Last week something special happened in Ireland – the humanity of young females shone in an epic micro-funding initiative for its two primary children hospitals helping Ireland’s sickest children – Crumlin and Temple Street. Sparked by a single Instagram post calling for €5 donations by 29 year old, mother-of-two, full-time fashion/style Irish Influencer Rosie Connolly-Quinn who set out to raise €5,000 euro, the campaign hit €100,000 within 24 hours and a staggering €250,000+ within 3 days – and all at a time when the ask for public charity donations was at its annual Christmas high. So what exactly happened to see such an incredible outpouring of donations from her largely 20-30 year old female audience and what can charity organisations and brands learn from this?

The New Digital Wealth Creation Model

Digital technology is transforming how people acquire wealth. Savvy young entrepreneurs are being inventive in their own ability to earn and are utilising digital platforms to accrue micropayments from customers/ fans for their work endeavours. From Patreon to Twitch to Only Fans and Amazon WishLists, people now have the means to form direct relationships with creators, curators, performers and talented individuals, and financially contribute to the their success..or in other words, pay their wages and advance their careers!

As culture commentator Sarah Hanrahan of I Come Undone, (who now receives fan-generated payment for her weekly events guide via Patreon), highlights:

“A lot of people who pay $4 to read my weekly guide say they like how honest I am in terms of being open about how I am trying to make a living for myself. Some people, who don’t even live in Ireland contribute because they admire what I’m doing and want to support me. Patreon is a way of ensuring people value your work; if they don’t value your content they don’t pay for it, it’s that simple. I know a lot of really successful people who are now living full-time off their Patreon income.”

In tandem with e-facilitated personal wealth creation, we see the rise of personalised peer-to-peer fundraising and donations with the ever growing popularity of GoFundMe, Kickstarter, JustGiving, Fundly and IndieGoGo. Launched in 2010, GoFundMe allows people to “raise money for events ranging from life events such as celebrations and graduations to challenging circumstances like accidents and illness”. While Rosie’s page currently tops the charts as the most popular GoFundMe page in Ireland, in second place is a fundraiser to offer practical support to a young family who lost their father to a tragic accident, followed by a fundraiser for a three-year-old to get medical help to help her walk. At its core, GoFundMe allows people to financially demonstrate that they care and do so in a very easy way, (there are no fees, and users can donate in a matter of clicks).

e-Caring - Success From The Grass Roots

So, what were the dynamics at play that generated such an outpouring of micro-funds and macro-love for Rosie and the two charities she so passionately cares about?

  • An Incentivised Ask Relevant To Audience Interests – This wasn’t the typical ‘support me as I undertake a personal challenge’ ask ala running a marathon or doing a triathlon. Rosie considered who her audience were and why they were following her. So, for her largely female (mum) audience who follow her for fashion, style and family reasons, she offered a Giveaway of a Gucci Bag. This bag wasn’t a gifted bag from another brand or business, it was a bag she personally paid for, and offered up to her fans to be in with the chance to win in lieu of a donation to the minimum value of €5, (note: last time we checked this bag has a donor value tag of €261,805!)
  • Accessible Participation – a €5 ask is a manageable contribution for most of Rosie’s fanbase. The culture codes of giving were established at the get go – there was no pressure for donors to donate large sums. A €5 donation was a donation to be proud of and one the community embraced.
  • An Authentic Connection – Rosie shared stories of how she had previously visited both Crumlin and Temple St hospitals, walking the wards with nurses and meeting parents taking care of sick children. She talked about the strength and love of parents, who together with the nurses, cared for young children, many of whom would never leave the hospital. Sharing of such personal stories resonated with her largely female fan base, who in turn shared their own personal stories, re-enforcing the incredible work being undertaken everyday by the nurses and staff at these childrens’ hospitals.
  • A Genuine Commitment – not only did Rosie buy the Gucci bag out of her own money, to kick-start funding she personally pledged €1,000. Funders immediately knew she was serious about the cause and it unlocked a sense of empathy in donors to get behind her personally, and in turn the charities.
  • Live Story Updates – as the campaign escalated, Rosie kept her fanbase updated with her emotional reaction to the influx of GoFundMe donations and stories shared by other mothers of sick children. Rosie consistently thanked donors, echoing disbelief at their unfathomable generosity. Her tears of joy were real and propelled more fans and the wider Internet audience to get behind her. Not least because the timings coincided with the birthday of her father, who drowned tragically a few years earlier, there was a real sense of ‘this is meant to be happening’.
  • Social Media Meets Big Media – As the campaign skyrocketed to success within a 24 hour period, the power of micro-funding got an extra amplifying boost thanks to the support of the wider influencer community and mass media platforms spotlighting her efforts.
  • Bringing In The Big Bucks by Embracing Reciprocity – Rosie’s plea from day one was genuine - ‘I hope to raise as much money as possible by encouraging people to donate what they can, no matter how small’. However, as the fundraising campaign built momentum, she was invited by Ireland’s national youth radio station, 2FM, and its young presenters Doireann Garrihy and Eoghan Mc Dermott to share her story on the airwaves. She collaborated with them to bring in bigger donations…but again in a way that felt like a genuine reciprocal exchange. 2FM pledged to donate a free radio ad to any small business who donated €100 or more to the fundraiser – small business owners just had to screenshot their donation and send it to them.
  • The Thrill of Being Part of Something Bigger Than Yourself – As the campaign grew in momentum, there was a natural ‘participation’ fall out effect. For as little as €5, people could be part of something historic – a campaign that warmed the hearts of adults and parents as they shared the joyous feeling of supporting not just the sickest children of Ireland, but the staff on the frontline of patient care.


Here’s To The Fans, This Christmas

And there it is – the magic of Christmas generosity at play.

Is Rosie’s success replicable? Maybe….but one things for sure, embracing the micro can bring macro results.

To Rosie and her young donors, we salute you.


The Youth Lab