Connexions Blog

"Building stronger communities by sharing inspiration, advice, and best practices that work".

Team Captains: Share Your 2020 Fundraising Ideas for a Chance to Win a $100 Team Donation! Plus, a Fun Way to Get the Kids Involved!

By Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

This year, it’s certainly fair to say that most of our beloved routines have been at least somewhat disrupted by the global pandemic. Fundraising for our annual Down syndrome events is no exception. The fundraisers that team captains have hosted in the past may not fit into our local health departments’ guidelines this year, but our Down syndrome associations still need the support of their members. These unique circumstances are requiring team captains to think outside of the usual fundraising box and come up with creative ways to raise much needed funds. With that in mind, we’re excited to kick off our 6th Annual Summer of FUNdraising contest!

We’ve already seen several fun ideas; we featured Tori’s awesome idea for her Columbus Buddy Walk Team, Bryce’s Buddies, on our blog in May. This idea raised almost $3700 for their team, and they did while keeping everyone safe! This isn’t the only creative fundraiser we’ve seen so far this year, and we know there are many more out there!

2020 Summer Fundraising

How are you raising funds for your Down syndrome fundraising team? We want to hear from you!

From Monday, July 27th to Thursday, August 13th, send us a photo from one of your team fundraisers and a short description of your idea for the chance to win one of three $100 donations to your fundraising team from ds-connex. Your idea will inspire other team captains who are in need of ideas for this year, and your team can earn a donation from ds-connex as a result!

One entry will be randomly selected on the following Fridays: July 31st, August 7th and August 14th to win a $100 donation from ds-connex to their Down syndrome fundraising team. The winning entries will be announced each Friday at 2pm Eastern. The earlier you enter, the more chances you have to win! We can’t wait to hear all about your fundraising ideas!

This year’s contest has an extra fun twist!

In addition to your creative fundraising ideas, we also want to hear from your kids: how are they having fun while staying safe at home? We’ve seen how families are coming up with fun new ways to pass the time at home this summer, and we want to showcase those ideas! Kids, send us a photo and description (with Mom or Dad’s help, of course!) of how you are safely enjoying your summer and you could win a $25 e-gift card to Target or Amazon!

Two entries will be randomly selected to win a $25 e-gift card for Target or Amazon (winner’s choice!) on Friday, August 14th, at 2pm Eastern.

But wait - there’s another fun twist this year!

Ds-connex will select an entry to win a Judges’ Award! We will review all of the entries for fundraising ideas and choose our favorite, based on the creativity of the idea described in the entry. The Judges’ Award for the fundraising idea will include a $100 donation to the fundraising team and will be announced on Friday, August 14th, at 2pm Eastern.

How to Enter

Photo submissions can be emailed to ds-connex at Images can be a photo from a fundraiser or a graphic that you used (or plan to use) to promote your fundraiser on social media. For the kids’ category, images can be photos of them enjoying their fun activity. By submitting a photo, you are giving ds-connex permission to edit your submission for grammar/length, and share your submission via the Connexions blog and across multiple social platforms in order to raise awareness and appreciation of your fundraising efforts on behalf of the Down syndrome community. All submissions will be shared on the ds-connex social media outlets with the goal of inspiring the Down syndrome community with creative fundraising ideas for team captains across the country, and to encourage families to have fun this summer safely from home. (Please note: When submitting an entry from a mobile device, please be advised that the “connex” segment of our email address may be autocorrected, preventing your entry from reaching us. If you do not receive a confirmation of your entry, please try sending it again.)


Ds-connex Presents: The 2020 #DownSyndromeDads Contest!

By Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

In honor of Father’s Day and great dads of kids with disabilities everywhere, ds-connex is excited to announce the 7th Annual #DownSyndromeDads Contest to recognize and celebrate these amazing fathers!

Contest Overview

Nominate the fantastic #DownSyndromeDads in your life by sending a photo and brief (one to three sentences), meaningful message about them to ds-connex. Please send your submissions to

All photos and descriptions will be posted to a 2020 #DownSyndromeDads photo album on the ds-connex Facebook page. All nominators and #DownSyndromeDads are encouraged to promote the contest and ask friends and family members on Facebook to vote for them by liking their photo in the 2020 #DownSyndromeDads album.

