Wikipedia Commons / Surf dog Ricochet adaptive surfing with Jo / Pawinspired

January 4, 2017; UPI

While it’s always important to follow the research literature on fundraising, every now and then trying something a little odd that aligns with your mission can be just the ticket.

Meet Ricochet, the popular SURFice dog that’s becoming a smash hit for fundraising campaigns across the nation. Over the last six years, this golden retriever has raised half a million dollars for various charities simply by sharing her impressive surfing skills and loving energy with kids with special needs, people with disabilities, and veterans.

Ricochet was trained as a service dog from the moment she was born, but in the end she didn’t quite make the cut due to her love of chasing small creatures. Her owner did discover a different unique talent the dog had: an affinity for surfing. As Ricochet developed this skill, her owner began to see a potential opportunity for Ricochet to continue to serve others.

Watch the dog’s touching story below:

Ricochet recently reached the $500,000 milestone this holiday season when the SURFice dog raised $7,000 on New Year’s Eve for groups dedicated to people with disabilities, veterans with PTSD, children with special needs, and animals in need—all nicely aligned causes, and more than 250 in total. When Ricochet isn’t on the waves, she’s supporting military service members and veterans.

It’s pretty obvious why Ricochet has been so effective at raising funds. Who doesn’t love engaging with an adorable, talented—never mind altruistic—pup? But helping nonprofits further understand the underlying reasons could help organizations find success in similar features to exhibit at charity events. So, let’s break down some lessons to take away from Ricochet’s fundraising success:

  1. Share an Inspirational Story. Behind this surfing dog is a beautiful story about overcoming obstacles to make a difference in this world. The video sharing Ricochet’s story on YouTube has over 6 million views. Storytelling is a very effective way to reach your audience and get them to open their hearts and wallets to the cause.
  2. Display Extraordinary Talents. It’s not every day that we walk down the street and a dog surfs by. Ricochet offers fundraising something both appealing and incredibly distinctive. Centering fundraising events on an extraordinary person or performance can enhance the experience for potential donors and further remind them why they can and should support your organization.
  3. Connecting with the Emotional Effects of the Work. Ricochet can make deep connections with the people at the charities where she’s featured because she was trained as a service dog and can provide therapeutic assistance to those that need it. While watching this delightful pup surf, fundraiser attendees realize how paws-on healing can improve lives for those in need. At the same time, charities get the opportunity to bring this message back to how their organizations improve these same lives.
  4. Make It Interactive. People with disabilities and children in need can interact with Ricochet directly. They get right on the surfing board with the pup, and that’s a huge boon. Bringing an element to events that allows potential donors and those you serve to engage in a memorable experience can be invaluable.

—Aine Creedon