Rappel for a cause? How local nonprofits get creative with fundraising

About 70 people will rappel from the 12-story Fraser Centre in downtown State College Thursday as a fundraiser for local nonprofits FaithCentre and Interfaith Human Services.
About 70 people will rappel from the 12-story Fraser Centre in downtown State College Thursday as a fundraiser for local nonprofits FaithCentre and Interfaith Human Services. Centre Daily Times, file

After 70 people, including the mayors of State College and Bellefonte, rappel from a 12-story building in downtown State College on Thursday, two local nonprofits will come away with tens of thousands of dollars.

Over the Edge, benefiting FaithCentre and Interfaith Human Services, is one of the ways area nonprofits are getting creative with raising money. The Centre County United Way is also doing something new through the #LivetheShirt campaign on social media.

For Over the Edge, it started in May when community members and teams signed up to be “Edgers.” For a donation of $1,000, Edgers have the chance to rappel down the 12-story Fraser Centre building on Thursday.

Some notable Centre County Edgers include State College Mayor Donald Hahn, Bellefonte Mayor Tom Wilson, State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Bellefonte) and 98-year-old trail runner George Etzweiler.

It’s different from anything IHS or FaithCentre have done in the past — IHS has raised money through bake sales, benefit concerts and dinners, and FaithCentre holds an annual golf tournament and 5K to raise money. And when Nova Scotia-based organization Over the Edge reached out to FaithCentre Executive Director Nicole Summers about hosting an event in Centre County, Summers said she was skeptical at first.

She traveled to Harrisburg to check out an Over the Edge event happening there.

“Over the Edge has the polish of a marathon, but hey, you don’t have to run 26.2 miles to participate,” Summers said in an email. “This is a very large undertaking so I reached out to Interfaith about partnering with us to host this event.”

The two organizations will split the projected $80,000 raised from this event.

“People thought we were crazy when the news of this event first came out,” said Wendy Vinhage, executive director of IHS, “but we’ve had a good response with about 70 people signed up to rappel.”

The event will be held on 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., and anyone interested in signing up last minute can do so through Thursday, provided they’re able to raise the $1,000 minimum. The public is also welcome to gather downtown to see elected officials and business leaders rappel down the building.

“This has been a successful journey for our organizations,” Vinhage said. “We hope to continue hosting this event.”

Another nonprofit in the area getting creative with fundraising is the Centre County United Way.

The organization is using social media and national Live United T-shirts to get the word out about the work they do. Thanks to two major donors, the United Way was given $50,000 to come up with a creative way to increase engagement with a younger demographic through social media platforms.

The campaign requires community members to pick up a free Live United shirt at various locations around the county and come up with a creative photo to post while wearing the shirt. For every post with the #LiveTheShirt, the United Way will receive $25. For every share of a “celebrity” post or of a business or Centre County United Way Partner Agency post, United Way receives $15, and $1 for every like, comment or retweet. The donors will also match dollar for dollar every donation received.

“The object of this campaign is to be more well known throughout the area,” said Tammy Gentzel, executive director of the Centre County United Way. “We want to maintain relationships with the people who are posting and sharing the shirts, but also reach the people who are out on the fringes.”

This is the first year the United Way has done this campaign, which was created by Megan Evans, the communications coordinator for the Centre County United Way. The money raised will be dispersed among Centre County United Way’s 32 partner agencies.

“This campaign has definitely generated more interest in what we do — a lot of people love this campaign, but many don’t understand that they can be a part of it, too,” Gentzel said. “Our next phase is getting this campaign to go viral so people understand that every time they post and share, we get a donation.”

The United Way was given a time frame of two years to experiment and work to find creative ways to keep people interested in the campaign and organization.

Live United shirts can be picked up at locations including the Centre County Bookmobile, Moshannon Valley and Penns Valley YMCA, KBB offices on North and South Atherton streets, 120 Boucke Building on Penn State’s campus, the Downtown State College Improvement District office or by calling the Centre County United Way at 238-8283.