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9 Fundraising Lessons From the World’s Weirdest Charity Stunts

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Most people’s fundraising experience ends at running a race for charity or selling candy for a good cause—but if you really want to go big with your efforts, you need to think outside the box. Here are a few of the weirdest charity stunts ever performed, and a few lessons any aspiring fundraiser can learn from them.

1. Be Willing to Suffer for What You Believe In

And recognize that sometimes you don’t know how much you’ll suffer until your fundraising campaign gets started. That was certainly the case when 24-year-old Joe Cooper decided he would help raise some money for his local hospital, the Leicester Royal Infirmary, by agreeing to get his pubic hair waxed. The stunt took place at the Trees Pub, where bidders competed for the chance to rip a wax strip from one of ten men. Many of the other men backed down, but Joe stood by his word. Unfortunately, waxing is something that really should be left to a professional, and Joe probably should have backed down as well.

“I lay down and closed my eyes and the next thing I know I'm in horrendous pain and bleeding,” Joe said.

The friend who ripped off the strip of wax from his groin pulled a little too hard and ripped off six layers of skin. Joe was soon rushed to the hospital where doctors told him that if any more skin came off, his testicle would have come out.

But hey, at least the stunt raised around $4500 for the hospital.

2. Allow Yourself to be Shocked by Other’s Generosity

This concept was quite literal in the case of Sheriff Leon Lott, who auctioned off the opportunity for someone to tase him in order to raise money for the Richland County Sheriff’s Foundation. For every $1000 bid, he would let the tasing go on one more second. The winning bid was $2000, and the sheriff was shocked for two seconds. 

3. Put A Part of Yourself Into Your Fundraising Efforts

But please don’t literally put something that was once a part of your body up for auction like William Shatner did. In late 2005, Shatner went to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a kidney stone. After passing the stone, the star tried to put it up for auction on eBay, promising to donate all the money to Habitat For Humanity, but eBay wouldn't let him sell it because it's against policy. Even so, The Golden Palace called up Shatner and ponied up $25,000 to add the kidney stone to their bizarre collection of eBay oddities, including the grilled cheese Virgin Mary, Jerry Garcia’s toilet, and a potato that resembles Pete Townshend. And the company kicked in an extra $50,000 to the charity, just because.

4. Expect to Take a Few Hits For Your Cause

And not just in the form of non-supporters. Matt Jones, the managing director of Poverty Resolutions, wanted to help illustrate what a large number 21,000 is in numbers people could actually understand. Why 21,000? Because that’s how many children die due to poverty every day.

To help people better visualize the number, Matt and four friends agreed to get hit by 21,000 paintballs to raise attention to their cause.

5. Keep It Classy

Bear Grylls is known for doing some pretty crazy things as part of his job, so when it comes to stunts for charity, he’s willing to go an extra mile. To help raise funds for the Prince's Trust, Bear agreed to eat a formal dinner in a suit and tie—25,000 feet in the air underneath a hot air balloon. Grylls had to wear an oxygen mask to breathe! That kind of raises the stakes. After dinner, Bear and his dining companian parachuted to safety. In the process, the two set a new world record for the highest open-air formal dinner party.

6. Sometimes All You Need is the Right Incentive

Is it right to torture someone to raise money for charity? Before you answer that, recognize that the “torture” in question was the repeated playing of Justin Bieber’s song “Baby.” Evanston Township High School Student Council President Charlotte Runzel and a student rep to the Board of Education, Jesse Chat, came up with the idea of asking students to pay to stop the music in order to raise money for BooCoo, a non-profit cultural centre and café near the school. They planned to play the song every day between every class period for a week (eight times a day), promising students they would stop when their $1000 fundraising goal was met. By Wednesday, the student body met the fundraising goal, getting the music to stop once and for all.

7. Find Something People Are Passionate About

For 72-year-old Si Burgher, that was his eyebrows. When he offered up a chance for people to shave his bushy brows at a cost of $100 per trim, people around the town of Bloomfield, Indiana jumped at the chance. In fact, his eyebrows managed to raise $1600 for Rotary International's PolioPlus campaign, which has raised over $500 million towards polio eradication since 1985. Lawyers, bankers, and other townspeople each took a turn trimming Burgher's 3-inch-long eyebrow hairs.

The money raised wasn't the only benefit: Burgher got a lesson about self-grooming in the process. "I don't care if they ever grow back," he said, "My wife says I look 20 years younger."

