The seven event fundraising techniques or “best practices” described here emerged from analyzing data and interviewing nonprofit event and development staff.
Our goal: Gain a clearer understanding of what they do to achieve success on a regular basis.
On to the 7 techniques …
Launch the event online at least six months in advance
On average, organizations set up online events about 5.5 months before the event begins.
While about 55% of donations collected online will come the last 20 days before the event, participants need a head start to ensure online adoption and effective use of the tools.
Starting too late tends to result in participants raising an average of 27 percent less online than if they were given six months or more to fundraise.
Extend the online duration of the event
Let the event run online past the event date by about 40 days.
Statistics show that only five percent of total donations come in after the event; however, because the event is over, there is little to no expense associated with these donations.
Don’t forget to shut down registration, and be sure to update the site with appropriate awareness messaging around the event.
Encourage online registration
Participants using online tools tend to raise six times more than those who do not and tend to be more engaged with the event.
Encourage online registration by making the event’s web address prominent in all event materials and communication.
Most events average only 21 percent active online usage by participants. By successfully marketing online registration and providing extensive team captain training and incentives, some organizations have succeeded in getting up to 60 percent of participants actively using online tools for events.
Make it easy for participants to send more emails
Historically, the average event participant sends about 22 emails, with approximately 25% resulting in a donation.
Data also indicates that the average online donation amount is $60.
With email that valuable, it makes sense to do some of the leg work for participants. Providing email templates makes solicitation easier and helps save time – two common concerns of new or volunteer fundraisers. The average event should have at least four email templates: one for the team leader, one for general participants, one for team members, and one donor thank you message.
Focus on customer service
Giving participants a phone number to call if they need help setting up their personal pages can have a significant impact on event success and overall participant satisfaction.
Participants are less likely to give up when they can call and get answers to their questions.
This also helps create a positive experience with the organization that can contribute to an increase in return participants and build organizational affinity. Some organizations actually offer 24-hour customer service in the last 20 days before an event to make sure they can maximize online fundraising.
Just because the event is over doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep in touch.
Immediately following an event is one of the best times to engage participants and work toward building donor retention.
Soliciting feedback is one of the simplest ways to engage event participants after the event, but there are additional methods available. Some organizations launch post-event websites with message boards and community-building tools that encourage participants to interact with one another.
Most importantly, don’t forget the essential “thank you.”
Run your event “year round”
So many things go into running a great event year after year (training your staff, refreshing the website, promoting the event, securing sponsorship, and thanking supporters, just to name a few) that it makes sense to have an annual calendar to make sure each critical activity achieves its full impact and leads into the success of the next.
Considering only the online aspects, here is a simplified example calendar for a late August event:
- November: Debrief last year’s event and design next year’s website.
- December: Build your website.
- January: Send a “save the date” email. Train your event staff regarding what’s new in this year’s website.
- February: Launch your website: it is critical for fundraising to get your website live early!
- March: Promote your event. Focus on reconnecting with people who participated in the past. Recruit team leaders. Find your most committed supporters and build a legion of team leaders who will drive success for your event.
- April: Promote your event, focusing on reaching new supporters. Cultivate team leaders; run education programs to get your team leaders excited about the great things your organization does.
- May: Support team leaders with messaging and specific tactics as they focus on building their teams. Encourage team leaders and participants to personalize their fundraising pages and send out their first wave of fundraising emails, if they have not already.
- June: Extend the reach of your event by having participants add fundraising widgets and badges to their Facebook® profile pages and other web properties, including personal blogs and photo site profiles. Encourage your team leaders and supporters to use a broad approach to communicating about your event: provide them with templates for email, Twitter™, and Facebook® messages.
- July: Narrow the focus to fundraising: send regular updates and celebrate milestones as you progress toward your goals.
- August: Have a great event!
- September: Follow through with post-event fundraising. Thank participants, and remind them to thank their donors.
- October: Send a follow-up report on the event and the impact of the money raised. Cultivate the new relationships; make sure your event supporters are aware of other ways they can participate with your organization.