2020 – Wow, what a year for the history books. Truly a year full of ups, downs, and more changes than we could have thought possible. I spoke to Toni Watson (Co-Founder/Vice President) and Jennifer Thomas (Fundraising and Event Coordinator) from Bears of Hope about how they quickly adapted their 2020 Choosing Hope campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bears of Hope is a non-for-profit organisation that provides support to families who experience the loss of their baby. The Choosing Hope campaign is a series of fundraising walks held across Australia. Participants fundraise for Bears of Hope and walk in support of bereaved parents in the community. The walks help families who have lost a baby come together and walk to remember, acknowledge, and honour the life and loss of their babies.
Last year Bears of Hope planned to hold seven physical Choosing Hope walking events across Australia and then COVID-19 started taking over. When it became obvious that COVID-19 was going to be with us for some time to come, Toni and Jen had to quickly re-evaluate their events and rethink how they could could continue to take place in what was the ‘new-normal’ landscape of restrictions and bubbles. As did many events in 2020 they went virtual and ran the most successful Choosing Hope campaign yet!
In 2019 the Choosing Hope walks raised a total of $30,000. Last year Toni and Jen set themselves a similar goal. They easily hit $30,000 and had to increase their goal. Firstly to $50,000 and then $75,000 and finally to a whopping $100,000. The final fundraising tally for 2020’s Choosing Hope campaign was a staggering $124,035!
“We would sit there some days and just watch our fundraising go up and think WOW…the end result – it was mind blowing”
Amount raised by state and territory
The Choosing Hope events are held in October which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This can be an emotional time for families who have experienced the loss of a baby and with the added stress and isolation of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions October 2020 was particularly difficult for Bears of Hope families.
Toni and Jen aimed to create a campaign that was both COVID-19 safe and allowed participants to stay in their own bubbles and feel a sense of community and support with other participants. Some families who take part in a Choosing Hope event only come together for one day a year to do the walk, connect with and support each other. This sense of community is incredibly important to Bears of Hope and they wanted to make sure their participants felt that, even if they weren’t physically able to be together.
To encourage people to take part in the Choosing Hope walks, Bears of Hope created walking goals for their participants.
3.5km, per day/weekin honour of the babies lost through miscarriage every 3.5 minutes.
6,000 stepsper day or 6km per week for the 6 babies who are stillborn every day.
30kmfor the three babies who die each day after birth and before their first birthday.
1kmfor each week you were pregnant with your baby.
These goals gave a sense of purpose to the walks and helped participants form a personal connection between their loss and the steps taken and relate their steps to their babies. To track steps participants could connect their fundraising pages to their Fitbit or Strava accounts. Their steps could be made visible on each person’s individual GoFundraise fundraising page so their friends and family could be a part of their fundraising journey, even if they couldn’t see them in person. If participants didn’t have a Fitbit or Strava account they could add their steps manually to their fundraising page through the GoFundraise platform.
Usually Choosing Hope walks are held in the major Australian cities. With the introduction of virtual walks Bears of Hope were not limited by location and people from all over Australia were able to participate – and they did! There were participants in regional Queensland and South Australia where the physical walks are not held. These participants were delighted to find their own sense of community with Bears of Hope and were incredibly appreciative of the virtual walks. Last year Bears of Hope saw a huge increase in new fundraisers. Only 23% of participants had fundraised for Bears of Hope before and 77% of participants were new fundraisers!
Last year Bears of Hope were unable to meet the Choosing Hope participants in person which meant social media became more important than ever to form a personal connection. Bears of Hope created social media tiles for participants to customise and share on their own social media platforms. With participants in lockdowns and living with restrictions participants engaged more with social media.
“One of the most rewarding parts of the campaign was to see our social media images that our fundraisers had personalised saying things like “I am walking for my baby”, it was really, really lovely to see that”
Incentives are a great tool that Bears of Hope use to motivate their fundraisers. When fundraisers hit $300 fundraised they received a personalised t-shirt and cap that paid tribute to their babies. Fundraisers took this one step further and had their own t-shirts made for their families and team members so when they were walking they were seen as part of the same team. This really brought home the Bears of Hope sense of community and support.
Bears of Hope personalised t-shirt on a Choosing Hope walk!
So what’s the plan for 2021?
With the incredible success of the virtual events, they will continue to be a part of future Choosing Hope campaigns. This year, the hope is to be able to hold physical events in major cities and virtual walks countrywide which will give participants in major cities the option to take part in a virtual walk with their friends or family in their own community.