By Molly Fast

Nearly two years ago, on the heels of my oldest sister Kara’s participation in the 2017 Susan G. Komen Philadelphia 3-Day, I wrote about the importance of engaging the younger generation. Seeing how emotional my nieces were (then 7 and 12 years old) and how much they got out of being on the event, I knew that they would continue to be part of the compassion that helps heal the world through fundraising and event participation.

Last month, I received an email from Kara and in it she said, “Tomorrow is (finally) the last day of school. This morning was the 5th grade awards ceremony. Lots of kids were awarded various participation certificates—for being in the band, chorus, volunteering, etc. Only one award went to just one student, and it was to Lila for being an American Heart Association Heart Hero—the top fundraiser in her school, raising $855. She was absolutely beaming when she collected her certificates and medal!” She went on to thank us for the support over the many years that both of her daughters/my nieces have been fundraising and then shared the photo above of Lila who continued to beam with pride over her accomplishment!

Obviously I was insanely proud of Lila and so incredibly happy for her, as well. I was also really impressed with how special the school made this achievement. I love that Lila was singled out. I love that even though the event took place many months earlier, Lila was publicly recognized in front of her peers. And I love that she received not just one, but two, certificates and a medal. Seeing how much this meant to Lila made me think about the ways in which we recognize participants for their individual and team accomplishments as well.

There are so many ways to do this but I thought of a few tips that could benefit all of us in the event fundraising space:

  • Don’t just focus on fundraising. There are so many ways in which people give of themselves that have nothing to do with how much money someone raises. Consider how you can recognize, honor and celebrate things like: years of participation, most unique fundraising idea, number of events participated in, pre-event volunteer hours, most unique team name, etc. Like most things in the event business, you’re only limited by your imagination and the law when determining what fun and unique ways you want to pat your participants on the back!
  • Provide meaningful ways of showing your appreciation. This doesn’t need to be something that costs a lot of money. In fact, some of the most meaningful ways to do this includes nothing more than the cost of a card and a stamp. Receiving a hand-written letter is one of the simplest ways in which you can express your gratitude. During a time when communication is so electronic, this simple gesture means a great deal to the people on the receiving end. Even better–have the cards written by the people who benefit from the money raised by your events. In the case of my niece, the certificates and medal she received are something that she treasures and has up in her room. What a great reminder of her impact and the difference she’s making. While there are tried and true ways of showing your appreciation (certificates, letters, medals, gift cards), take some time to think about what makes the most sense for your organization, and like most things, think outside the box!
  • Appreciation = attention. After receiving her certificates and medal, it prompted my sister to send another thank you letter to everyone who had supported Lila’s fundraising efforts over the years. This additional touch point ensured that Lila’s supporters felt a part of her achievement (because we were) and were also recognized for our part in it… again. For me personally, it made me insanely proud of and happy for my niece. And it got me excited to support Lila again! You too can get people excited to support your organization again by recognizing your participants in a way that inspires them to reach out to those who helped make it possible.

Take some time to sit down with your team and consider the ways in which you can show how someone contributes to your event. Brainstorm on those recognition touch points and what fun and creative ways you can celebrate the accomplishments. Doing this the right way ensures your participants feel valued and increases the chances of them remaining invested in your cause and event for years to come!

Molly Fast leads the company’s local operations for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day series and is privileged to work with Event 360’s participant-facing team. For over 15 years, Molly has been fortunate enough to combine her love of fundraising with the ability to make a difference in the work she does focusing on exceeding expectations and delighting participants along the way. When not roaming around Ireland, Molly can be found taking photos, exploring hidden stair cases or talking to strangers in Santa Monica where she lives with her husband. You can find Molly on  TwitterLinkedIn and her favorite social media tool, Instagram.

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