In its 23rd year AIDS Arms LifeWalk has become a way of life for many of the participants and teams who return to fundraise and make it their mission to raise the bar in their fundraising year after year.
“Lifewalk is part of the social fabric of the GLBT community here in Dallas,” Tori Hobbs AIDS Arms Director of Development said. “The teams have been so long standing it has also become their social group. They love getting together, they have a lot of fun and they love that they can make difference to a cause.”
How do they continue to foster the team pride and sense of community their participants bring each year? For the most part, LifeWalk offers superior customer service to their fundraising participants.
“One of the big things we did this year and last year is just letting people know what we can do to make their job easier,” Hannah Orsburn, AIDS Arms Development Associate said. “We try to think outside the box and not make that number unattainable.”
LifeWalk event coordinators let their participants know they are there to assist however they canby offering a number of services: they can make a flier for participants, help promote independent team events, give items for team captains to distribute at mini-fundraising events, provide assistance with the participant’s fundraising page, help get team members registered if team captains are having issues, and they have portable credit card machines for independent team events.
“I hope the efforts we make for the event make it more enjoyable and make it easier to fundraise,” Tori said. “We let our participants know that we are just the facilitators of this event. It is your event and you tell us what you want to do and we will try to make it happen. That’s key.”
LifeWalk has become one big family for the many participants and team captains making the event an outlier itself, and with that the LifeWalk event staff has some proud metrics: a 50% participant retention rate and a continuing increase in funds raised each year.
Tori and Hannah shared some of the secrets to their success:
- Be BIG with Thank You’s!
In addition to hosting a huge event wrap up party for all participants to attend, every team captain receives a hand written thank you note share with their team. Staff also follow up with all participants and team captains to let them know the total amount raised so this information can be shared and celebrated with the team members. This personal outreach helps AIDS Arms show they truly value all the hard work their participants put in to meeting the LifeWalk fundraising goal.
- Make it a Year-Long Event
While the event isn’t until October, participants are chomping at the bit to register by January 1, so AIDS Arms staff looks at LifeWalk as a year-long event and work to make sure that they stretch out the entertainment and excitement throughout the year to keep the momentum going.
- Spreading the Word
Lifewalk offers a strong communication plan throughout the year to get the word out to current and past participants through email and social media avenues like Facebook and Twitter. Emails and social media posts are scheduled 60, 45, 30 and 15 days before the event. The messaging offers fundraising tools and tips, current fundraising successes and gets participants excited for the event itself.
- Kick Off Event Six Months in Advance
In May all teams are invited to attend a kickoff party which includes a silent auction. Any money participants spend that evening on individual auction items is credited toward the participant or team’s goal. So fundraising begins the night of the kickoff.
A few weeks after the event kickoff, LifeWalk invites all participants to a training session providing a strong Q&A panel representing all the different types of fundraisers available: individual fundraiser, a new team that performed well last year, a corporate team, and a small business team. In addition to the information the panel provides, LifeWalk committee members offer a fundraising tips and tools packet, a list of LifeWalk friendly venues to hold team events, and a walk-through of the website to show off all the different fundraising tools.They also provide an opportunity for people to register, if they haven’t done so already.
- Ongoing Support for Team Fundraisers
All LifeWalk teams fundraise throughout the year not only online, but also by organizing their own mini-events. Team captains communicate their individual fundraising events through the year to the LifeWalk event committee allowing the organization to post those to a team event page along with any event fliers on the fundraising website. Additionally, a calendar is available on the LifeWalk site showing all community events so teams won’t schedule an event on top of another major event in the community. LifeWalk also has Team Development sub-committee which focuses on solely on team fundraising. They make phone calls to let the past teams know who they are, let them know the website is up and running and to offer assistance throughout the year.
- Volunteer Support is Key
LifeWalk has a long-standing volunteer steering committee, some of whom have been volunteering for over a decade and more. The Steering Committee is headed by two Co-Chairs, who each serve for two years. Members recruit teams, secure silent auction items, have their own teams, promote LifeWalk at community fairs and events, attend team events, pass out collateral, solicit sponsors and sign-up vendors. Additionally, they provide personalized support to all Team Captains, as well as designing and running the Team Training, and manage the day of event activities (setting up the park and route, managing volunteers, running the dog adoption and children’s areas, etc.)
- Invite Corporate Sponsors to Participate and Fundraise
Corporate Sponsors can elect to form a fundraising group where their employees can form teams. This provides a great way to highlight not only the sponsor and but also get their employees involved in the community event. To assist the participating companies, Tori and Hannah individually go to each company to help employees to sign up for the walk and get started fundraising.
While the LifeWalk events team go above and beyond to serve their participant’s needs throughout the year, Tori and Hannah feel that having fun with the event is important too.
“If you make it a fun, enjoyable time and have people take ownership then it will make the event less about fundraising, but the money will come in anyway,” Tori said. “In our case, more money has come in as a result.”
Get started gearing up your event for an optimum fundraising experience also by reviewing some of my colleagues posts:
Deepa Karani discusses Coaching Your First-Time Fundraiser’s Toward Success
Nancy Palo considers your donor’s perpective in her recent post Is Your Fundraising Event Donor Friendly?
Kathryn Hall shows you how to measure your results in How to Get Started Using Event Metrics for Fundraising Success