The 1st prize winner will receive a $250 donation to their Down syndrome fundraising team along with a $100 Home Depot gift card. The second prize winner will be awarded a $100 team donation along with a $50 Home Depot gift card.

Details For This Year's Contest

The ds-connex team will collect #DownSyndromeDads nominations until midnight EDT on June 14th. The Facebook album will be posted on or after June 16th, at which time voting will begin. We will notify nominators via email when the album is posted and voting begins, and we will conclude voting on Monday, June 22nd at 9:30am EDT, when the winners of the contest will be determined. The winners will be chosen based on the total of likes (or reactions, to include “love,” etc) on the photos in the #DownSyndromeDads photo album on the ds-connex Facebook page during the voting period. The #DownSyndromeDads contest participants must observe Facebook’s policies. Please note that in order for your entry to be included in the voting, we must receive your entry by midnight on June 14th. We will happily include entries submitted after 6/14 in the Facebook album, but they will not be eligible for the prizes. Results of the contest will be announced on our Facebook page on Monday, June 22nd.

Please Note...

We welcome participants in last year’s contest to re-enter with a new photo!

By nominating someone for the #DownSyndromeDads program, you are giving ds-connex permission to edit your submission for grammar and/or length, and to share your submission via the Connexions blog and across multiple social platforms, in order to raise awareness and appreciation of fathers in the Down syndrome community and all they do. The #DownSyndromeDads contest is sponsored by ds-connex.

We look forward to seeing your #DownSyndromeDads entries!

Team Highlight: Bryce’s Buddies, Columbus Buddy Walk®

By Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

Like most elements of our usual lives by now, fundraising for our Down syndrome events may look a bit different this year. Team Captains will need to find creative ways to raise money for their local Down syndrome associations, in order to provide support while observing social distancing. I was impressed by an idea I saw recently, posted on Facebook by Tori Whitley, Team Captain of Bryce’s Buddies for the Columbus Buddy Walk®, and we reached out to Tori to ask her to share the details. She generously agreed, as she is happy to help the Down syndrome community any way she can.


Tori, a third year Team Captain, shared that she came up with this fundraising idea after thinking of ways to raise money due to the changes surrounding us due to COVID-19. “I knew I had to get creative,” she explained. Tori posted this board on her Facebook page, and her friends are encouraged to choose a number on the board, which corresponds with a donation amount (the 1 square = $1, the 100 square = $100).

“Most of our fundraisers have been restaurant nights or other in-person events. That’s when I realized we needed to do something virtual and my friend’s adoption fundraiser came to mind. I decided to add a little twist though. When people donated by committing to a square, they got to choose me or my husband’s face to go on the board. Once the board was full, the person whose face was on the board the most won. We picked something for each other to do as the loser. This really has enticed people to donate, I think.”

Tori’s most recent update on Facebook shows that it is enticing, indeed!


This year, Bryce’s Buddies has a goal of raising $10,000 for the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio. With this fundraiser, they are well on their way! Tori shared “Not knowing what to expect with our first year and doing absolutely no fundraising, we had over $6,000. Last year we got over $10,000. My goal is to raise as much money as possible, because DSACO has done so much for us since we became part of this wonderful community.”

In addition to this fundraiser, Tori is exploring other options to help her team reach its goal. “I have a friend who has done a Lularoe fundraiser for me. She donates a portion of her sales for an entire month and that’s been pretty successful each year. Last year we did a 50/50 raffle and had a silent auction. We had everything donated for the auction. It was in person but I saw someone do it online once, so I may have to look into that option. Last year that was our biggest fundraiser at almost $2,000.”

No matter what fundraisers her team hosts, it’s important to Tori that she share her “why” behind the efforts. "When family and friends understand why they are giving money it’s easier for them to support,” she explained.

To learn more about Bryce’s Buddies and the 2020 Columbus Buddy Walk®, please visit their Stride fundraising site.

