures and videos of their adventures on social media.

These elements have helped the expand grow quickly — though Woods said Make-A-Wish has been careful to manage its expansion to ensure that it is scaling at a sustainable rate.

Ultimately, she said the organization would like to see it expand to 20 sites in Canada — and raise somewhere between $2 million-$3million annually.

“We’re being very careful about how we manage it and we want to continue to keep it fresh,” Woods said.

That approach should serve Make-A-Wish well as it looks to expand Rope for Hope — and offers an excellent reminder to other organizations that are nurturing newer programs.