Partnerships bring out the allround fundraiser in you!

Published by Elsbeth Takkenberg on

One week before I had my first day at work at the Cancer Center Amsterdam of VUmc in April this year, my new colleague mailed me with very good news: TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) was going to support our cancer research and chose VUmc Cancer Center Amsterdam (VUmc CCA) to be the official charity of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon. For a fundraiser like me, experienced in the private major donors and legacies, this sounded like a beautiful challenge to me. I was about to experience the joy of corporate partnerships combined with event fundraising.

Along the way, I found out that the challenge was not only about creating this partnership with TCS and making sure we raised money with the event for our cancer research. It was like practicing almost every chapter in a fundraiser’s handbook. Except for legacy fundraising. But with a marathon that’s probably just the way you want it to be. From my first day at work in May until the finish of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon on the 21st of October, these ’chapters’ were our day to day routine.

Creating a partnership
Our partnership with TCS turned out to be a perfect example of a partnership. Both sponsor and charity wanting to reach the same goal: to cure as many patients with cancer as possible, to give them the most effective treatment, and to reduce cancer to a treatable chronic disease. With the sponsoring of TCS, VUmc CCA could take a step further in reaching our common mission.

Corporate fundraising
The marathon was an opportunity for involving staff and relations of both TCS and VUmc. They were asked to either run with and for us, or to support our teams financially. And a smart cultivation-tool for prospect-, active- and lapsed companies, specially when we literally run side by side with them for VUmc CCA’s cancer research.

With 100 colleagues and friends running 8, 21 or 42 km, we needed a platform to raise funds. We were tipped to contact pifworld.com, a crowdsourcing platform for a better world. Pifworld differs from other platforms because they guarantee that 100% of the gift will be spend on the charity. How? Every donor is asked for an additional payment of € 0.47 on top of the donation, to pay for the money transfer. The charity only pays to get their own charity page, so there’s no need for paying a percentage of all the raised funds.

1:1 fundraising
Reinier Spruit ’s blog on Social Network Fundraising helped me and my colleagues a lot to raise money. And crowdsourcing combined with 1:1 fundraising worked fine for me: specially the people who did not sponsor me yet were eager to do so after they met me in person. I think it helped taking every opportunity to talk about VUmc CCA’s cancer research, my training and my new shoes, and how nice it was that friends and family did sponsor me.

Major Donor Fundraising
We were doing ok with the many €10’s and € 50’s we received through crowdsourcing, but we needed some major gifts in addition. One of our colleagues, training to run 42 kilometer, asked a number major donors personally to sponsor him with a substantial gift IF he was able to finish the whole marathon. Of course he finished. The major gifts were received, and his personal marathon experience is now being used as great stewardship-tool.

Event management
Charities don’t always organize their events themselves: it can be very handy to have a third party taking care of all the work. We decided to do it all by ourselves. With a team of dedicated colleagues, we took care of every bit of the work that was needed to get this event going, and make it a success, from signing the partnership-contract to handing out the T-shirts. We managed, we succeeded. But we need to reconsider if next year, we want to handle every step of the way ourselves again.

Corporate communication
Together with TCS we had two goals: raising awareness and raising funds. So our corporate communication was not only about our cancer research, but also about the fact that we were not only a cancer research center, but also a charity. To visualize this, the TCS Marathon-logo was placed on the side of our laboratory with the words ’TCS sponsors our cancer research, join them and support us’. And we put a supersize inflatable wallet with the same words in front of the Olympic Stadium on the day of the marathon. It turned out that many runners were aware of the fact that we were the official charity, and we received a large gift from organizer Le Champion, coming from runners who donated to VUmc CCA on top of their fee.

A lot of colleagues and volunteers were willing to be present at the 2 days Expo, an event that takes place before the start of the marathon. Without them this would not have been possible. But asking volunteers to help out also means that we needed to recruit them, coordinate them, and of course thank them.

In kind sponsoring
A huge event like the TCS Amsterdam Marathon is a perfect opportunity for in kind sponsoring. Not only did we get to use the supersize inflatable wallet for free, the apples and bananas all runners got were also sponsored through one of our relations.

This time the attrition was not about donors, but about fundraisers. We did not make it mandatory to raise a certain amount of money per team-member, but all team members were asked to raise funds by using pifworld.com or in any other way they pleased. Not everyone was comfortable with asking for money: pifpages were made but never used, some team members had already asked their network to sponsor another sports-event, people got injured and were not going to finish the run.

Cultivation and stewardship
The marathon was a good opportunity to cultivate prospects, donors and lapsed donors, I’ve said that before. But the fact that TCS chose VUmc CCA for this partnership, the fact that a huge team of colleagues and friends were running and raising funds, and the fact that on the day of the Amsterdam Marathon, from the mayor to the winner of the marathon, everybody was talking in a very positive way about the partnership and our cancer research, created a team spirit for both colleagues and donors. Everyone wanted to be a part of the success. And that’s what fundraising is about: people wanting to be part of your mission, making a positive change in the world and communicate about this.

Creating a platform for fundraising
Is there a better way for creating a platform for fundraising within your own organization, by making people raise funds themselves, and asking your board to receive the cheque on the day of the event?

Next year
Of course there are many more chapters in a fundraisers handbook, this list is not complete. But it’s a start of showing how wonderful, exciting, challenging and complex a partnership through an event can be. Next year this major donor and legacy fundraiser is more experienced in corporate partnerships/event fundraising and willing to take this to a next level. If you like to share your ideas with me, or you want to be a part of our running-team in 2013, email me!

Elsbeth Takkenberg

Elsbeth works as senior fundraiser at VUmc Cancer Center Amsterdam. She has previously worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres, Plan Nederland and the University of Amsterdam. She is specialized in major gifts and legacies and is passionate about building strong and long lasting relationships between NGO's and donors.


Suzanne Wisse-Huiskes · November 12, 2012 at 14:18

Dear Elsbeth,

I think you guys did a great job at VUMC CCA & TCS. What a group of passionate colleagues you have. By using our tools in an awesome way, you crowd funded over 26,000 Euros for cancer research. Proud to be a part of it, congratulations to all.

    Elsbeth Takkenberg · November 21, 2012 at 22:20

    Thanks Suzanne, also for your dedicated help to create our charity page! Some of my colleagues are still raising funds, they just can’t stop…Looking forward to the next big event!

david heyer · November 13, 2012 at 08:17

Good blog! I had the privilege to meet Elsbeth yesterday and talk about VU’s highly successfully organized event. Tapping on her experience…. and hopefully be as succesful next year with our own eventraising. Great stuff!

    Elsbeth Takkenberg · November 21, 2012 at 22:23

    Hi David, if everything I told you fails, you are more than welcome in our team next year!

Gerbren Deves · November 16, 2012 at 15:45

Hey Els, you did a great job, including finishing your half marathon. Keep up the good work!

    Elsbeth Takkenberg · November 21, 2012 at 22:27

    Hi ger, thanks! And also thanks a LOT for coaching me by email, teaching me about shin splints, achilles heels, shoes, shirts and cold corporate dm…..

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