This post is part of our ongoing Walk Team Spotlight blog series, which profiles Down syndrome walk teams by sharing their unique backstories, as well as fundraising, recruitment, and networking tips. Check back for future posts in this series coming soon! Submit your story ideas to:

Team Captains: Using Instagram to Promote Your Down Syndrome Fundraising Team

By Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

Key Takeaways

  • You can have more than one Instagram account: one for personal, every day use; one for fundraising.
  • Use bio to post the direct link to your fundraising site.
  • Photos/Captions: post clean, well-lit photos to catch followers’ eyes; include a “hook” in your caption to keep your followers’ attention.
  • Hashtags: leverage hashtags that are relevant to both your local community and the Down syndrome community to reach more people.
  • Instagram Stories: showcase short videos and un-staged photos for behind-the-scenes feel
  • Goal: build awareness around your fundraising and advocacy efforts

Social media has become an important aspect in our lives; we use it to stay connected or reconnect with family and friends, to keep up on important issues and trends, and even to amuse ourselves in our downtime. Did you know that social media can also be a key tool in fundraising for your local Down syndrome organization? In 2019, our data shows that 50% of Stride partners had traffic to their Stride fundraising sites from Instagram, with an average of 231 visits per site. This tells us that Instagram is playing an important role in fundraising! By leveraging your Instagram account to raise awareness about your event, and about Down syndrome in general, you can amplify your support for your local DSA.

Dedicate a Separate Account for Your Fundraising Team

Instagram allows users to have more than one account; this makes it possible to have one account dedicated to your fundraising team and loved one with Down syndrome, while keeping your other posts on a separate account. To establish an account for your team, you simply need another email address. The Instagram app makes it very easy to switch between accounts without logging in and out, which makes it convenient to manage both from your phone. Stride users can also connect their Instagram account right to their fundraising page, which allows your team members and donors to easily connect with your family. We recommend posting several times per week, year round, to your Instagram in order to keep engagement levels up. Besides, your followers will want to know what’s happening in the life of your loved one with Down syndrome!

Use the Space in Your Bio Wisely

When you are establishing your new Instagram, be sure to wisely use the space in your bio. By entering the direct link to your team’s fundraising page on the Stride site, you can easily guide donors and registrants to contribute. Remember, Instagram does not make links clickable in your photo captions, so you need to have a convenient place for supporters to find your site. An easy call-to-action directive for your posts might be “Register and donate for our event; follow the link in our bio!”

Carefully Consider Your Photos and Captions

With so many daily users on Instagram, your posts need to stand out in order to gain the attention of your followers. We recommend using simple, well-lit photos to catch the eyes of those scrolling through their feed. Typically clean, well-lit photos are the most eye-catching on this platform, so you’ll want to take that into consideration when planning your posts. Also, when writing your captions don’t forget that while you have up to 2200 characters, only 125 will show up before the caption is truncated. If you want to include a long caption, make sure there is a “hook” to the message to ensure followers will continue reading, and you may also consider adding your hashtags as a comment on the post to keep the caption brief. 


Speaking of hashtags, definitely include them in your posts! We recommend using a combination of local hashtags as well as those which are related to the Down syndrome community. Some posts will also easily lend themselves to popular hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday, #MondayMotivation, #TheLuckyFew, and countless others. If you are unsure of which hashtags to use, we recommend reviewing accounts that are popular in your greater community, as well as in the Down syndrome community, to see what others are using. This practice will allow more people to view your posts! As another quick tip, we encourage you to use camel case when posting hashtags, to make your posts more accessible to those who use screen readers (because #InclusionMatters!).

Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories is a very popular feature; there are 500 million daily users of Instagram Stories, making it a worthwhile trend to explore! Content for your Stories can be lighthearted and fun, and it’s a great place to feature short videos of your loved one with Down syndrome! If you’re unsure of what to include in your story, we recommend watching the stories at the top of your feed to see what others are posting. It may take some trial and error to find your groove, but it’s another great way to call attention to your fundraising efforts so we recommend giving it a try! 

Remember, the goal for this Instagram account is to promote your fundraising efforts for your local Down syndrome organization. During your “off-season” from fundraising, use the account to promote any advocacy initiatives you are pursuing, and to just brag about your amazing loved one with Down syndrome. Don’t forget to also link your Instagram account to your Stride fundraising site! 

By leveraging this popular social media tool to share information and seek support from your followers, you will succeed in supporting your local Down syndrome organization and help grow awareness in your community.