Holy guacamole, is it mid-August already? You bet it is, and you know what that means… THON season! Not sure what a THON is? Think: marathons, jog-a-thons, walk-a-thons, run-a-thons, tri-athalons, climb-a-thons, jump-a-thons, bounce-a-thons, swim-a-thons. Yep. Thons.
The bulk of nonprofit thon events occur from September through November each year, which means there is a LOT of competition out there if you host a fundraising event in the upcoming months. For those of you responsible for managing a fall thon event, I thought it might be an appropriate time to remind you about a few best practices to help boost your event’s registration and fundraising results.
1. PERSONALITY – Give your event a face and a voice. Recruit a volunteer (or set of volunteers) who embodies your mission and ask them to share their voice and their story in your e-mail communications and/or tweet throughout the season on your behalf – it will help remind people what your event is all about, and where their dollars are going.
2. GOALS & METRICS – Last year seems like an eternity ago, I know, but take an hour to go back, run reports and review how you did last year. Then work forward into your goals for this year’s event. A few very important metrics to watch/goals to set:
– Number of Participants
– Amount Raised
– Number/Percent of Team Participants (teams consistently out-fundraise individuals)
– Number/Percent of Participants who Raise Money
– Average Gift Amount
– Average Amount Raised per Fundraiser
Keep an eye on these metrics each week, so you can correct your communications and tactics as needed. Are teams down? Host a team contest – whoever recruits the most members by the end of the week wins a prize! Is fundraising slow to pick up? Promote a drawing – everyone who raises over $100 by the end of the month will be entered to win. Be sure to watch your trends and respond as appropriate.
3. CONTENT – Make it easy for participants to understand that you’d like them to begin fundraising on behalf of your event, and how to start fundraising.
Wherever your participants land once they’ve registered online, add a big button that says “Start Fundraising Now!” that takes them right to their Participant Center.
On your Participant Center Homepage, give your users 1 – 2 – 3 instructions on setting up their personal page and sending out e-mails.
Be sure you have provided your participants with stock personal page content and several fundraising e-mail templates they can work from.
Don’t forget to add a link back to the Participant Center in each of your autoresponders and coaching e-mails.
4. LOGINS – Oh the logins. Every online registration and fundraising system provides the user with a “login” that they use to access their online fundraising tools and monitor their progress. As volunteer for a local race, I know how many calls you get about people who don’t remember their login information from last year. My recommendation is to include username and password in every single coaching e-mail and autpresponder you send – you can even add it to the stationery. This should cut down on the number of frustrated calls you receive, although you’ll still get an irate call from at least one person who uses the same password for your site as they do for their online banking site or the vault that houses the next generation iPhone. It’s not your fault. Really. Tell them to log in and change their password immediately (just be sure you can direct them to where they can update their password).
5. COACHING – Before your event launches, you should make sure to define all of the different audiences you will want to communicate with about the event, so you can use these groups as the audience for each e-mail you send. At the very least, you should have audience groups for:
– Team Captains
If you’re ready for the next step, you should consider:
– Past Participants
And if you’re an expert, you’ll likely have more groups, including:
– Past participants not yet registered
– Past fundraisers not yet fundraising
– Participants who have not made a self-donation
– Fundraisers over $X (whatever your goal or minimum is)
– Fundraisers under $X (whatever your goal or minimum is)
Each of these groups should receive different messages from you, based on the next action you’d like them to take. Take a moment and chart out your communication plan for each audience.
That should get you started as we head into the fall THON-a-thon season. I wish you the best of luck… see you on the other side!
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