Fundraising Success of a First-Year Scavenger Hunt

Donors are similar in behavior to consumers – their needs, expectations and tastes evolve over time as their giving sophistication grows. The most successful nonprofits get ahead of emerging trends, by finding new and innovative ways to reach their donors.



This is the story of the United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) and how they created a new type of peer-to-peer campaign to move past traditional fundraising tactics, into a new realm of donor engagement and virtual events.

United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) knew they wanted to engage the local community in a new type of fundraising event – something innovative and unexpected. They wanted to celebrate what makes Austin unique while encouraging people to fundraise and learn a little bit about the local community impact of UWATX.

We really wanted to go beyond a traditional run/walk/ride event to provide a fun, interactive experience for our participants,” says Director of Systems and Knowledge Management, Vanessa Hartman. “It was important for us to be able to provide an event that was both fun and educational.”



How do you get creative, introduce new ideas and build awareness, without disrupting fundraising success?

Enter Ruthless Good: The Great American Scavenger Hunt!



The scavenger hunt included a variety of stops, including special stops at their sponsors’ locations, where teams could post photos and answer trivia questions. While an important goal of Ruthless Good was fundraising, the trivia questions and social sharing of photos fulfilled UWATX’s primary goal of awareness building.

Key Design Elements included:

  • A kickoff ceremony at the home base to welcome everyone, explain the rules and hand out goodie bags and t-shirts
  • An online experience where participants got clues, upload photos for each stop using geo-location and to answer trivia questions
  • Generous local sponsors who hosted special stops
  • A rewards ceremony with lunch back at home base

Participants were rewarded not only for their fundraising efforts leading up to and on the day of the event, but they were able to win recognition and prizes by recruiting others to register, completing stops with photos, correctly answering trivia questions and making posts on social media.

A key to the success of our event was rewarding participants for recruitment, social sharing and completing activities, not just fundraising,” says Nikki Krueger, Director of Community Engagement

Ruthless Good was built specifically to use GPS functionality on participants’ mobile devices. The OneCause platform enabled participants to determine exactly where they were located in relation to each activity stop. Once a participant reached the acceptable range to the stop location, the participant could complete the activity by submitting a photo.



On the day of the scavenger hunt, over 300 Austin residents descended the streets of Downtown Austin, Texas working as teams (67 in all) in a race to solve as many clues as possible to find unique Austin locations, capture photos and answer trivia questions. Participants posted over 900 #RuthlessGood photos to their social networks.

There’s no other way to classify this first-year event than as a huge success,” says CEO, David Smith. “We’ve certainly gained a group of engaged supporters that were previously unfamiliar with the work United Way is doing for the Austin community.”

The event raised nearly $100,000 with 79% of its participants fundraising. 100% of surveyed participants said they would recommend the event to a friend.

We knew OneCause had the right platform for our new scavenger hunt event: Ruthless Good. What we didn’t realize going into the planning is how much we needed them as a thought partner. We had done smaller scavenger hunts, but to scale this into a larger city-wide event required us to re-think some basics. The OneCause team lead us through that process with a respect and insight that made the event the success that it was. This is just one of many reasons why we’re hiring them for year two!” said Smith.

Connect with a Cause

United Way for Greater Austin brings people, ideas and resources together to break the cycle of poverty in the greater Austin community. Since 1924, the organization has been providing families and individuals in need with the tools and resources to thrive while also leading efforts to address long-term community change.

For more information or the support the cause, visit the United Way for Greater Texas.

Wrapping Up!

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