The iWalk Mobile Challenge

by Jeremy Otto

United Jewish Appeal, one of Canada’s largest charities, ran a live event mobile contest during its annual community fundraiser. UJA’s Walk with Israel, held on May 29, 2011 has raised close to $530,000 to date; 85% of which was generated from peer-to-peer solicited online donations. More than 12,000 Torontonians who participated in the Walk were asked to take part in this pilot initiative called the ‘iWalk Mobile Challenge,’ for their chance to win a $250 Apple gift card.

The goal of the contest was to engage a ‘captive’ audience of tech-savvy fundraisers throughout the Walk’s downtown route and raise awareness for the cause. Young and old alike were greeted by large signs at registration tables asking them to either scan a QR code or browse to an optimized webpage for instructions on how to participate. Large posters on display at all 6 locations asked participants to get our their smart-phones, scan or browse to a specific iWalk webpage, and complete two iWalk challenges. The first, a trivia question related to UJA, the Toronto community or Israeli culture. The second prompted participants to snap a themed photo on their phone and e-mail it in to an iWalk e-mail drop-box.

Over 600 visits were made to iWalk Challenge pages and UJA’s Walk with Israel mobile website within a 3-hour period during the event, with 1,200 page views, 136 content submissions including trivia answers and live event photos (of which many were syndicated on individual’s Twitter and Facebook accounts). Forty-six participants also took the time to subscribe to receive future UJA event notices.

Planning for this campaign provided various challenges, forcing UJA’s web team to take a hard look at the current sweet spot between hardware, software, messaging and their supporter’s general comfort level and access to technology. After much deliberation, it was decided that while producing a cross-platform mobile app would be ideal, there were too many discrepancies in the behavior of Android, Blackberry and iPhone operating systems to warrant further investment. Instead, the iWalk Challenge relied on mobile browser and e-mail as the baseline technology. This was a fair compromise and proved to be quite easy to setup, administer and far more cost-effective.

No doubt we’ll be seeing many more creative uses of QR and mobile technologies in the near future. Live event engagement initiatives in particular are seeing tremendous growth and charities who rely on community fundraising events similar to the Walk, would be well-served by adding an engagement tool to their arsenal. Real-time contests such as UJA’s iWalk Challenge are a great way to promote a cause, gain a better understanding of who within your community you may engage through this technology, re-purpose user-generated content in real-time/post-event marketing initiatives and focus attention on your online resources.