AIDS Run & Walk Chicago LogoHere at Event 360 we like talking about fundraising. I mean, we really like talking about fundraising. And we especially like talking about fundraising with organizations run by passionate people who are dedicated to making the world a better place. Over the past few months I’ve had the privilege of talking about fundraising with one such organization, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) was founded in 1985 and their mission is “to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS and improve the lives of people affected by the epidemic.” I met their Director of Endurance Events, Dan Lakin, when he attended our “Creating Great Fundraising Coaches” session at Run Walk Ride earlier this year. Dan followed up with us after the conference and asked if Event 360 would develop a series of fundraising training sessions for the AFC staff and participants. Talking about fundraising with passionate people who are dedicated to making the world a better place? Yes, we’d be happy to!

I met with the AFC staff in May to talk about the importance of creating a fundraising culture and how to talk to participants about fundraising. Shortly after that I met with endurance athletes from the Team to End AIDS (T2) program and talked to them about how to fundraise and why their fundraising efforts are so important. Most recently I met with team captains from the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago, a 5K/10K event taking place on September 30, 2012.

In developing this most recent session I worked with Rhett Lindsey, Manager of Fundraising Events at AFC.  Rhett and his team are working to shift the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago from an awareness event to a fundraising event. Historically, the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago has been one in which most people show up, pay a registration fee and participate without fundraising. That’s not uncommon in the event fundraising world, as many of us know all too well. At this session we focused on talking to their team captains about the importance of fundraising and then taking them through a Fundraising 101 so they could pass the information along to their teammates.

Beyond offering fundraising training for their team captains and participants, here are three other things that the AIDS Run & Walk team is doing to move from an awareness event to a fundraising event:

  1. Making a well-articulated “ask.” Any effective fundraising program starts and ends with presenting others with an opportunity to help and asking for their support. Event fundraising is no different. And yet, creating an effective request is the most neglected part of any program. You need to create an “ask” that is specific, concise, tailored to a defined outcome and hard to refuse. You must ask your participants to fundraise! If you don’t, participants will show up to your event, raise $0 in funds, and think that they have helped your cause at the end of the day.
  2. Weaving Fundraising into the Fabric of the Event. The more you talk about fundraising, the clearer it will become to your participants that this is a fundraising event. When you weave fundraising language throughout each piece that your participants see — registration form, website, brochures, event information and more — it sends a message: participation alone isn’t enough. Your participants want to support you and it is up to you to direct their efforts.
  3. Providing Participant Support. In peer-to-peer fundraising you are enlisting all of your participants to personally ask their friends, family and coworkers for donations. It is important to ensure that you are providing specific instructions to your participants to help turn them into successful fundraisers. For example, instead of asking participants to “raise money,” ask “Will you ask ten of your friends to donate to you today?” This also means that participants need to be equipped with fundraising training and tools to improve their skill in asking others for support on your behalf.

    Rhett and his team are to be commended for taking the steps to change the culture of the AIDS Run & Walk and bring it back towards achieving mission through fundraising. It will take time but I believe that they will get there. They’ve already taken the first step by recognizing the need for this change and investing in their fundraising training.

    This year the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago takes place at Soldier Field on Sunday, September 30, 2012. With more than a month to go there is still plenty of time to register and fundraise. It promises to be a beautiful route along the water with lots of great post-race entertainment and a chance to spend time with passionate people who are dedicated to making the world a better place.

    And if you are a passionate person who wants to talk about fundraising, email me.

    Suzanne Mooney is a Fundraising Consultant at Event 360. She’s not on Twitter (yet) but feel free to email her.

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