Insights to Power Social Good

mGive Case Study: United Way Trots Mobile Out for Annual Event

Posted by Cassie Bair on Mar 21, 2013 10:26:00 AM


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Organization: Mile High United Way

The Challenge: What would you do if you had 10,000 eager race attendants, ready to take action for your organization?

The Solution: Connect with your audience in the most powerful way possible - by tapping into them through their phone to spark their interest in your cause and hold their attention even after the event is over. In other words, create a mobile community for volunteers, race participants, and supporters in order to cultivate relationships and create long-term donors.

By sending targeted, relevant messages before, during and after the event, mobile allowed Mile High United Way to make meaningful connections with supporters in their mobile community.  By ramping up messages in the future they will be able to increase awareness for the race and get more people to fundraise through run/walk sponsorships.

Mobile also opened up a new avenue for volunteer interactions for Mile High United Way.  With text messages before and during the event they were able to alert volunteers of any changes and ensure that everyone had important contact information right on their phone.  In the future they can use mobile to alert their community to future volunteer options, and how Mile High United Way volunteers have made a significant impact in the community.


Mile High United Way, the first United Way in the country, uses proceeds from the Turkey Trot to invest back into the community in the areas of School Readiness, Youth Success and Adult Self-Sufficiency.

  • The School Readiness Initiative provides children the support they need to be ready for school and reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade.
  • The Youth Success Initiative offers mentoring, tutoring, drop-out prevention and many other programs to ensure more students graduate high school ready for college or work.
  • The Adult Self Sufficiency program affords low-income individuals and families the opportunity to move toward economic self-sufficiency.


Mile High United Way executed an mGive mobile campaign for its 39th Annual Turkey Trot, an event that attracts more than 10,000 people, in October 2012 to encourage support and participation of the four mile “fun run” Thanksgiving morning.

Racers and volunteers were asked to include their cell phone numbers on the online Turkey Trot registration form.  Those who included their phone numbers were sent a welcome message to join the Mile High United Way mobile community as well as a social share link for Facebook.  The link encouraged friends to join the race and directed them back to the online registration form.

Messages were sent out to the mobile community members before, during and after the race.  These messages included race day information, thanks for participation, motivational messages and information about Mile High United Way.

During the event static signage encouraged participants to test their turkey knowledge with a mobile poll.

“This finally gives us the base audience with which to begin communicating and messaging about the Mile High United Way,” said Robert Thompson, former director of media relations at Mile High United Way.

Adding the mobile component to this run/walk provided a platform to cultivate relationships with volunteers and donors, supporting the work Mile High United Way does in its community.

At the minimum, mobile improved Mile High communication and engagement with their supporters; allowing them to better engage and receive feedback before, during and after events.

On average, emails are only opened 15 percent of the time compared to SMS messages being opened 97 percent of the time. By adding mobile to Mile High United Way’s engagement strategy, they were able to reach six and a half times more people with text than they would have through email.

The Results:

  • Of the 4,083 online registrants, 710 opted-into the Mile High United Way mobile community.
  • Three Social Share links were generated for the Turkey Trot, generating 89 clicks before and during the event and 154 clicks after the event. The Social Share tool allowed trotters to share participation with friends through pre-determined social media links.
  • During the race, 50 participants took the mobile poll.

Continuing with Mobile

Because of the success that they continue to see by using mobile, it has become a permanent part of Mile High United Way’s communications strategy.

Mile High United Way has continued to send messages to their mobile community an average of two times a month since the Turkey Trot.   By sending out focused messages to their supporters, they have maintained a retention rate of 88%.

Mile High United Way expertly used mobile to follow one of the key principals of fundraising: build rapport and engage supporters BEFORE you ask for money. Mobile is the fun, forward-thinking conduit Mile High United Way is using to easily cultivate relationships in order to turn this year’s event attendees into loyal donors of the future.

“Because of the amazing response, we are excited to use mobile again with Turkey Trot next year,” said Thompson.  “Now that we have a healthy audience of opt-ins, we plan to regularly talk to them—mostly storytelling about our impact in the community, links to videos, volunteer opportunities, and incorporate donation asks later on.”

Topics: Strategies and Tactics, Social Good, Advanced, Mobile Engagement, Case Study

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