Fundraising Hall of Fame 2012: Five Practical Tips for Increasing Event Fundraising Revenue

Posted on September 11, 2012

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Alison FinkelWith fall events in full swing, it’s likely that you’re looking for quick and actionable ways to boost revenue. Here are five proven ideas to give an extra boost to your fundraising results this season. These ideas don’t require a strategic shift or a lot of development time. But, they each offer great potential for deeper investment from the participants and donors who are already interacting with your event!

These tips are presented in order from the fastest and easiest to implement to the ones that may take a little more investment and integration on the part of your team. Good luck and have a great event season!

1. Bump up the suggested donation giving levels on your donation form
Take a look at most event websites and you’ll find the same pre-set suggested donation levels on every page. Usually in $25 increments, this is the default language provided by most event databases.

    Example: Donation Levels

Event 360 worked with several organizations to see if we could increase average gift size per donor by simply bumping up the suggested donation amounts at each level. In other words, could an organization pick up an extra $5 or $10 per donor by simply changing the preset values on the donation form from $25 to $30 or from $50 to $60?

The answer is YES. In our test, we found that by changing the preset amount from $25 to $35, the percentage of donors choosing $25 fell 10%, but the percentage of donors choosing $35 increased 13%. So, 10% of event donors suddenly gave 10% more just by making this small change!

    Graph: Donation Amounts

A word of caution, though: don’t get greedy! Changing preset levels from $50 to $60 gave a bump to average donation size. However, changing preset levels from $50 to $75 had a negative impact. In that test, the use of the $30 donation level increased by 33%!

There is also some question about whether listing suggested levels from high to low or low to high is best. Our tests have revealed that low to high generates better average giving. More important than the order of the suggested levels is having the ‘other amount’ box at the top of the section.

Finally, the use of case statements on the donation page did not show consistent results. A case statement connects the donation to the organization’s mission. An example of this could be “$100 funds the installation of a new toilet in three homes.” If you’re considering case statements, think about how closely they connect to your organization’s mission. If there’s a strong and direct tie in, you may want to include them. However, if it’s a stretch to make a fit, it’s better to leave them out!

2. Sweeten the Deal
Is there an opportunity to reconnect with your event donors for an incremental donation this season? The Susan G. Komen 3-Day offers the opportunity for donors to send a personal note and a custom chocolate to the participant they’re supporting in exchange for an additional donation.

The ‘ask’ with this program is extremely unique; the 3-Day isn’t asking for an additional donation to that participant’s fundraising account. Instead, they offer a highly personal and one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect with a loved one or teammate while they’re on the event. 

3. Ask Participants to Top Off Their Registration Fee
What percentage of your event participants visit the website exactly once when they register? Chances are, it’s somewhere between 75% and 90%. Make the most of this interaction because it’s the only chance you’ll have to connect with them, not just as a registrant but as a fundraiser!

Include a section on the registration form that provides the opportunity for the participant to make an additional donation when they register. But, like the pre-set donation levels, you can’t just throw in a generic box on the registration page and expect results. Be sure to include two important pieces of information:

  • Make a strong and relevant ask: Why should this registrant also be a donor?
  • Provide a suggested and relevant amount to give: What is the right amount based on the ask you just provided?

When Event 360 tested this with one of our clients, they saw great results! The percentage of registrants making a self-donation increased by 12% and the average (mean) donation increased by 5%. In addition, people who make a self-donation at registration are great targets for additional engagement and communications about fundraising.Graphs: Average Donation & Percent of Registrants
4. Identify Existing Fundraisers with the Potential to Raise More

Turning registrants into fundraisers is the most difficult challenge for event fundraisers. Your participants who are fundraising have already cleared this hurdle. By raising funds for your organization, they’re demonstrating a connection to your mission and the desire to do more than just participate. Is your event doing all it can to promote fundraising among this dedicated group of participants? By segmenting your database and putting together corresponding communications and tools for each segment, you can get more from your fundraising program.

Here are some places to look for key fundraisers among your registrants:

  • Repeat participants, particularly those who have participated three or more times.
  • Team captains
  • Key affinity (grantee, survivor or co-survivor, etc.)
  • Anyone who has raised at least $1
  • Anyone who has logged in to their online tool center/participant page
  • Anyone who gave a self-donation at registration

On one project Event 360 consulted on, just by targeting specific communications and tools to anyone who was sending fundraising emails from their participant account, giving increased 17% in that segment.

Remember that putting together a segmented communication plan goes hand in hand with providing tools, tips and recognition that match each segment. Your organization needs to deliver both in order to maximize fundraising potential.

5. Treat Top Fundraisers Like Top Donors
Most organizations have a fairly robust stewardship program for major gifts and top fundraisers. But, surprisingly, those same organizations don’t carry those programs over from their traditional development activities into their event activities. Just like donors, among event participants, the top 20% of performers are raising at least 80% of the funds.

By setting up a clear engagement and recognition strategy for top fundraisers, your event could see fundraising improvement within this existing group of participants. One project we worked on increased total fundraising revenue by 6% even though registration only increased by 1%. They did this by focusing on providing better tools, recognition and stewardship to their top fundraising group. As a result, 50% of the incremental donations collected on this project came from those participants. This resulted in an increase of nearly $270,000 for the program.

Graphs: Fundraisers by Registrations

Here are some aspects to consider when developing a program to support top fundraisers:

  • Set clear and simple recognition tiers for high fundraising
  • Consider what kinds of perks or recognition is a good fit with the program you’re managing
  • Increase awareness of top-performer programs
  • Increase access to tools and support for this participant group all year round, particularly pre-season. Note that this could include additional investment in staff resources for this group or program.

As the liaison to Event 360’s largest client, Alison Finkel strives to exceed participation, fundraising and event satisfaction goals year after year. A founding member of Event 360, Alison honed a deep knowledge of every stage of a project life cycle, including marketing and recruitment, customer service and relationship building, fundraising, volunteer coordination, event planning and on-site execution. She is an avid participant in active challenges and regularly walks, rides, and volunteers at client events.

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