By Molly Fast
I often tell peer-to-peer fundraising event participants that when it comes to fundraising, you’re only limited by your imagination and the law. This advice can also apply to those of us who are behind the scenes putting the fundraising strategy together. In fact, our success comes down to the ways in which our fundraising strategy can motivate event participants to ask their network to support their fundraising efforts.
I know how basic this seems. But as I like to say when it comes to fundraising: The good news is it’s easy and the bad news is it’s easy. We just tend to get in our own way and make things more difficult than it needs to be.
In that vein of trying to make your life easier, I’m going to share a few fundraising strategies that we’ve implemented with some of our clients and that I’ve experienced as a peer-to-peer fundraiser. Implementing these the right way will inspire your event participants to raise more money and allow you to return more money to the cause(s) that means the most to you and your organization.
1. Create fundraising challenges that offer your participants an opportunity to earn something.
Eight days leading up to the Fourth of July, one of our events’ participants were invited to take part in our Summer Fundraising challenge. The first participant in each of the four event cities who raised $1,776 with at least 10 donations during the eight-day period received a “super sweet summer swag pack” that included a beach chair, a bucket hat, a striped beach towel, a neck fan and a pair of sunglasses.
We took a risk when determining the parameters of this fundraising challenge. Asking people to raise that much money is no small thing. But we gave it a whirl and were delighted with the results: when compared to the previous week, we saw an increase of 17% in total dollars and a 15% increase in the number of donations.
This specific fundraising challenge may not work for many non-profit organizations, but what I want you to take away from this piece of advice is:
- Be creative when thinking about how much you want your participants to raise. We chose $1,776 as a play on the Fourth of July. But you can consider an amount that’s tied to a meaningful stat for your organization or something reflective of the time when you’re hosting your challenge.
- When determining the prizes someone will win, put yourself in the shoes of your participants and consider things that will enhance their event experience or be something they’d want to receive as a reward. Oftentimes we back ourselves into items that we have leftover and just want to get rid of. While most peer-to-peer fundraisers aren’t in it for the swag, you still want to make sure what your offering inspires them to act.
- Provide your participants with the language they can use to make it as easy as possible to cut and paste and send via text or email or to post on their social channels. You want them to ask and ask widely, so put it in front of them and then remind them partway through your challenge by providing updates and reminders to keep it top of mind for them.
2. Ask your participants to raise a specific amount as a community.
I was staffing an event recently and was surprised that the organization did plenty of promotion of making a self-donation on event day. However, not once did they encourage their event participants to continue their personal fundraising, to hit or exceed their own fundraising goals.
Event day is a perfect opportunity to drive more donations. Tell your participants how much money you’ve raised collectively and how much more money needs to be raised to hit your goal. Saying something like this from the stage before people set off will lead to a bump in donations: “We are so proud and grateful to share that we have raised $220,000 of our $250,000 goal. If everyone here asks at least three people to donate at least $25, we’ll surpass our goal.”
Another approach is to see how much money you raised on event day in previous years. Then set and communicate an event day goal and provide regular updates via stage announcements and social media. Creating a sense of urgency by sharing this information throughout your event day gives everyone a chance to jump into the fun and connect as a community towards a goal!
3. Leverage your sponsors or event partners to host a fundraising match.
For 10 years I’ve participated in Cycle for Survival. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then that won’t be a surprise to you. I’ve been able to raise a significant amount of money in that time and a large part of that is due to generous partnerships that Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center leverages as fundraising challenges. Of the $68,858 I raised as a rider in Cycle for Survival this year, $31,901 (46%) was thanks to matching dollars from four different fundraising challenges. Here are a few of the fundraising challenges hosted this year:
- Spring Sprint: “Get five gifts from five donors between May 10 and May 17, and you will receive a $500 donation posted to your fundraising page. Any size gift qualifies!”
- $300 Million Milestone: “LET’S GET TO $300 MILLION TODAY! Together, we can reach an extraordinary milestone: $300 million for rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. To help get us there, all online donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $500,000 total.
- World Cancer Day Match: “Today, honor World Cancer Day and make your donations go twice as far in the fight to beat rare cancers. Every gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar — up to $500,000 total!
These are just a few examples of the fundraising challenges and matching dollar opportunities that participants who ride in Cycle for Survival can participate in.
I realize many organizations don’t have access to partners and sponsors who give quite as generously as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has the good fortune of securing. My intention in sharing this is that it inspires you to consider how you can leverage your partners and sponsors to make the fundraising dollars go further. If they can’t give a monetary donation, could a partner or sponsor provide an item to use for a fundraising challenge?
I hope these three fundraising strategies give you something to consider as you look to your events in the fall and your slate of events taking place in 2023. I challenge you to consider how you can integrate this into your strategy and hope you’ll see the same kind of return on your investment that we have with our clients who have started to adopt these practices.
If you’d like to talk with Event 360 to customize your fundraising strategy, let us know!
Molly Fast, a passionate leader, committed fundraiser and a seasoned event planner, is Event 360’s Director of Fundraising & Development. For the past 17 years, Molly has led our internal participant-facing, event fundraising team of coaches. Whether it’s with a member of the team she’s lucky enough to work alongside, a participant in need of assistance or the clients we’re fortunate to serve, Molly is focused on exceeding expectations and leaving this world a better place…one interaction at a time.