The Classics Never go out of Style: More from the Chicago P2P Roundtable | npENGAGE

The Classics Never go out of Style: More from the Chicago P2P Roundtable

By on Jun 22, 2012


Somethings never go out of style like the LBD “little black dress,” pearls, and a fab pair of sunglasses.  For the gents a suit is the ultimate classic look. No matter the decade or the current wacky trend; one things for sure  you can’t go wrong with the LBD or a suit. Like fashion, fundraising has a few classics of its own that never go out of style.  Guest Blogger Kathryn Hall has a few thoughts on this subject.  Take it away Kathryn!

A few weeks ago Guest blogger Nancy Palo shared her take away from the Run Walk Ride Event Fundraising Roundtable [defunct link removed] in Chicago. The consensus of the group was that “the next big thing” is independent fundraising events.

I’d like to share a quirky subplot that David Hessekiel, President of the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council, introduced to the roundtable discussion:  What if “the next big thing” is really not new at all? What if it’s “what has always worked” and remembering the basics?

In the last few years much of our focus in the peer to peer fundraising space has been on securing effective means of electronic mass communications, providing the best high volume online fundraising systems to participants and pioneering the latest social media capabilities. This new fundraising landscape has given rise to challenges: Low retention rates, increasing competition from a growing number of P2P fundraising events and the need to differentiate / stand out.

What if in our excitement to take things online and do more with electronic communications, we’re getting away from “old fashioned” fundraising fundamentals? Talking to people and making personal connections has always worked. There’s a good chance revisiting the value of the human element can help your program.

A few suggestions from the group:

  • Send hand written notes. Highly “personalized” communication via segmented email can only go so far. A hand written thank you note has big impact in this day when most personal communication happens by email and text message. Encourage your fundraisers and team captains to use snail mail creatively as well.
  • Ask for support in person. As the volume of electronic asks from kids, relatives, friends and coworkers goes up, they get easier to ignore. When you or your fundraiser make a personal (in person/on the phone) ask, it stands out. Encourage participants to ask for gifts in person, not rely completely on technological gimmicks. Church World Service shared their homespun series of Crop Hunger Walk “Crop Vids” that, among other things, address people’s fear of asking for money with a light, humorous tone.
  • Talk to your team captains; cultivate the relationship. If your research shows that returning teams raise 50% more than new ones, go after the team captains personally. Ask them to come back in person rather than relying on electronic communications about the new season’s event.
  • Have staffers go to the events and meet people. This lets supporters know there’s a human person behind the email address and name. Laurel Rosenthal, Manager of Online Fundraising at the ALS Association shared that while this approach is expensive, the investment paid valuable dividends in terms of increased retention rates.
  • Shake things up a bit. The reliable kick-off meeting is indispensable, but is the format getting a bit stale? Lindsay Avner, Founder and CEO of Bright Pink likes to keep meetings interesting. Her groups hold sampler events, trying out new locations and themes: wine and cheese, martinis, cupcakes, and similar.
  • Collect feedback through participant surveys. Jeff Shuck of Event 360 spoke of the importance of surveying not just those who attend, but those who do not return to the event, “Find out who didn’t come back. Many, many will say they had a conflict in their calendar. This means you didn’t communicate your mission powerfully enough to get them to prioritize your event over something else.” – Amy’s guest blogger Jennifer Ashbaugh offered more suggestions for post event surveys [defunct link removed] in a recent post.

Do you have some “old fashioned” fundraising fundamentals that are vital to your event fundraising? Please share!


Kathryn Hall began developing web-based applications in 1996, and in this capacity has worked with leading nonprofits as well as Fortune 500 ecommerce and telecommunications companies. As a web producer, consultant and customer success manager at Blackbaud, she has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, from international charities to local organizations, helping them optimize their use of software, analyze performance, and deploy best practice strategies. When not working, Kathryn enjoys climbing tall buildings, bicycling the Midwest, and traveling the world, with a special emphasis on South Africa. You can reach her on Twitter @KathrynHall.

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