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Dessert First Fundraising Campaign 1




Liz Horgan
Regina Morris

December 17, 2009

COMM 612: Dr. Leanne Pupchek

Dessert First Fundraising Campaign 2

I was 27 years old (1993) and engaged to be married. I felt a lump in my left breast and
went to my OB/GYN. I had a mammogram and ultra sound then sent to a general surgeon
when they couldn't determine anything. I followed up with the general surgeon for
several months and he concluded it was a cyst. Silly me, I believed this.
About a year later I noticed the skin dimpling near the "cyst" and went back to my
general surgeon. He wasn’t concerned by said he could remove it if I wanted. I had the
surgery and when I woke from the surgery, the doctor was by my side saying "'s
cancer." Boy what an awakening! I never really thought it could be that!
Why did they never biopsy this over a year ago! I suddenly became very educated on this
disease. Two days later I was back in surgery to have the lumpectomy. A couple days later
I come to learn I have 4 positive lymph nodes, and my cancer is aggressive. I was just as
aggressive. Had chemo, stem cell transplant (this is a story in itself!), and radiation.
Shortly after the radiation I couldn't even walk to the bathroom. I remember crawling on
the floor in the hospital to get to the bathroom.
In 1999 I had a little scare. Scar tissue near lumpectomy seems a little different, but
regular CT, Bone Scans, Mammograms, and labs don't show anything. I saw a breast
surgeon at this hospital and she did a fine needle biopsy. She told me it didn't show
anything. Guess I should have asked more questions. But once again I believed her.
February 2002, my cancer is back. I cried! I thought I can't go through this again.
I went back to transplant hospital She seemed to think this was attached to my chest wall
and talked about possibly removing a rib and inserting a rod! I had a breast MRI and it
showed it was not attached. I ended up having a mastectomy in my local town. I learned I
must be my own advocate. Trust your instincts, they are usually right and never feel
awkward questioning a doctor’s recommendations if you are not sure.
I ended up having several cancers in this breast and had some strong chemo. Recently, I
got an opinion from a reputable breast surgeon about reconstruction. He doesn't
recommend surgery and wouldn't even do surgery on me if I wanted him too. Honest
guy...not just out for the money! I was sad at first but then relieved because I was
struggling with idea of reconstruction surgery. I'm just happy my hair is growing back!
Last year I was the #1 female fundraiser in our local Relay for Life, and my team came in
second place for the team raising the most money. I don't want others to have to go
though what I have. I pray for a cure real soon!
Laura (

It is persuasive stories like the one you just read and the thousand more posted on

blogs and told throughout support groups that make finding a cure for breast cancer so
Dessert First Fundraising Campaign 3

important. That is the goal of “Dessert First”, to raise money for research and a cure for

breast cancer. Dessert First is a local, grassroots fundraising campaign that targets women

and looks to empower them philanthropically as they join together at a gala event for the

purpose of raising money.

This fundraising campaign was designed using the symbolic convergence theory

as its underlying foundation. Bringing together a group of people that share a common

cause, as is the case with the Dessert First campaign, requires the merging of individual

meanings for the event with others in the group. The premise of this theory is that,

“reality is socially based and symbolically constructed…each of us perceives the world as

a result of our interactions with others and our adoption of and addition to the meanings

of these interactions using symbols.” (Larson, p. 299) The shared meanings are

cultivated and ultimately result in action.

The vision of Dessert First is to have women interact with each other by

participating in storytelling of their experience(s) with breast cancer. As women tell their

stories and embrace them, the narratives create a symbolic convergence (Larson, p. 299),

and provide a sense of urgency where the donors will feel compelled to give money for

research. This is the how Dessert First will appeal to their audience.

Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women ( It

is the second leading cause of death in the United States amongst black, white, Asian

Pacific and American Indian women and the leading cause of death in Hispanic women

( In 2005, 186,467 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 41,116 died

from the disease ( This information educates the donor, which is another
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important goal of the campaign. Providing the most recent statistics adds credibility to the

campaign’s message.

