Rally More Support for Your Cause: 3 Simple Ways to Add New Event Participants | npENGAGE

Rally More Support for Your Cause: 3 Simple Ways to Add New Event Participants

By on Jun 22, 2011


Friends Asking Friends - Social Fundraising by Blackbaud

As the busy summer event season continues, eventually your boss or committee will ask, “How can we increase participation next year?” It’s a pretty common goal for most organizations who run fundraising events.

Add more registrants and you’ll likely improve your fundraising total – logic tells us.

But getting more people to register and attend your event is harder than it looks (I know all you seasoned event fundraising professionals are shaking your heads in agreement right now).

That said, let’s look at three effective strategies for growing participation. I think you’ll find some useful stuff here. And by all means, please share your secrets in the comments below.

1. Focus on team captains

A recent survey of six national nonprofits found multi-year team captains raise two to three times more than new team captains and retain about 86 percent of their prior year’s revenue.

Team captains are the lifeblood of fundraising events. If you want increase participation, grow your teams by providing resources, managing and cultivating your team captains.

Providing Resources

Chances are, being a team captain is one many “priorities” in someone’s life. Make it easy for them by providing samples of everything they’ll need. And I mean everything.

Sample tweets, emails, Facebook posts, employee memos, phone scripts, communication plans, and anything else they’ll need to inspire and manage their team.

Make your website a resource they can simply “copy and paste” from whenever the need to communicate with their team. Provide tips, ideas and lots of examples from successful teams.


Contact team captains regularly with recommended actions to take on a particular day. Include a sample script of what to say to team members.

For example, if early-bird registration is closing, email team captains a sample message they can forward that alerts team members of a fee increase and encourages them to find new team members.


Nowadays, teams can raise over $100,000 annually. So, how do you thank team captains who deliver so many new donations and participants to your front door?

Hopefully, you have a team captain cultivation plan. If not, create one next year. Borrow cultivation ideas from your major gift officers, if needed.

For example, waive registration fees, arrange lunches with senior staff, offer facility tours, and make thank you phone calls. Most importantly, make them feel appreciated.

2. Encourage everyone to start or join a team

Being part of a team is simply more fun than participating alone.

Teams provide a sense of camaraderie missing from individual participation. Event fundraising website tools like Friends Asking Friends let you see who is on your team and how much each person has raised.

Teams may also ignite friendly competition or just a feeling that I need to “do my part” to help the team.

In a time when it’s easier to connect with friends online than in-person, teams bring people together at a specific date and time. It’s a chance to see everyone and perhaps meet new people. For those job-searching, teams may provide new networking opportunities.

Role of Nonprofits

Nonprofits need to do their part, though, to make teams fun. Encourage teams to setup tents at your event. Create team-specific communications and contests. Award team prizes for the largest team, best t-shirt, most money raised, best costumes, and other offbeat ideas.

You may also want to give separate prizes for corporate teams, an important audience for increasing participation. Though a company may not be able to sponsor your event, they may be able to provide a team.

Promote teams as a great employee team-building activity that highlights a company’s social responsibility. After all, how many times have you seen trophies prominently displayed in corporate offices?

3. Promote your cause, then the activity

People can go for a walk, ride a bike or run 5K whenever they want.

What’s going to motivate them pay a registration, give up part of their weekend and ask friends for money? Your cause. Actually, it’s how compelling your cause is.

Do your event materials focus primarily on crowds of people walking or riding a bike? Does website content contain general, clichéd phrases like “make a difference” and “those in need?”

Make the event about your cause, first and foremost

Promote your cause before you highlight the run/walk/ride aspect of your event. Be very specific about how money will be used and who will be helped.  Check out Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure, as an example.

If needed, consult your marketing team, or an agency, and create compelling communications that move people to participate.

As much as you want to increase participation, you want to grow the right way.

Would you rather add 500 new participants who raise the minimum, collect their t-shirt, eat your food and go home?

Or, 250 new participants who are inspired to fundraise and may eventually turn into volunteers or donors? In the process, you might even inspire repeat participants to fundraise a little more.

OK, now that you’ve heard my 3 big tips it’s time to share yours with the readers here. Leave a comment.

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Mike Snusz brings 18 years of fundraising experience to his role as a Senior Team Lead on Blackbaud’s Professional Services team. He leads a team of digital consultants and works with nonprofits to improve their digital fundraising, monthly giving, email marketing and peer-to-peer fundraising programs. Prior to Blackbaud, Mike managed the turnaround of the Ride For Roswell from 2003 to 2005 in his hometown of Buffalo, NY. When he’s not contemplating fundraising, Mike enjoys hide and seek, tag, and dance parties with his two kids.

Comments (3)

  • These are great suggestions! Part of our strategy for next fiscal year (beginning July 1), is to better promote the formation of teams individuals and corporate employees, for our Kintera thon events. This will also include tools for captains, quite identical to the examples given above.

    I would love to hear from anyone who has successful examples of teams.

    • Mike Snusz says:

      Allison, it’s great to hear your plans for 2011! Remember, your event doesn’t have to be everything to everyone. Focus on the right groups – team captains, top fundraisers, those who raised above the minimum – and your event will grow.

      One thing I didn’t mention was to survey your team captains. Find out what they want/need and deliver it next year, if possible. You’ll get some new ideas and it’ll help captains really feel part of the event. Thanks for commenting!

      What other advice does everyone have?

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