The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund raised $1m (£625,000) from a digital campaign after it decided to present its young beneficiaries in a more positive way, delegates at the International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands have heard.
Rama Chakaki, a board member of the US-based non-governmental organisation, spoke at a session called Global Perspective – the Arab Region, which looked at fundraising across the region.
PCRF provides medical relief to injured and ill children in Palestine’s West Bank and Gaza. It has helped 20,000 children and in 2011 provided $97m (£60m) worth of voluntary medical services, said Chakaki. Its primary volunteers are doctors and the children are often taken to other destinations, including Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, for treatment and operations.
Chakaki, who led the fundraising efforts in the UAE, said the NGO decided to change its communications by moving away from showing images of sick and injured children.
"We have 20,000 success stories – lives and self-esteem being rebuilt and we were not communicating that," she said. "We are changing the images and making those stories go viral.
"That is what we’ve been working on for the past five years."
She said PCRF now focuses on the treatment that the children receive. Its new images show child amputees riding horses and scuba diving.
In only a year, PCRF went on to raise $1m from the ‘heroes’ campaign. Chakaki said the NGO was the first in the Middle East to raise that amount without a marketing budget.
"The target was not the money; it was to feature the children and our volunteers as heroes to really push their images out on social media," she said. "The fundraising was a by-product."
The NGO uses Twitter, Facebook and user-generated content. Money has been raised by marathons and other events such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
The campaign, which started in the UAE, spread through social media and gained donations from the US and around the world.