Persuasive Messages

The Dessert First campaign will use a series of persuasive messages that will be

delivered over time in multiple ways (Larson, p. 281):

1. The campaign will fashion a position in the audiences’ minds of identification

with a theme, similar to Mike’s ‘just do it’ signifier. The phrase, “Dessert First,”

creates stickiness (Gladwell, 2002) in the minds of the donors that is designed to

equate with raising funds for breast cancer research. The theme has a certain

rebelliousness to it – eating dessert first is something out of the ordinary,

something dramatic. That plays into the extraordinary action needed when it

comes to breast cancer; research is not only the icing on the cake, it is most

important, it has to come first. The theme is multi-dimensional; it can also

generate feelings of happiness on the part of the participants as they come

together as women and raise money for an important cause and eat delicious

desserts. “Dessert First” is a strong identifier for the campaign.

2. The development of the campaign will start with a steering committee of five

women who will target 15 organizations or groups, e.g., women’s church groups,

breast cancer support groups, women’s athletic associations. Each of the five

women on the steering committee has numerous social circles, which Gladwell

refers to such people as Connectors (Gladwell, p. 70). The groups that the women

contact will work their spheres to obtain event-goers. They will create a buzz
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through word of mouth, Facebook, Twitter, church bulletins and announcements.

As the campaign develops over time, local media will be contacted, for example

to request that they run a story of the upcoming event. As the date of the event

gets closer, prospects for the event will be contacted through various electronic


3. The campaign will dramatize the idea by letting it be known that it will not only

empower women through education but Dessert First will be an event where it

takes on a personality of its own - where women can “indulge a little” “to give a

lot” towards funding breast cancer research. This campaign will also be

competitive. Each group or organization’s goal will be to fill at least two tables.

This creates what Cialdini (2009) calls the compliance rule of liking (Cialdini, p.

142). By having friends and family members at your table witnessing the frenzy

of people bidding on upscale, pricey items, “click whirr,” the almost automatic

reaction Cialdini describes (p. 4) can work to influence the attendees of the event.

4. Dessert First has a limited budget. The use of technology will assist in targeting

and repeatedly imprinting on the target prospects. A web site will be created as a

go-to site for the event. It will be updated regularly. The five-member steering

committee will collect email addresses through their social circles and their

outreach networks which will be used to promote the event. These contacts will

include sending out the invitations to the event using Evite. Each person who

receives the Evite invitation will be encouraged to bring a friend. Word of mouth

will also be instrumental in this campaign.

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The Campaign

• Dessert First is an all women’s private fund raising event that will be emceed by

Moira Quinn, Senior Vice President of Communications and Chief Operations

Officer for Charlotte Center City Panthers and who is also a Queens University

alumna. The Dessert First event will be a sit-down semi-formal dinner, with a

silent auction and jewelry raffle. All net proceeds will go to the Susan G. Komen

for the Cure organization to fund breast cancer research. The goal is to have 300

women in attendance and to raise $50,000 through sponsorships, donations, a

silent auction, and a raffle.

• The event will be held Thursday, April 22, 2010 at the Daniel Stowe Botanical

Gardens Great Hall at 6:00 p.m. in Belmont, North Carolina.

• Tickets for dinner are $75 ($30 is tax deductible). The evening begins at 6 pm,

desserts will be served at 6:30 pm, and dinner will be at 7:30. During dessert,

several speakers will talk. One being a female oncologist specializing in the

treatment of breast cancer. There will also be several breast cancer survivors

sharing their success stories during the event. A celebrity pastry chef will be

featured who will re-create her signature dessert. During the breaks, guests will

be encouraged to finalize their silent auction selections and to purchase special

jewelry boxes for the jewelry raffle. Boxes for the jewelry raffle are $50 each,

and the lucky four winners whose numbers inside the box match the number

called out will choose from four diamond necklaces donated by Tiffany &
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Company. The jewelry raffle will cap off the evening - the winning numbers will

be drawn at the end of the evening.

• Each group or organization will have a goal of filling one or two tables with

friends, family members and others who have had breast cancer or who know of

people who have cancer. The targeted groups are a sphere of influence and should

be used as a springboard in getting people to the event.

• Each group or organization targeted by the steering committee members (for

example, each church group and each women’s tennis team) will be responsible

for collecting four silent auction items. Suggestions for upscale items might

include: trips, artwork, vacation home stays, tickets for sporting events or theater

tickets, and home or office decorating assistance.

