When a volunteer decides to raise money for St. Baldrick's Foundation, she is making a very personal and visible commitment to the charity.
Not only is she agreeing to donate and raise money, she's agreeing to shave her head.
Rather than simply saying thank you, St. Baldrick's rewards its most fervent fundraisers through a unique ceremony that recognizes their sacrifice and encourages those who are new to the charity to stay active.
Volunteers with seven years of service to the charity are inducted into a society called the Knights of the Bald Table. The organization gives leaders of its local chapters a toolkit -- including a sword -- and a sample script for hosting Knights of the Bald Table ceremonies.
Those who are inducted as Knights get a lapel pin and certificate -- along with the honor of being recognized in front of their peers.
"The coolest part about the whole program is we provide the volunteers with suggestions, but each community event embraces the ceremony as their own and finds unique ways to recognize their people in addition to what we already provide," says Joanna Baumgarten, St. Baldrick's director of fundraising. "Some of the ceremonies can get a little emotional. As the program has grown, more people are aware of it, and now it’s become something aspire to."
The program is a great model for other charities and companies that are looking to build stronger connections with their supporters.
And it's hard to argue with the results. To date, nearly 2,200 people have achieved Bald Table status -- and they've collectively raised more than $20.6-million for St. Baldrick's.
That's not only a lot of money -- it's a lot of shaved heads.
I'm working with Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum to find and identify stories of other nonprofits that have created effective rituals for their volunteers. If you know of others -- or you simply want to weigh in -- I invite you to join the conversation we've started on the Forum's LinkedIn page.