The future of the Community Counseling Center in Harrisonburg is brighter thanks to two Communication Studies majors with big hearts for their community.
Gaby Hirsch (’22) and Kelly Shearer (’22) partnered with the CCC for their senior capstone class, Advanced Studies in Organizational Communication, to implement a peer-to-peer fundraising strategy.
In the peer-to-peer method, individuals collect donations from a network of donors. Hirsch and Shearer collected donations for the Great Community Give on April 20, a community-wide giving day for local nonprofit organizations. The 2022 Great Community Give raised $1,727,489 from 7,126 donors for 125 organizations.
The students were given complete creative freedom from their professor, Jennifer PeeksMease, and the Community Counseling Center to strategize the best method for raising awareness and funds.
The CCC’s mission is to provide affordable professional counseling services to residents of the central Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. “This organization does such admirable work, and with access to increased resources, even more community members will benefit,” Hirsch said.
The CCC didn’t have previous experience with peer-to-peer fundraising, but Hirsch and Shearer motivated the group of fundraisers — comprised of mostly counselors and CCC board members — by showing them the difference they could make. The students trained them on how to communicate and ask for donations using materials they provided.
“I believe the CCC realizes how repeatable the process is, so it can enjoy similar success year after year,” Hirsch said.
The CCC reached its goal before the event day, shattering previous donation records. In 2021, it received under $3,000 in donations; this year, it raised $20,658. The first $10,000 was collected before the event even took place.
“After helping them raise about $10K through peer-to-peer [fundraising] alone, they were excited and recognized the large impact that peer-to-peer fundraisers have,” Shearer said.
“Putting in place a program that increased donations from less than $3,000 to over $20,000 is what I now consider to be my greatest contribution to the Harrisonburg community,” Hirsch reflected.
The number of CCC donors increased from 26 last year to 102 this year, providing funding for interpreters, parent-child visitation supervision and family-counseling sessions.
The CCC considered Hirsch and Shearer leaders in the organization and created a meaningful, mutually beneficial partnership with them. The organization will continue peer-to-peer fundraising for years to come and is thankful for the JMU students’ efforts.
Shearer said, “Nonprofits help to make a community come together and help each other out. I encourage everyone to walk downtown and check out these nonprofits, because there are great volunteer opportunities and fun events that are thrown throughout the year that build the Harrisonburg community.”
For Hirsch, the experience will stay etched in her memory. “I already know my partnership with the CCC is something I will never forget, mainly because the personal reward of seeing my work translate into program-changing numbers and real success for the CCC is a true sense of personal pride,” she said.