8. Strip Off All Pretense

There are a lot of people who claim they care about a cause, but when it comes to doing something about it, that’s another story. If you want to get people to take action, you might need to offer them a little more incentive than the simple pleasure of doing a good deed. That’s why The Admiral Theater in Chicago holds an annual "Lap Dances for the Needy" event promising one lap dance to anyone who brings in a new, unwrapped toy to be given to local churches and donated to needy children.

9. Give the People What They Want

If you run a restaurant, offer discounts or free food to customers if you donate. If you own a TV porn channel, the same concept applies. For Japanese channel Paradise TV, that means offering a breast squeezing event wherein participants can squeeze an adult film star’s breast twice for every donation made to STOP!AIDS, an AIDS prevention, treatment, and awareness program.

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You Could Be Donating to Charity Every Time You Open a New Tab
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Tab for a Cause

Opening up a million browser tabs on your desktop is hard on your computer, but could be good for non-profits. A web app by Gladly, an ad network focused on giving users more power over the ads they see, collects money for charities every time you open a new tab.

Tab for a Cause (which we spotted through Fast Company) is a browser extension that trades a few milliseconds of your attention for money that then goes to nonprofits around the world. When you use the site to navigate to websites, Tab for a Cause earns money from their advertisers (there are two ads on the bottom right-hand corner of the website). The company then funnels a portion of that money to a pre-selected group of nonprofits. With the help of those few extra ads, each tab you open raises between 1/10 and 1/3 of a cent for charity.

The app turns opening new tabs and raising money for good causes into a bit of a game. When you invite friends or run Google searches through Tab for a Cause, you earn "hearts" that help you get to different levels of being "a tabber." Then, you can donate these hearts to the charity of your choice, including Save the Children, Human Rights Watch, and Water.org. You can team up with your friends to compare earnings and see who's doing the most good with their online activity.

Tab for a Cause landing page with widgets for social media sites
Tab for a Cause

However, you do have to navigate to new tabs using the Tab for a Cause screen. Clicking on a link in this article, for instance, won’t count—because you aren’t seeing that Tab for a Cause advertising. Those one or two extra clicks could be worth some real money for a nonprofit, though, so it’s a good deed.

Tab for a Cause works on Chrome and Firefox.

[h/t Fast Company]

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How a 98-Year-Old Widower Uses Baking to Give Back to His Town
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Leo Kellner is living proof that you’re never to old to pick up a new hobby, lift the spirits of others, or bounce back after a tragedy. As TODAY reports, the 98-year-old from Hastings, Nebraska, bakes homemade desserts for members of his community—a pastime he adopted after losing his wife of 72 years.

Kellner’s wife passed away from dementia-related complications in 2012. The widower needed an outlet for his grief, so he took to the kitchen. Kellner’s mother had taught him to bake when he was a boy, and these childhood culinary lessons served as inspiration for a new passion project: making sweet treats for the needy.

In the first year following his wife’s death, Kellner made 144 apple pies. He donated the desserts to struggling individuals or families, whom he connected with through funeral homes and local groups. A year later, the home chef added cakes to the mix, according to KHGI Nebraska TV.

Today, Kellner bakes hundreds of desserts a year. His specialties include apple, cherry, and a sugar-free peach-apple-cherry pie; and chocolate, yellow, German chocolate, and angel food cakes. Since everyone’s tastes—and health needs—are different, Kellner makes custom treats for individual recipients. In addition to selecting flavors they’ll like, Kellner will bake fruit-based, sugar-free pies for diabetics, or take allergies into consideration while selecting ingredients.

Kellner bakes for the sick and mourning, but he also gives desserts to friends, acquaintances, hospice workers who cared for his wife, and even strangers—simply because it puts a smile on their faces, The Hastings Tribune reports. Ingredient costs are low, thanks to supermarket discounts and donations, so the senior is never forced to charge for his treats. His only requirement is that recipients swing by his home to pick up their freshly baked goods in person.

Kellner mostly works alone. However, he does have arthritis in his right hand, so he sometimes needs a little help in the kitchen. Occasionally, the senior’s part-time caretaker will help him frost cakes. But most of the time, Kellner is the one doing the helping—whether he’s teaching neighbors’ children to cook, baking a wedding cake for a friend, or whipping up a homemade dessert simply to make someone smile.

“I try to help everybody I can,” Kellner told the Tribune last year. “It makes me feel happy. God left me here for a reason and this is why I think he did. How many other 97-year-olds can do what I’m doing?”

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