This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of the Direct Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Federation Journal.

The analysis of data is critical to making an informed decision about your event’s online direct marketing strategy, yet many people are intimidated by the sheer volume of data tied to fundraising programs. For event marketers and fundraisers, data is often seen as an especially big mystery. They collect a lot of data, but are either not sure what to do with it or are analyzing the wrong pieces.

One of the most important pieces of information you can extract from data analysis is a better understanding of the type of event you are running. Is it an attendance event that brings out the masses? Or is it a fundraising event that brings in the dollars? If it is the former, then you will want to identify ways in which you can transform the culture of your event from one of participation to one of fundraising. Once you understand and evaluate various key metrics and corresponding benchmarks, you can use your analysis as a blueprint to think strategically about how to use online direct marketing to improve your event’s future fundraising results.

For example, the result of your analysis could be to identify differentiated segments from within the whole of the participant pool, and then to target these segments differently. This might include customizing your direct marketing communications across different segments to message differently depending upon participant status, participant activity, geographic and demographic factors, and so forth. The ultimate goal is one of mass customization – to use enough characteristics about a person to tailor communications to them to influence behavior, and to use groupings of like persons so as not to need a separate communication for each person each time.

From Awareness to Fundraising

Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s Global Race for the has been a staple event in the Washington, DC area for 20 years. Historically the Race had fundraising elements and capabilities, however, the environment and the adopted attitude of participants was focused on participation and awareness only. In 2008 alone, more than 30,000 of the event’s participants did not raise any money for the cause. Of those participants who did fundraise, the average raised was only $58. Moreover, the average donation amount was $53, with a median of $25. With only 30 percent of registrants fundraising for the event, there was an opportunity to transform the event’s culture and dramatically increase fundraising results.

Converting this audience to personal fundraisers meant reminding, or in some cases teaching, participants about the important efforts of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the intended goal of the Race – to raise the funds necessary to accomplish the organization’s mission. This conversion relied heavily on developing a solid, impactful, well planned, flawlessly executed online direct marketing strategy.

From Analysis to Insight

After reviewing participant communications from previous years, an analysis was conducted of the existing Race database. Based on this analysis, the Komen Global Race for the Cure team designed and executed comprehensive direct marketing strategies to convert more participants into fundraisers, and to make its existing fundraisers more successful. The primary direct marketing strategies implemented in 2009 were:

  • Created a targeted, segmented online communication campaign. Rather than sending the same email to all participants, messages were customized based on the target audience. To do this, the Komen Global Race for the Cure’s list was segmented into smaller groups based on various criteria (e.g., relationship with the cause, team status, fundraising performance, etc). This strategic approach to outreach increased the likelihood that each message would resonate with the recipient.
  • Test different clear calls to action. The key to creating a fundraising culture is getting participants to ask. Test messages showed that more participants took action when given specific instructions. For example, one of the calls-to-action tested was “Send emails today to your five closest friends”.
  • Improved use of online tools. In order to raise more funds, each participant needs more donors. They get more donors by asking more people. The easiest way to ask in this day and age is online via email. By making it easy and simple to use online tools (e.g., sending clear calls to action as part of the online communications strategy, providing email templates for participants, and encouraging the use of the Convio Participant Center by sharing tips and tools), participants can reach more potential donors.
  • Lowered suggested fundraising goal. Past participants seemed intimidated by the suggested $250 fundraising goal. By decreasing this goal to $125, the organization hoped to make it seem more attainable which would in turn boost registration and convert participants into fundraisers.
  • Provide one-on-one recognition of top fundraisers. For those individuals who qualified as top fundraisers (i.e., raised more than $2,000 in 2008 or 2009), special efforts were made to acknowledge their accomplishments. For example, organization executives reached out by phone to have one-on-one conversations with the fundraisers, thanking them for their dedication and commitment to the cause.


After implementing the aforementioned strategies, Komen Global Race for the Cure analyzed results from 2009 and compared them to those from 2008.

  • Impact of asking: Sending a consistent call-to-action that encouraged registrants to send fundraising emails through the Participant Center of Convio TeamRaiser led to an impressive jump in average dollars raised. Specifically, the number rose from $22 for those participants who did not send emails to $337 for those individuals who did send emails. 
  • Impact on emails sent: By implementing the strategies, the average number of emails sent increased by 82 percent, from 125,701 to 229,900. In parallel, the average number of emails sent per participant jumped from 24.2 to 38.2.
  • Impact of using online tools: Placing more emphasis on leveraging the power of online tools, Komen Global Race for the Cure increased participants from 5,194 to 6,029. Additionally, the percentage of registrants who sent emails rose from 11.3 percent to 14.0 percent.
  • Impact on number of donations (credited to a participant or team): The combination of steps taken to boost fundraising results yielded the desired effect. The number of donations grew from 49,931 to 55,731, representing an increase of more than 10 percent.
  • Impact on number of donation size (credited to a participant or team): The average donation amount increased by six percent, rising from $52.77 in 2008 to $61.43 in 2009.
  • Impact on fundraising: Despite unfavorable economic conditions and a slight decrease in registrations, fundraising increased an impressive 17 percent from 2008 to 2009.

The undeniable power of a well-constructed fundraising strategy was realized through this event. Fewer people raising more money is a direct result of teaching people to ask and creating the cultural shift required to turn a “friend-raiser” campaign into a true fundraiser.

Share Button