Labor Day weekend has come to be a bittersweet celebration each year. As the state fair winds down and kids get ready for school, we Minnesotans mark the end of summer with backyard cookouts and final visits to the cabin to relax at the lake, wishing summer a fond farewell.
For nearly a half century, millions of Americans have taken part in another Labor Day tradition—the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. Beginning in 1956 with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin and moving to the Labor Day spot a decade later, this telethon —one of the most notable in the US— saw generations of legendary entertainers join Lewis on stage in front of a nationwide audience, all to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association in its aim to continue to fund research and eliminate the disease.
But this year, there will be no telethon for the first time in decades. After cutting back on and reshaping the broadcast multiple times in the 2000s, the MDA announced earlier this year that they would be refocusing their efforts from the telethon to “new, creative and organic ways to support our mission,” according to President and CEO Steven M. Derks.
When the MDA telethon began so many years ago, they were the most successful example of using broadcast television to bring their important mission and storytelling to homes all across the country. It was a new and untested method of fundraising, and the MDA continued to evolve alongside it through the years, leading them to more than $2 billion in donations to continue their important work.
But now the media landscape is changing, and alongside it, so is the individual fundraising model. Americans spend increasingly more time on computers and mobile devices, with that time eclipsing the amount of time spent watching television in 2014. And with this new technology comes new methods of fundraising, with peer-to-peer interactions being viewed as more authentic and effective than a mass media message direct from an organization.
So instead of one man (admirable and creative as he was) telling the story of one organization’s battle to eliminate one disease, many of us, GiveMN users included, now have the platform to tell their stories and elicit support to improve, fix, eliminate or celebrate the causes they care about most. The move from one-to-many into a one-to-one model in fundraising is far less about glitz, glamour and even guilt, and more about intimate connection with the causes that touch our everyday lives.
With so much effort required to put on the annual Labor Day telethon, the MDA made the decision to move on without it. If the MDA embraces the new media opportunities to tell their stories, they will have thousands of people to inspire generosity. So instead of viewing the end of the Labor Day telethon as a bittersweet moment for MDA and the people they are in business to help, we can see it as a changing of the seasons for people who want to take action to improve their communities.
I certainly do.
GiveMN allows people every day of the year, not just Labor Day, the opportunity to host a fundraiser for the cause they care about most. GiveMN’s mission is to link donors with organizations that are working to make Minnesota a better place. And our online giving website, GiveMN.org, enables charitable giving any time and any place.