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Virtual Fitness Challenge Saves Uplifting Athletes

COVID-19 forced the nonprofit, Uplifting Athletes, to cancel many of their traditional fundraising events so the team turned to virtual fitness to engage their community.


The mission of Uplifting Athletes is to inspire the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport. Their small (but mighty) staff of six supports a network of nearly 30 chapters run by current college football student-athletes.

The Challenge

Uplifting Athletes typically hosts their signature "Lift For Life" fundraising events on campuses across the country every summer. Since colleges were shut down during the pandemic, the charity suddenly found themselves fighting for survival while trying to support rare disease patients who were marginalized by COVID-19. Uplifting Athletes knew that they needed to quickly organize an inclusive event that could raise funds for the organization and rally their network of supporters around the rare disease community at this time of great need. They turned to Pledge It as an innovative technology partner to provide a solution.

“We had to pivot since our runway was getting shorter with every cancelled "Lift for Life" event. Fortunately, the flexibility of Pledge It's peer-to-peer platform allowed us to launch a creative event to empower our fundraisers in a new and meaningful way.”

-Brett Brackett, General Manager of Uplifting Athletes

Mobile Fundraiser Leaderboard

The Solution

The team at Pledge It understands the unique challenges associated with producing fundraising events during the social distancing era. Pledge It's consultative approach resulted in a virtual fitness event called the “7,000 Mile Challenge” using Pledge It’s peer-to-peer fundraising platform. This mobilized Uplifting Athletes' chapter leaders, supporters, and patients to work together to accomplish a common goal of 7,000 miles, which represents the total number of rare diseases, while earning donations with their collective efforts.

“As a rare disease patient, I’ve always felt alone. This experience connected me with an entire community of people just like me that I didn’t know existed! I can’t wait for next year’s event!” -Rare Disease Patient & Uplifting Athletes 7KMC Participant

The Results

Pledge It’s unique software produced some extraordinary results for this first time event that was planned in just a few short days:

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  • Engaged Participants: Nearly twice as many participants became active fundraisers compared to traditional Walk/5K events with a registration fee. Teams were created for each fan base ahead of the event so that participants could help their favorite chapter climb to the top of the leaderboard.
  • Empowered Fundraisers: Participants raised 2.5x more because Pledge It's modern user experience makes it easier to personalize your page, activate an email marketing campaign, and share your progress.
  • Generous Donors: Contributors who made a performance pledge gave 12% more than the average online donation because the contributor was emotionally invested in the outcome of the performer.
  • Virtual Community: Fundraisers and donors rallied around the rare disease community -- and participated along side of patients -- thanks to the modern campaign design and interactive tools. People of all ages and ability participated from across the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Spain and the Philippines.

Ultimately, the funds raised from this new event helped Uplifting Athletes successfully bridge the financial gap that was created by the pandemic. They went on to launch additional campaigns with Pledge It in the fall and even plan to increase their financial commitment to fund rare disease research in the spring!

"The 7,000 Mile Challenge was a monumental success in its inaugural year and an initiative that will be around long after the pandemic passes."-Robert Long, Executive Director of Uplifting Athletes

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Published on December 7, 2020

by Dave Costlow

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