A Tale of Two Springs: 5 Questions and Ideas for Creating an Early Bird Promotion | npENGAGE

A Tale of Two Springs: 5 Questions and Ideas for Creating an Early Bird Promotion

By on Apr 20, 2011


In Washington, DC cherry blossoms signal spring is here, which for many of you means it’s time to get those early birds signed up for your fall events. For others the delicate flowering trees are a reminder that your events are right around the corner.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when creating early bird promotion and/or initiating a fundraising activity.

1. Who are your early birds and why should I be thinking of them?

When I think of early birds, I immediately think past participants – both team captains and individual past participants. Early bird promotions rally past participants to sign up and become engaged at the beginning of the event cycle. Why get someone involved early?

  • It allows more time for fundraising and team member recruitment
  • More time means teams can plan wrap-around events i.e. bake sales, restaurant nights, house parties, etc… These events have a dual purpose: build team spirit and raise funds.

You might be wondering why I mentioned individual past participants –individuals who participated in previous years, but were not on a team.  This group is a team gold mine.  Indentify individual participants who raised more than $200 and invite them to become team captains. It may sound silly to invite someone to become a team captain, but it really works – people need to be asked and feel that their participation is crucial to making your event a success.

2. What tactics can you use to get them back?

Now that you’ve identified your target audience, how are you going to get the word out about your promotion? Take a holistic approach to your communication plan; don’t rely on only one communication channel.  From a recent peer-to-peer fundraising consumer survey, we learned that the most successful event participants are multi-channel fundraisers. They’re sending emails, making phone calls, using social media, mailing letters, and talking to people in person to support their fundraising effort. Be sure to take this same multi-channel approach when creating your past participant recruitment plan.

Here’s a twist on standard mail piece: Instead of sending a letter or brochure about the event, how about mailing an invitation instead? Your invite doesn’t have to be formal, but it will have a better chance of getting noticed and opened.

3. What’s your goal?

If you’re not setting goals for each of your event activities, you should start. We ask participants to set fundraising goals and we should do the same when it comes to creating promotions. Be sure to set realistic goals. A starting point for goal-setting is to run a report to find out the number of teams who signed up within the first few months your event was live last year; take that number and increase it by your overall event growth percentage. Consider adding a stretch goal, too. Meeting goals is great, but exceeding them is even more fun!

4. How will you measure success?

After you’ve set your goals, how will you measure success? Is success meeting or exceeding your early bird registration goal? Or, will you measure success by looking at your overall team captain retention rate? According to our events benchmarking group, on average organizations are retaining about 40% of their team captains. Are you on par with this group? In not, an early bird promotion could be what you need to jump start your recruitment activities and increase your retention rate.

Thinking about how you will evaluate success is just as important as goal-setting. Take the insights gained from this promotion and apply them to other event activities.

5. Do you have a deadline? Are you offering a prize?

Deadlines and prizes go hand in hand: with any promotion you should always have a deadline. A deadline gives individuals a sense of urgency and a reason to take immediate action, while a prize provides extra motivation and a reward for taking action.

Prizes don’t have to be expensive or tangible objects. For example, team captains tend to be individuals who are highly motivated and dedicated to the cause and your organization. As part of your early bird registration promotion, you could reward the first five team captains to get signed up by putting their story and photo on your event website or in your organization’s newsletter. The key to a great promotion and prize is to make sure your prize fits your target audience. By understanding what drives your target audience to participate, you’re able to offer a prize that will lead to actions.

As I eluded to earlier, for some spring = event season.  If you’re event is almost here, have you considered a quick online fundraising promotion to increase revenue before the big day?

Online fundraising promotions are a great way to increase your event bank account leading up to the main event.  Remember: participant behavior can be influenced at any time.  Just like with the early bird promotion, take a holistic approach to your communication efforts.  Blog about online fundraising contest, send emails, make phone calls, but be consistent with your messaging.  Include a clear call to action.  For example, this week get 3 online donations and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win XX.

Here’s the last tip for event promotions, try using the KISS principle- Keep It Short and Simple. When creating any promotion the key is to K.I.S.S.  Be sure your call to action is clear and easily identifiable.   Stay away from complicated promotions with lots of activities.


Amy Braiterman, principal strategy consultant at Blackbaud, supports customers with their peer-to-peer fundraising events with a process she refers to as “data-driven strategy.” Amy’s data driven strategy analyzes how effective event participants are using online fundraising tools and takes those results to develop an event fundraising plan. Prior to joining Blackbaud, Amy earned her fundraising stripes managing events for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Alzheimer’s Association and Share Our Strength. She shares her fundraising know how here on npENGAGE, by hosting educational webinars and speaking at customer conferences

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