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  • Writer's pictureDrew Schneider

The Pan-Mass Challenge & A Billion Dollar Milestone: Chariot’s March Cause of the Month 

Salo Serfati, Chariot’s CEO, chose a very special partner this month who has played a pivotal role in the growth of DAF fundraising and the development of Chariot itself

Michele Sommer first became familiar with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute 30 years ago when her future mother-in-law was participating in an experimental trial for bone marrow transplants. She first learned about the Pan-Mass Challenge (“the PMC”), a bike-a-thon across the state of Massachusetts in support of Dana-Farber, when the best man in her wedding first rode in 1996. Her husband joined the event in 1997 and by 1999, they got Michele on board and she’s never looked back.

After over a decade of riding and fundraising for the PMC, Michele officially joined the organization’s professional staff in 2012 and was named its Chief Financial Officer in 2016. “I’m so blessed to be part of something that is so mission-driven and relentlessly efficient,” shares Michele about her role. “100% pass through of every dollar raised by our riders to Dana-Farber is our holy grail.”

That laser focus on efficiency has been a huge contributor to the PMC’s success over the years. The event pioneered the entire category of athletic fundraising when it was founded in 1980 and now raises more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country.

In 2023 alone, the PMC raised $72 million - with only 13 full-time staff members and a veritable army of thousands of volunteers.

And Michele has her sights set on an even more inspiring milestone for the PMC in 2024 - crossing the $1 billion mark for total funds raised since 1980. As the single biggest source of philanthropic funding for Dana-Farber, sustaining and expanding the reach of PMC is Michele’s core focus - and it’s why she was such an early innovator and advocate for Donor Advised Fund technology

“Right after I joined the organization in 2012, we joined a small group of organizations partnering with Fidelity to build and use the first DAF widget,” recalls Michele.

“It was incredibly successful at driving more DAF giving from Fidelity and increasing awareness of DAFs among our riders and donors, but we always wished something would work for any DAF.”

In 2023 alone, the PMC received over 7,000 DAF grants worth over $6 million from Fidelity Charitable DAF donors - making it the 12th most popular charity overall at the largest DAF in the country. This is especially impressive given the PMC is much smaller in terms of overall revenue and staff than the rest of the top 20 organizations on the list.

When Chariot’s founders approached Michele about their idea for a universal DAFpay option, she was skeptical, remembering “I thought, if the big players couldn’t figure this out, how can you? I’m so glad they proved my initial instincts wrong and I couldn’t be prouder of what the team has accomplished.”

Salo Serfati, Chariot’s Co-Founder and CEO, chose the PMC for this month’s Cause of the Month because, “Michele and her team have been an incredible source of inspiration to us. They understand the increasingly critical role that DAFs are playing in Philanthropy and are leading the nation in DAF fundraising.”

What’s the PMC’s secret to their DAF success? They intentionally train their riders to ask for DAF gifts and make it as easy as possible to make them. 

Each year, Michele dedicates several minutes of fundraising training for the nearly 1,000 new riders to explain what DAFs are, why people use them and how to solicit DAF gifts from their friends and family. 

“If you make it easy to give with your DAF and it’s in front of people, it’s going to increase giving,” shares Michele, who also joined Chariot’s Nonprofit Advisory Council as a founding member this year. “People also want immediate gratification and that’s also why Chariot’s tech is so important. People’s DAF donations can now be included in fundraising totals in real time and DAF donors can be properly thanked right away.” 

Salo shares Michele’s belief in the continued explosive rise of DAFs in philanthropy and importance of nonprofits properly harnessing this changing tide of philanthropy.

“Michele saw and invested in the potential of DAF fundraising before just about anyone else in the industry, and the returns for the PMC have been incredible. We’re honored to support their efforts this month, especially after all the support they’ve provided to Chariot over the years.”

Chariot’s Cause of the Month is an initiative where a member of our team gets to select a nonprofit organization close to their hearts to support with funds from our company's Donor-Advised Fund. We also spend the month encouraging our networks to support the Cause of the Month with us, especially if they have a DAF. Chariot’s DAF payment option makes it possible to support great organizations like the Pan-Mass Challenge directly in their own donation form in under 10 seconds.


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