• Professional chefs will cook the food. Local bakeries will donate the exquisite

desserts. Beverages will be wine, beer, water, soft drinks, coffee and a final

champagne toast to mark the success of reaching Dessert First goal of raising


Analyzing the Campaign

The Yale Five-Stage Developmental Model is used to develop and analyze the campaign

(Larson, p. 283-290):

Dessert First suggests a new way of thinking, and focuses on good things. It

suggests a different approach, a change in the way things are done – why does dessert

have to be the last part of a meal? Why not first? and if first, then…what? With breast

cancer research, change is necessary if the goal of a cure is to be reached. The title
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invokes an emotional appeal in women where it makes them think of their favorite

dessert. The image conjured up by the name of the event also includes a warmth of

coming together with friends or family members. The title has great pathos that makes the

campaign easily identifiable. Women will be reminded of the campaign when they see

desserts in various medium.

The campaign establishes legitimacy through the corporate sponsors, by having

the medical community participate, and the testimonials of “real” women. Their

testimony provides an opportunity for the survivors to help with a cause that personally

affects them. Having church groups take this on as a cause heightens legitimacy; it helps

the church groups develop their own image of Christians helping others in a time of need.

Having a local news organization cover the event is also a way of establishing legitimacy.

The word of mouth, Facebook, Twitter and the Evite invitation will reinforce the

message of funding breast cancer research, and it will also reach individuals who were

not previously committed to participate. The Dessert First website will allow people who

cannot attend to easily donate to the cause. Those who are not able to attend will also be

able to follow the event by people twittering throughout the fundraiser. This could inspire

those uncommitted participants to hold their own Dessert First fundraiser, or again, could

drive donations through the web site portal. Dessert First Buttons will be distributed to

donors to give to women who attended the event to wear and also to give to people who

were not in attendance. The buttons will have a website address, which will continue the

buzz and can be useful for future fund raising events.

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Analysis of the campaign prior to the event will look at the penetration of the

messaging and the strength of participant knowledge regarding the event. Tracking web

site activity is one way of gauging that the campaign has penetrated the consciousness of

possible attendees. Feedback and communications from the various groups prior to the

event is another aspect of tracking the energy of the campaign.

After the fundraiser, the campaign will be finally be analyzed using the fifth stage

of the Yale Five-Stage Developmental Model, Distribution. Successful completion of the

gala event prompts action. An email will be sent to everyone in attendance with the final

total of the funds raised. It will include pictures of the event with a who’s who, will

highlight best-dressed participants, and will provide pictures of the desserts, information

from the speaker, and the testimonials of the cancer survivors who spoke. Thank-you’s to

all involved will be given. The web site will be updated with information from the event,

and the final fundraising tally will be publicized. An analysis of the event will take place

on the part of the steering committee – a “pass the trash” gathering will be useful in

evaluating the event and preparing a new group of leaders to take over.


The Dessert First fundraising campaign was positioned as an exclusive event, one just for

women. It was designed to empower women, to provide them with a forum for taking

significant action for a common cause. Women were invited to “indulge a little” “to give

a lot”. This twist on breast cancer research fundraising is new, allows the Dessert First

event to be the first of its kind. The quality of the event, from the food to the upscale

silent auction items and the Tiffany jewelry gave a patina of “being the best” to the entire
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campaign. Persuasive tactics, such as creating opportunities for Cialdini’s (2009) liking,

social proof and rule of reciprocity were integral to the success of the campaign. The use

of Gladwell’s (2002) concepts of message stickiness and drawing on Connectors to work

the message helps to improve the overall significance and credibility of the campaign.

Conscious and consistent use of technology reinforced the campaign messages. From the

positioning to the variety of methods and tactics used to influence prospective donors, we

feel the Dessert First campaign can be very persuasive indeed.

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Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: Science and practice. Boston: Pearson.

Gladwell, M. (2002). The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference.

New York: Little, Brown and Co.

Larson, C. (2007). The Persuasive Campaign or Movement. Persuasion Reception and

Responsibility (pg. 279-303). Boston, MA: Wadsworth.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on December 14, 2009 from

The Madonna Inn. Retrieved on December 14, 2009 from

The Pink Ribbon Shop. Retrieved on December 14, 2009 from http://www.pinkribbon