Event Fundraising Tips: Three Simple Steps to Success

Posted on March 13, 2013

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Molly and her sister Katie at Cycle for SurvivalLast month I talked about a “foreign land” I visited — an event that I participated in that had no fundraising requirement, Cycle for Survival. Today I’m here to tell you that I raised just shy of $6,500 despite the fact that I had no obligation to do so. How did I do it? Very easily.

Yes, I’m an event fundraiser. But I believe anyone can incorporate three simple steps to become a successful fundraiser to meet and exceed a fundraising goal.

First. Make it personal. This isn’t the first time you’ve heard me or anyone else at Event 360 mention the importance of making your ask personal. But it’s worth repeating: an ask is so much more compelling when you personalize it. Today, most event fundraisers are given a personal page that makes fundraising very easy. Taking the time to personalize it — and your ask — shows your (potential) donors that you’re committed. And it educates them on why they should take the time and set aside the money to support your fundraising efforts. As a potential donor, I want to feel emotionally invested in your cause and only you can make that possible.

Second. Ask for a specific amount. This fundraising event was one big experiment for me. The first thing I wanted to test out was what would happen if I asked for a specific donation amount. I had never done this before. In my previous attempts at fundraising, I always asked people to “give what you can” and left it at that. I was interested in kicking things up a notch and seeing what would happen when I got super specific.

Gift Amount Chart

In looking at this chart, it’s not hard to guess what donation amount I asked for from my potential donors. If you said $50, you’d be right! In my first donation request this was my specific request: “I’m asking you to consider making a donation of (at least) $50 to help me reach my goal of raising $5,000 between now and March 2nd.”

Listen. The lesson here is pretty easy: You get what you ask for.

As event fundraisers, it’s engrained in our brains that “if you don’t ask, you won’t get anything.” (Or some variation of that theme). What I’m challenging you all to do is to get more specific and encourage your constituents to do so as well. Your chances for getting what you ask for look pretty good according to the chart above. I initially targeted 100 people asking them for $50 to get me to my $5,000 fundraising goal. But when I got bit by the fundraising bug, I expanded my circle and increased my goal. I continually asked for a donation of at least $50. And boy did it pay off! In the end, I received 43 $50 donations- by far the most common size donation I received.

Which brings me to my last point. Ask more than once- which I tested in a variety of ways. I’m going to get a little geeky with data for a second, but stick with me. By looking at the chart below, you can see that there were specific days in which I asked for a donation. 

Donations by Date Chart

  • My first fundraising letter went out on February 7th and I saw a nice response to that initial ask with 20% of my overall donations coming in the first two days (21 donations).
  • I sent out a reminder email on February 23rd and saw another slight bump in my fundraising with eight additional donations that day.
  • When I was a little disappointed by that response, I put up a post on Facebook (yes I still asked for at least $50 in donations) and saw 10 more donations come in that day, February 25th.
  • And then, not having quite met my goal the day before the event, I did one last fundraising push. Yes I was hesitant. At this point, people had heard from me at least twice and possibly three times if we were Facebook friends. But I was motivated to hit my goal and I was inspired by all the people I was riding for. So I set that anxiety aside and I pushed send/update on one more fundraising request via email and Facebook. And I am so glad that I did! The results were incredible: I received 24% of my donations the day before my event. Twenty-six people donated in response to my email or Facebook request. The response was so great that I increased my goal two more times that day alone. 

Contrary to what people who know me and were solicited for donations multiple times may believe, this was uncomfortable for me. Asking for the same thing three times was a difficult thing to do and a decision I had to consider carefully. But it paid off in the end: 61% of my overall donations came on days that I asked via email and Facebook. My donors were emotionally invested in my fundraising goal, some of them were just busy and needed a reminder.

I did a lot of experimenting while fundraising for Cycle for Survival and I can safely say that in all my previous attempts at fundraising, this was my most successful one yet. I encourage you to find ways to challenge your constituents to personalize their ask, to request a specific fundraising amount and to ask for a donation more than once. My gut tells me you — and they — will be rewarded in the end!

Photo top: Molly and her twin sister, Katie, two hours into their four-hour Cycle for Survival shift.

“Fast Fundraising Tips” blog posts are featured monthly. A passionate advocate of event fundraising and customer service, Molly Fast has been working as an event fundraiser since 2002. As the daughter of a 13-year breast cancer survivor, cancer has hit very close to home and Molly has dedicated herself to helping others see their potential in making this world a better place. At Event 360, Molly combines her love of customer service with event fundraising. When she’s not taking photos in Santa Monica, where she lives with her husband and their black lab Clancy, Molly can be found wandering around Ireland. You can find Molly on Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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