Creating a Community of Hope at the Hill Country Ride for AIDS

When it comes to growing and scaling a nonprofit fundraiser, it’s all about innovation and trying new things to reach your audience. As supporters become more tech-savvy, and donor demographics shift, so too must nonprofits update their fundraising events and campaigns.

One of the biggest trends to help nonprofits raise more and connect more donors to their missions is peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising. P2P successfully enables nonprofits to motivate donors through social giving.

It also allows nonprofits to engage with younger demographics (e.g., Millennials), 84% of which donate to philanthropic organizations. Part of attracting a new generation of donors means using technology that fosters an easy donation experience and has built-in social engagement tools to help supporters promote campaigns wide and fast.

One such innovative nonprofit is Hill Country Ride for AIDS (HCRA) out of Central Texas. HCRA has utilized different peer-to-peer platforms over its 20 year history. While the software they used was functional, deep down, they felt there had to be a better tool to not only help them raise more funds, but deliver a easier participant experience.

So what did they do when they needed to improve their fundraising and jump start their giving?

They joined forces with OneCause, looking to unlock greater power from their social fundraising and empower participants. This is the story of how technology combined with an amazing cause helped power a “community of hope” to fundraising success.



For nearly 20 years now, The HCRA bike ride has raised money to help support nine nonprofit organizations dedicated to serving those affected by HIV and AIDS in Central Texas. These organizations rely on HCRA to fund vital services and community support. In its history, The HCRA has raised over $9.4 million and has been voted “Best Ride” in Austin for two consecutive years.

Photo by Tara Scarbrough

As the event has grown, it evolved into more than just a ride – it’s a cause that brings the local community together. This beloved event has amassed an amazingly loyal and supportive following of donors and become an integral part of the community.

“While the cause is more important than ever, the ride has truly transcended our wildest dreams,” explained Prentiss Douthit, Executive Director at HCRA. “It’s not just people passionate about what we’re doing anymore. The culture of the ride itself is one of community, kindness, and support. It’s a contagious environment that brings together a deeply loved community and raises vital funds to support an important mission.”



Federal funding for the beneficiaries which HCRA supports has been steadily decreasing over the last decade, creating an even larger financial need for outside funding sources. Combine that with a decline in Peer-to-Peer fundraising industry wide, lagging participant engagement, and you’ve got a fundraising hurdle.

For the HCRA team, they saw the need for action.

After challenges with their existing peer-to-peer platform, the HCRA decided to change. They wanted to provide donors and riders with an easier and more engaging fundraising experience.

“Despite our fundraising successes, we knew we wanted to do better. We wanted to give riders a better experience and better tools to fundraise. To put at their fingertips, technology that made it easy for them to share our cause with their networks and make it fun,” said Prentiss.



After 10 years on the same platform, the HCRA switched to OneCause, to improve the participant experience for riders and for donors.

With our P2P tools, HCRA put the power in the hands of their participants, and gave them tools that made it easy to show friends why their cause is important and to connect to them on a personal level.

Built-in social sharing enabled supporters to share their campaign page with their networks and those networks in turn shared the cause, building a true peer-to-peer campaign that both raised awareness and attracted new supporters!

With the OneCause platform, HCRA was able to modernize their online presence to match the high standards of the ride itself. Riders and supporters could:

  • Easily register for their own donation microsite and drive donations from their personal networks
  • Quickly find relevant information about training rides, social events, and other pre-ride community events
  • Visualize how other donors are stacking up on public leaderboards and contests
  • Leverage social media to easily share the campaign and ask for donations from those who are likely to get involved
  • Spin up wrap-around and Do-It-Yourself additional fundraising events

“The HCRA is dedicated to providing our riders with an online experience that better reflects our participants’ experience on ride day, one that’s easy, fun, and engaging. With OneCause, our riders get user-friendly tools to directly recruit and fundraise through social media, not just email,” Prentiss explained.

Another huge impact the OneCause Peer-to-Peer had was the ability to do donation matches, which meant that every $1 raised by individuals was matched. In fact, on the first day of offering sponsor matches, HCRA raised nearly 915% more than the entire previous week combined!

“It was so easy to turn on for our donors,” said Duncan Hicks, Camp Director/Logistics Coordinator at HCRA. “We were able to say ‘here is the sponsor, here is the match, now go do your thing.’ The community was so enthusiastic and willing to share with their networks. With this easy to use but very sophisticated technology, our team can spend more time on delivering a great ride, increasing sponsorships and attracting new supporters.”

Another game changer for The HCRA was the ability to hold individually hosted “wrap around” and cause organized pre-ride events through the software. These events included everything from training rides, to corporate parties, BBQ events, Karaoke parties – you name it. These add-on activities fostered a fun community vibe, attracted new donors and drove incremental fundraising impact.



Since transitioning to OneCause (from 2016-2018), The HCRA has seen an increase in participation and fundraising. Combined results of what has been raised on the OneCause platform include:

  • Number of online donations increased 13.3% for a total of 15,866 transactions.
  • Online proceeds raised online up 17.1% for a total of $1.22M.
  • Total proceeds raised up 55.6% from 2016-2018 for a total of $1.67M.
  • Average team member fundraising increased 46%. Up from $694 in 2016 to over $1,014 in 2018.
  • Average individual fundraising increased 99.1%. Up from $717 in 2016 to $1,429 per person in 2018.
  • Social media growth and reach increased to a total of 163,000 in 2018.

“The OneCause platform also allowed us to launch a fundraising contest during the final 2018 fundraising push,” said Prentiss. “This contest allowed us to exceed our initial goal for a final amount raised of $675,079. We would not be able to take action on our new strategic goals, if we didn’t have the right technology in place.”

Right now, HCRA is looking forward to to celebrating its 20th Anniversary on April 27th, 2019. Two decades of community support, life impacting fundraising and amazing supporter experiences. Hitting the 20-year mark has made the team excited about the continued opportunity for the future, and even more exciting is the highest ever Rider registration and early donation totals through December 18th, 2018.

“With OneCause Peer-to-Peer software, we can continue to grow our event and be a positive influence in the community,” said Prentiss. “We’re giving people a chance to see how their support makes a difference. It’s the human element – the personal connection – that keeps donors engaged.”

Connect with a Cause

The HCRA is the largest fundraiser for nine local non-profit organizations: AIDS Services of Austin, allgo, ASHwell, CARE Program, Community Action, Friends of David Powell Health Center, Out Youth, Project Transitions, Waterloo Counseling, and the Wright House Wellness Center.

These organizations provide a continuum of critical HIV/AIDS services that include: prevention/education, medical care, housing, hospice, dental care, transportation, food pantry, case management, HIV testing, financial assistance, practical support, substance abuse, and mental health services.

For more information on Hill Country Ride and how you can help, please visit their 2019 Ride Site.

Wrapping Up!

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