Is it time we take our events back?

This is what Adam, a 5k fundraising program manager, asked during our small group discussion at the P2P Professional Forum conference. I thought it was a great question at the time, but it wasn’t until last panel of the day discussed alternative “cool” events that I decided… YES. Unequivocally YES, it’s time we take our events back!

Adam’s found himself competing with the ever increasing “cool” events where you’re doused with powdered paint, run at night with glow sticks or evade obstacles while making your way to the finish line. Sounds fun, right? Here’s my question, are these cool events sustainable? Or are they a fad?

color runI’ve participated in one of these events. Here’s where marketing is amazing. From the videos and pictures on the website, I was really excited for the run. The big day arrives, we show up, get to the start line and we’re off. As we approach the first color zone, I couldn’t wait to see what it was going to be. Will the color be dropped on top of us? I imagined running through a waterfall of color. There was no waterfall of color, instead volunteers stood on the sides of the course and tossed paint on us from squeeze bottles and cups. If you wanted to get colored you basically needed to walk up to a volunteer and asked to be sprayed. My expectations and reality were very different.

In full disclosure and I need to add a disclaimer here: this is my experience from one event and my opinion. After the race we snapped our painted pictures, probably posted it to Facebook for all to see and went on with our day. I haven’t thought much about the run until the conference last week. It didn’t make an impact on me; I didn’t leave feeling like I can’t wait do that again. As new cool 5ks are popping up, I haven’t felt compelled to try another one. I guess they don’t seem that cool to me. Or, maybe I’m not that cool. Who knows?

How do we compete?

Here’s another question our table posed: how can we compete with these events and their marketing budgets? Thankfully, this question was asked after the alternative events panel when our group came back together at the end of conference to reconnect. If I was asked this on the first day of the conference I would have a different answer.

Here’s my two cents on competing with the marketing muscle of these cool events. You can’t. That’s the reality. A local nonprofit’s marketing budget doesn’t compete. Now that we know this and we’ve accepted it:

How can we take our events back?

One word: the cause. I guess that’s two words. There’s also your mission. You have something these cool events don’t have: a purpose. Their goal is to be cool and fun. You can add cool and fun to your events, but you have ability to build a connection with your runners.

I have zero affinity to the cool run I did and yes, there was a charity beneficiary. But, I couldn’t tell you who it was. It’s not the charity’s or the organizer’s fault – people participant in these cool runs to say I did it. Their mindset isn’t about supporting the charity, the cause or making an impact it’s about running the race and being doused with color or whatever the event may be. It’s about fun.

Only time will tell if these events are sustainable or a fad, but it’s important to know your competition. Sign for cool events in your area and see what you can learn from the competition.

I’ve reached the blog post word limit, but I’ve only scratched the surface and haven’t answered all the questions. I’ll be back on Friday with part two. I’d like to leave you with a question to marinate: How can we make the cause be cooler than paint, glow sticks and obstacles?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Braiterman, principal strategy consultant at Blackbaud, supports customers with their peer-to-peer fundraising events with a process she refers to as “data-driven strategy.” Amy’s data driven strategy analyzes how effective event participants are using online fundraising tools and takes those results to develop an event fundraising plan. Prior to joining Blackbaud, Amy earned her fundraising stripes managing events for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Alzheimer’s Association and Share Our Strength. She shares her fundraising know how here on npENGAGE, by hosting educational webinars and speaking at customer conferences

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