Experience shows us that only 40% of your 2011 fundraisers will return for next year’s event.
That’s a challenging number to digest.
It means that keeping your participant numbers steady year-over-year requires 60% of them be new. That’s a lot of money spent on marketing, recruitment and training.
Wouldn’t you rather those efforts bring new participants while your previous participants stick around? Wouldn’t you rather your event progress, grow and raises more money every year?
The math is simple. Retain more year-over-year participants and you’ll be well on your way to running an event that grows as a result of your past participant focus.
I know you understand the situation well. Leading up to your event you probably stay awake at night trying to solve this problem. With that in mind, we thought we’d offer up a few strategies proven to WOW event participants.
Create an “Experience”
The majority of this year’s participants joined your event because they felt a personal connection to the cause. Knowing that a personal connection got them to the event in the first place give you all the ammo you need to focus on making their experience extremely personal!
Create an experience that participants will by eager to be involved with year after year.
By some accounts, the annual Survivor Parade had become “a bit of a non-event”. So in 2010 event organizers reformed the notion, starting with a program to allow family and friends to nominate a Survivor to win an award (Hope, Strength, Faith, Courage, Love, Believe).
The nomination forms were printed out and displayed in the Survivor Café. During the parade, the Survivors walk together among the banners carried by award winners while families and friends stand on the sidelines and create a path.
In 2010, the first year of the new Survivors program, one participant said “there was not a dry eye in the place”.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Let your participants know how important they are to your efforts, remind them of how much your organization does to address the cause that’s important to them and share how you’re changing lives.
You’ve created this emotionally moving, bonding experience so keep the momentum going. Don’t wait until you’re ready to launch next year’s event to email participants. Your recruitment campaign for next year’s event begins the day (or two) after this year’s event with that email that trumpets the success of the event and your gratitude to all those who made it possible.
Make sure that you keep clear records of who participated last year, what team they were on, and how much they raised. Speak to them (via email generally) as if you know them – because you do.
And do it frequently.
Plan a year-round email campaign that will reach out and touch event participants in the off season to ensure that your cause and the event that they loved … is top of mind for next year. Frank Barry gives some great tips on creating a year-round communication calendar.
As you reach out to your fundraisers, encourage them to repeat their participation and success from last year and let them know you couldn’t do it without them. Saying thanks and showing your gratitude goes a long way!
Love Up On Your Team Captains
People who participate in an event as a part of a team have a higher tendency to return. Some events, like the AIDS Walk New York, have super-strong team programs. The same teams return year after year bringing their dedicated team members along with.
Your team captains are your best allies in getting their team members coming back year after year. Identify and communicate with your team captains as if they were the most critical aspect of your event (the reality is that they are)–
- Plan meetings for team captains – webinars are a low-cost way to do this, and easy on everyone’s time.
- Provide your captains with plenty of tips and “how-to” documents on managing a vibrant team, and getting last year’s participants to join up once again.
- Create email templates for your captains to use in recruiting team members.
- Have a team captain dinner before the event – the location for the dinner can be donated – and shower them with inspiration and tips about getting their team organized and helping team members fundraise
- Next year, be sure to reach out first to your team captains. Make them a cornerstone of your recruitment efforts.
What would you add?
So there you have it. 1) Experience, 2) Communication and 3) Team captains. 3 key elements to wowing event participants. What else have you seen work well? What has “WOWed” YOU?
Kathryn Hall is an internet solutions consultant at Blackbaud. She’ll be co-facilitating a session at the Blackbaud User Conference called “Integrated Marketing Plans for Special Events” with Donna Wilkins of Charity Dynamics. Join them to gain many ideas on intensifying fundraising to get more money out of your existing events program.