A Top Fundraiser Club can be a great tool to show appreciation to the participants who are raising the most for your events. When done right, these fundraising clubs can provide you with a platform to cultivate relationships and further engage your top fundraisers into the mission of your organization.

Oh Yeah!  That's me 9 years ago at the BP MS 150 lunch stop with my friend JJ Vitarius.

Oh Yeah! That’s me 9 years ago at the BP MS 150 lunch stop with my friend JJ Vitarius.

My first gig as a peer-to-peer fundraiser was working on the MS Walks and MS 150 Bike Tour in the Houston office of the National MS Society. The bike tour had established a fundraising club called Club 300 to recognize the top 300 fundraisers from the previous year’s BP MS 150.

Club 300 was established in 2000 based on fundraising from the 1999 event. In 1999, the top 300 fundraisers brought in more than $877K of the $3.2 million raised by the event. After its first year of existence, the top 300 fundraisers increased their contributions to the overall fundraising effort by more than 73%, bringing in $1.2 million for the 2000 event.

Spring forward to today, the 2013 Club 300 members raised more than $3.9 million of the $17.6 million raised for the 2012 event. Fundraiser #1, Stephen Susman, raised $113,935, and #300 raised $6,860.

For those of you who are not super geeky (like Amy & Nancy) about metrics, the main take away from these numbers is that fundraising clubs work. When they are leveraged year round to cultivate and expand the relationships with your top fundraisers, you will see a positive impact on your bottom line without significant increase in cost. Before your eyes, this group of top fundraisers will transform into elite fundraisers.

Here are some tips learned from my time working on the BP MS 150 to help you establish your own fundraising club.

Pro Tip #1: Entry into your fundraising club should be based on fundraiser ranking rather than total fundraising $$$.

For Club 300, since entry into the club was based on fundraising ranking against other cyclists, only the top 300 fundraisers made the cut. As a result, the minimum total fundraising required for entry into the club has consistently grown year over year. This strategy fuels the competitive nature of these elite fundraisers and increases the total fundraising required to rank above #300. As mentioned earlier, for the 2013 Club 300 #300 brought in over $6,800. Additionally, the membership cap helps with budget planning because the # of people you are supporting remains constant year-over-year.

Pro Tip #2: Make your fundraising club visible, desirable and elite
The BP MS 150 has done a great job of recognizing and pampering their top 300 fundraisers. From exclusive port-a-lets & showers during the event to special wearable gear and VIP receptions, these elite fundraisers know they are special and the perks make it worth the effort to stay in the club year over year.

For those not involved, the perks are visible enough to the general participant population so that it prompts the question, “How do I get into the Club 300?”

Check out the 2013 Club 300 Perks

Pro Tip #3: Keep the club activities rolling year round
Top fundraising clubs are great vehicles for the year-round cultivation necessary to keep those elite fundraisers coming back year over year. Think about creative ways to engage your fundraising elite in mission-driven activities, especially those opportunities that might live within another branch of your organization.

One organization I worked with would offer their fundraising club members with the first opportunity to volunteer for their summer camp for kids with cancer. This is fantastic because it allowed fundraisers connect more deeply with the mission while at the same time making them feel special outside the realm of fundraising.

Looking for more fresh ideas? Here are 35 ideas to recognize top event fundraisers before, during and after your event.

Pro Tip #4: Maintain your fundraising incentive program
Fundraising clubs are a compliment to fundraising incentive programs, not a replacement. The fundraising club exists to motivate and cultivate your event’s fundraising elite. In contrast, incentive programs motivate the entire participant base to fundraise. You need to be catering to both groups as part of your holistic fundraising strategy.

The BP MS 150 continues to offer fundraising incentives to the general fundraising population based on their level of fundraising, including the always popular top fundraiser jersey.

This year’s BP MS 150 will be taking place next weekend. I wish all the best to the 13,000 cyclists, 1000’s of volunteers and of course, the staff who will be participating in the 2013 event. I hope you have great weather and more importantly, that you exceed your $18 million goal on the path to finding a cure for MS!

Interested in hearing some other fundraising tips from some of the leading #NPExperts in the field? Download our free eBook, NPExperts: Fundraising Ideas and Marketing Insights for Nonprofits.

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