With any event that involves fundraising – whether required or optional – it’s very important to recognize and/or reward those that go above and beyond the call of duty: your top fundraisers.
When an event encourages but does not require fundraising, the bulk of the fundraising work is done by a small percentage of the participants (e.g., 20% of the participants bring in 100% of the funds). I hope it’s obvious why it is advisable to make this group feel special; for without them, your “fundraising event” would simply be an “event.” But on events where fundraising is required, it’s just as important to acknowledge those that stand out from the crowd. If your fundraising minimum is $1,000, you will inevitably have those that raise $5,000 or $10,000 or $20,000. Do not let these remarkable achievements go unnoticed.
This leads us to the million dollar question: What is the best way to recognize or reward top fundraisers? As with most important questions, the answer isn’t a simple one. But we’d like to pass along a few tips to help you find the right one:
If you know your top fundraisers personally (which you should!) it is ideal to really personalize the on-event experience for them and make them feel like the VIP they are. Inexpensive but thoughtful on-event perks can go a long way toward making them feel special:
- Deliver their favorite treat to them at the start of the event or at some point during the day (a large latte, a blueberry muffin, a banana smoothie – it doesn’t have to be elaborate).
- Provide a package of event “extras” that participants typically have to pay for (or is not offered to other participants), such as free parking, towel service, gear check, and a continental breakfast.
Many top fundraisers are so deeply connected to the cause, they will be more moved by sincere public recognition of their efforts than by receiving free stuff. Not that branded water bottles and reusable totes aren’t great… but at the end of the day, what a participant will fondly look back on is the amazing way you made them feel. Not the free grocery bag. So, announce their name from the stage during your opening or closing festivities. Present them with a framed certificate recognizing their achievement. Display their name and fundraising amount on a banner for all to see.
When recognizing top teams on the event, it’s important to include the entire team – not just the team captain. And again, while small giveaways can be fun, providing a stellar event day experience is the real goal. Reward top teams with their own dedicated space on the event – whether it’s a small table or an elaborate tent. Give everyone a free drink ticket for the post-event festival. Hang a custom banner congratulating each team on their achievements and send it home with them at the end of the day. Better yet, do all of these things.
It’s important to keep in mind that a recognition program is not one-size-fits-all. It should be tailored to fit your event and your participants. There are thousands of fundraisers in this world but none quite as special as yours. At least that’s how you should leave them feeling at the end of the day.
When not playing the role of participant in everything from 5ks to marathons, Cheryl works as Event 360’s Programs Manager, helping to deliver a meaningful event experience to others.
Paula participated in her first fundraising event in 2002 and has not looked back since. Under her leadership, her teams’ event fundraising total is approaching $450,000. Paula has shared her event knowledge and customer service expertise as a participant support coordinator with Event 360 since 2005. She and her husband live in Southern California with their “retired” Golden Retriever, Lucy.