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A Spoonful of Cinnamon Helps Donations Come In

The CEO for the United Way of Bucks County subjected his body to extreme challenges in the name of raising funds for the nonprofit organization.

United Way of Bucks County CEO Jamie Haddon. Credit: James Boyle
United Way of Bucks County CEO Jamie Haddon. Credit: James Boyle
By James Boyle:

United Way of Bucks County CEO Jamie Haddon had never heard of the "cinnamon challenge" until his co-workers at the Fairless Hills-based nonprofit suggested he try it as the first stunt for the Giving Tuesday Bucks initiative.

Approximately 15 seconds after emptying a spoonful of cinnamon into his mouth, Haddon began coughing up clouds of the spice and received a clear idea why the endurance test is so challenging.

"From what I saw watching videos on the web, it looked like air was the factor when people started coughing," said Haddon. "I held my breath for as long as I could to get the stuff down."

The cinnamon challenge was just the first of nine challenges the United Way staff prepared for Haddon. He performed each task once every half-hour between noon and 4 p.m., all filmed and uploaded to a private YouTube account. 

Anybody who donated $25 or more on Dec. 3 received the link to all the videos. United Way of Bucks County set a goal of $2,000 for Tuesday, and by 12:30 p.m. it had collected $800 before adding in matching funds.

The non-profit's donation site is set up to automatically send the videos when donations are made on Tuesday. Marissa Christie, senior vice president of marketing and communications, said that donors that wish to see the videos after Giving Tuesday Bucks is finished should send a separate message to United Way stating that a donation has been made in Giving Tuesday Bucks' name. A link can then be e-mailed back.

Over the past few years, Haddon has developed a reputation for doing just about anything to help drum up interest and donations for the United Way of Bucks County. Just this past Halloween, hedressed up as a zombie and crept around outside the offices on Hood Blvd.

"I am so grateful that Jamie is such a tremendous sport about these things," said Christie. "Some of them stick, some of them don't. I wasn't sure how this one was going to turn out."

Haddon sees his unusual activities as a fun way to change recent attitudes about giving to charities. "There's a lot of doom and gloom out there," said Haddon. "People can only afford to give a little bit, but they don't think it will make much of a difference."

Instead of making volunteerism and charitable giving feel like a moral obligation, Haddon began changing the marketing message to create a stronger sense of community for the general public.

"We want to demonstrate that, yes, one person doing a little bit may not be enough," said Haddon, "but a lot of people each doing a little bit together can make a huge difference."

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