For many participants, simply showing up for an event is enough to prove their dedication to a cause. But over the past few years, there’s been a surge in those who go the extra mile and make their own donation. This can mostly be credited to enhanced strategic presence of the donation option and increased attention on participant donations by nonprofit staff.

By making a donation, participants are saying they care enough to be personally invested in your cause. And that comes with even more good news – according to the recently released 2014 Blackbaud Peer-to-Peer Fundraising study, donors make better fundraisers.

Chart: Average Raised per Fundraiser
Chart Legend

How can we encourage more participant donations?

1. Stop calling participant donations “self donations”

Outside of the world of professional fundraising, people have no idea what “self donation”, “self gift”, or “self pledge” means. To them, it’s simply a “donation”! Cut these meaningless terms from your vocabulary and start talking to people in a way they readily understand.

Be the first to make a donation and show how important it is to protect our rivers!

2. Make the donation step less of an option

When designing your event registration process, there’s no need to sheepishly ask a participant if they “might be interested in maybe making a donation.” Instead, make it an inherent part of the process. Provide something that participants will be energized by!

I can’t wait to do the Run to Save Sea Lions in October! In the meantime, I want to protect them NOW by giving $___!

3. Be transparent about your registration fee

How are you positioning your registration fee? Is it a barrier to entry and something that needs to be constantly discounted or waived? Or is it something that helps defray event costs? Don’t assume participants know why you have a registration fee. Be transparent about where the money goes. And even if you have a registration fee you can absolutely ask for a donation as well. Use language that reinforces the difference between a fee and a donation.

Your registration fee gets you to the start line, but your donation gets us one step closer to a cure.

4. Registration isn’t the only time to ask for a donation

Your participants should be given a variety of opportunities to make a gift. Make sure any donation links you offer to them go directly their personal donation form so they don’t have to go through a search process.

  • In coaching emails, provide a link to make a donation
  • In their fundraising center, create a pop-up or overlay that encourages a donation
  • At the registration table, “sell” $25 pinups that can be displayed with their name at the finish line

5. Personalize communications based on whether a gift was made

If a donation was not made at registration, include a soft ask in your registration confirmation email. Invite the participant to kickstart their fundraising today by being the first donor to their fundraising page. Continue to suggest making a donation throughout your welcome series, and be sure the ask is only being seen by those who did not become a donor since registration.

Success! Your participants made a donation! Now what? Let’s help them become great fundraisers. In your welcome series and other communications, tailor the message by thanking them for their donation and provide the next step in the fundraising process. Try not to overwhelm participants by giving them lots of tasks. Instead ask them to do one thing. For example, you can ask them to change the picture on their personal page to something that supports your mission. One action often leads to another!

What other ideas do you have to encourage participants to make their own donation? Leave a comment and let me know!

There is LOTS more P2P Benchmark data where this came from!



Shana Masterson has been a fundraiser since 2001. In 2014, she joined Blackbaud as a senior consultant. Her unique skill set as both a peer to peer fundraiser and a technologist allows her to focus on maximizing peer to peer campaign revenue through success planning, road mapping, communication calendaring, configuration recommendations and more.

Prior to joining Blackbaud, Shana led the American Diabetes Association’s online fundraising and communication strategy for the national special events team. She also worked for the National Brain Tumor Society, the American Cancer Society and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Connect with Shana on Twitter or Linkedin.

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