By Lauren Pike and Susan Wynne
In the world of event fundraising, there is nothing more important than your participants. Whether your event has a fundraising minimum or not, your fundraisers are vital to the success of your event and organization – their hard work enables all the amazing programs and services you provide for your community every day. While we believe every participant should be celebrated for their part in your event, those who go above and beyond deserve an extra pat on the back. We’ve already talked about how to build a better relationship with your top fundraisers but today we want to focus on one very specific way of recognizing their success: the top fundraiser breakfast.
You’ve probably seen a top fundraiser breakfast before and there’s a good reason for that – it’s generally well-received and we want to do whatever we can to make this special group of participants happy! Honestly, the perennial popularity of this event element isn’t surprising. Chances are that your participants are getting to your event before the sun comes up and may not have had time to sit down to a nice breakfast before leaving their home or hotel room. A cup of coffee and a comforting breakfast waiting for them before your opening ceremony even starts is one way to ensure that they are awake and fueled before hitting the route. It also creates a good impression of your event from the very beginning and sets the tone for the rest of their day. It’s a simple but effective way to say thank you by providing them with an incentive that enhances their overall event experience. It’s hard to beat that.
We’ve hosted our fair share of these breakfasts for multiple clients and along the way we’ve learned a few tricks to take yours from basic to brilliant. Here are some of our top tips for making sure your breakfast layout lets your top fundraisers know just how thankful you are for their time, energy, and effort.
Make it personal: It’s important to send a personal invitation to your top fundraisers. We typically do this via email and ask for an RSVP. We do find that follow-up phone calls can be helpful too, as many folks overlook emails. These personalized touches not only let each fundraiser know how much you want to honor their individual contribution but it also helps guide your food order. If possible, we recommend sending the invitation directly from a staff member who will be hosting the breakfast on-event so there is immediate name recognition. Be clear as to where the breakfast will be held, including a map if you can. We can all be a little groggy in the morning and those tents can start to look alike – don’t make your top fundraisers have to search too hard for their caffeine fix! (Clear, well-placed signage on event day will also help to make sure this isn’t an issue.)
Ask them to bring a friend: We’ve found this to be an important piece of our plan. You want your top fundraisers to be there. If they are part of a team or participating with a friend, they may not want to leave them behind to join your breakfast. Make it clear in your invitation that they can bring a guest and be sure that your volunteers are aware of this policy as well. If you’re concerned that this will open the floodgates and you’ll end up feeding half of your participants as a result, be firm on the “plus one” rule. There will be exceptions – like the parent participating with their two children and their partner – but, for the most part, people understand that one guest doesn’t mean their entire team of 25.
Make it special: Remember that you are creating an experience. The area where your breakfast is being hosted should feel special. Depending on the rest of your event and your budget, this may be as simple as a neat presentation of the food and tablecloths on every table. If you can take things up a notch with nicer serving platters, tables/chairs in the shade, décor elements, and a chance to speak with the leaders of your organization, even better! Whatever you do, keeping this area tidy and ordered is crucial to maintaining a nice feel. Dedicate a volunteer or two to replenish your buffet table, clear trash from tables, and generally make sure that chaos is kept to a minimum.
Provide options: If you have food and snacks on your event, it’s important that your top fundraiser breakfast stands out. This means that your breakfast spread should feature elements other than the bananas and granola bars available to other participants. (Although you can – and should – include those in your spread as well.) Variety is key. Depending on how strenuous your event may be, think about what breakfast items will be best for your participants. Are they heading out on a tough century ride? Include oatmeal, yogurt, and whole grain options to fuel their ride. Will some of your participants be enjoying a leisurely stroll with their team around your 5K course? Maybe throw in a few fruit danishes or chocolate croissants as a treat. No matter what you decide to put out, be sure to take inventory before AND after your breakfast. We’ve tweaked our menus from year to year based on what is eaten.
Make sure to say “thank you:” One of the greatest benefits of this type of face-to-face recognition is the opportunity to personally thank your top fundraisers. Don’t forget to take advantage of this! Make sure someone from your organization is available to welcome each person as they come in, introduce themselves, and thank them for being there. This personal touch goes a long way in forging relationships with these top fundraisers so that they continue to be an important part of your organization. Bonus points if you can find a creative way to recognize their accomplishments during the breakfast as well – we found great success in listing top fundraisers (with the amount they raised) as part of the centerpieces on each table at one event. Be creative! There’s no such thing as saying thank you too many times.
If you aren’t already hosting a top fundraiser breakfast as part of your event, we hope that it’s something you’ll consider in the future. And if this was already in your toolbox, we hope this information provided some guidance to create an experience as unique and special as your event. We love knowing that we get to start our top fundraisers’ day with the knowledge that they are appreciated and that their impact on the cause is immeasurable – and we think you’ll love it, too!
Lauren spends her days focusing on recruitment, volunteer management and participant support programs. Along with her team, she strives to help our clients seamlessly execute the behind-the-scenes work necessary for a successful event. When she’s not working on an event, you can find her around Washington, D.C. seeking out her next great adventure.
Susan has been with Event 360 since 2009. She has been supporting Susan G. Komen 3-Day participants for over 8 years, and thinks there is nothing quite like watching a participant who didn’t think they’d make it cross the finish line of your event. You can often find her at the baseball field with her family or volunteering for various organizations in her community.