This post is the second in a mini-series highlighting ways planners have continued to strengthen support for Duke and our communities through virtual events. 

Stronger Together was created to provide a fundraising tool for third-party fundraising partners to continue supporting Duke Children’s, despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. It evolved beyond a tool into a campaign, and allows patient families and community members to come together around any kind of celebration – birthdays, anniversaries, mini-events, personal stories, and more – to raise critical dollars for Duke Children’s. 

When Stronger Together launched in September 2020, we wanted to showcase an example of a successful virtual fundraiser, and so during National Dog Week, we hosted a virtual dog walk. The fundraising goal was $1,000. By the end of the week, $1,165 had been raised. Since that first experimental event, our partners have created 12 DIY fundraising events using Stronger Together, and raised over $145,000.  

What special resources and skills were needed to produce this virtual fundraiser?  

My team (Amelia Howle, Lindsay Gordon-Faranda and Debbie Taylor) and I built Stronger Together using the Blackbaud TeamRaiser platform. We were familiar with the platform from peer-to-peer fundraising events, but we were adapting the platform for do-it-yourself (DIY) fundraising. We had to learn how to use the platform in a different way, as well as provide support and answer questions from the fundraisers. Because many of our fundraising partners were hesitant about this DIY virtual fundraising platform, we also developed a  and a virtual instructional webinar. 

How did going virtual impact your financial goals for the event?  

Never having done anything like this before, our original goals for this campaign were conservative. When we launched the site in September 2020, the goal was $25,000. Since then, I have increased the goal multiple times. Our current goal is $150,000 and we are less than $5,000 away from reaching that goal.  

During your virtual fundraiser, how did you highlight the impact of donor support? 

With DIY fundraising, the donor connection is directly correlated to the individual who has created the fundraising page. The connection to the cause may be very loose, and as a result, it was critical that we steward these donors very personally. Using a tool called Thank View, Amelia Howle works with each DIY fundraiser to create a personalized acknowledgement email featuring a video in their own voice. For example, one of our patient families hosted a month-long DIY fundraiser in celebration of their daughter’s first birthday. They set a goal of $50,000 and actually raised over $60,000! Amelia asked the family to record a short video to say thank you to their friends and family who gave in support of the fundraiser.  

Were there any unexpected benefits you experienced with your virtual fundraisers? 

As more face-to-face events are permitted, our third-party partners will also be able to collect donations online versus the cash and checks we typically receive. By using an online fundraising page, there is also the added benefit of collecting donor contact information, which enables us to engage them beyond the original event.  

In our work, we hear so many great stories from families who have a connection to Duke Children’s and want to help others who are going through the same thing. These prospective donors may not be ready to make a major gift, but they are interested in supporting Duke Children’s in some way. Now, our gift officers can direct them to the Stronger Together website so they can create a fundraiser and share their stories with others. This strategy has become a staple in our engagement plan for this new fiscal year. Virtual DIY fundraising through Stronger Together will definitely continue beyond the “return to normal.” 

Virtually yours, 

Lori Apicella 

Director of Children’s Engagement 

Duke Children’s Development 










Edited by Kathy Wright