The American Heart Association and AAHPERD’s Hoops for Heart is a successful national fundraising program that focuses on educating children about the dangers of heart disease while raising funds for cardiovascular research, stroke research, and health education. Participating students and their schools raise money through a variety of basketball-related activities, and the funds raised are used to promote awareness and research around cardiovascular issues. Sponsor schools also receive a portion of the donated funds to enhance their own physical education programs.

Hoops for Heart came about as a type of off-shoot from the popular Jump Rope for Heart program. Two physical education teachers in New Mexico came up with the idea in 1989 when a planned Jump Rope for Heart event failed to attract the interest of their students. They felt that if they could center the event on basketball rather than jumping rope that their students would be more intrigued and, therefore, more involved. The event proved successful within a year and Hoops for Heart had its start. The success of Hoops for Heart goes hand-in-hand with the success of Jump Rope for Heart. The American Heart Association showed great flexibility and creativity in re-purposing this event to keep it current and effective.. The AHA was able to maintain relevance and increase participation by widening the scope of its events, while maintaining proven fundamentals.

The primary focus of either a Jump Rope for Heart or Hoops for Heart event is on the children, both as eager participants and students. Through conscientiously involving young children in its philanthropic mission, AHA is increasing the odds that these same children continue to support the event and stay involved in the future. The AHA’s strategy provides a dual approach to success, both by securing a short-term recurring revenue stream and investing in the long-term future of the organization.

The American Heart Association has shown thought leadership by having the initiative build on its prior success and broaden the reach of the organization as a whole. Many organizations find success through a single avenue and are unable to replicate success; however, the AHA has shown an understanding of fundamental success drivers by migrating the event to new markets and populations. This type of fundraising model should serve as an inspiration for both participants and organizations alike. The AHA proves that organizations can engage their donors in more than one format without losing focus on its mission.

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