Is it time to take our events back? Part II | npENGAGE

Is it time to take our events back? Part II

By on Apr 4, 2014


A few weeks ago, I asked if it’s time for us to take our events back from the on slot of popular for-profit cool events. I think it’s time, but the  question remained how do you compete the marketing budgets of these cool events?  My answer was brief, you can’t.  So what are non-profits to do?  I’ve got a few ideas for you.

The Event Experience

Over the last few years, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the event experience – and that we need to create an amazing event day experience for our participants. Our event day experience must be memorable so they’ll participate again next year.  A few weeks ago, my colleague Jennifer Peters wrote about her experience at Whole Foods and why she’s willing to pay almost 8 cents more for conventional bananas at Whole Foods vs. going to a conventional grocery store.  I have to agree with her, going to Whole Foods is more than an experience it’s a culture.

This is what we need to create with our events.  We need to go beyond creating an event experience; we need to create an event culture – we also need to create a fundraising culture.  What’s the difference between a culture vs. an experience?  I can’t think of a better example that than Disney World.

The Boss Has Ears

There are people out there that love all things Disney; I have a few friends that take yearly pilgrimages to Disney.  While I’m not one of these folks, after visiting Disney World for the first time last year to run the Disney Princess ½ Marathon I can say that Disney has built a culture, not a mere experience.  I noticed this immediately upon checking into the hotel.  Everyone refers to Mickey Mouse as their boss – it was a little odd at first, but I get it now.

disney bibThe highlight of trip and epitome of the Disney culture is when I finished the race.  It was hot, very hot and I was tried and sweaty then all of a sudden like Prince Charming from a movie someone said to me “Princess Amy right this way.”  What?? How the heck did he know my name? Did he just call me Princess Amy?  It totally brought me out of my post race daze.  I then realized that my race bib had Princess Amy printed on it.  I’m not sure if he was a Disney staffer or volunteer but I’m sure the race organizers trained everyone to call runners by name and title.  That’s the Disney way.  They pay attention to the smallest details – and their execution is flawless.  It was the total opposite of my cool event experience.

That’s culture.  No detail is overlooked to make someone feel special and represent the brand. I’ve completed several races, but I’ve only kept my Disney Princess bib.  How can you take your event experience to the next level and create an event and fundraising culture?

Signage is important

Let’s start with signage. You can make a huge impact with signage – and go beyond the typical billboard, sponsor banner and route makers to help you build your culture. Last October several of my friends ran the Nike Women’s Marathon and they took some amazing pictures.   Nike did a great job with their signage, but you don’t need a Nike size budget to make this happen.



I love this billboard!  It’s simple, yet it makes an impact.  If you’re using billboard to promote your event, think about your message.  Keep it simple.  When you’re driving in a car or walking down the street you have very little time to read a ton of content on a billboard.  I see tons of billboard promoting events and they’re often full of so much content that they become unreadable. Keep it simple, to the point and make a statement!


just do it



Who doesn’t love a temporary tattoo?  I know this may seem a little old school, but create some stickers or temporary tattoo for your participants. Everyone loves them and they’re fun.  Just do it!




stela and name

Events usually have a sponsor banner, how about a top fundraiser banner?  Or a banner that lists all fundraisers?  You could list them dollar amount – Kudos to everyone who raised $100 and list the names, Congrats to our fundraising stars $101- $500, Big thanks to our rocks stars $501- $1000.  Get creative and develop something special for individuals who raise $1000 or more.  There were a lot of people that participated in Nike Women’s Half – and runners found their name.



tweet board

Get Social!

We are tweeters, instagramers, facebook posters we do it all.  Our participants are doing it all and they’re doing it at our events.   Do we have budgets for screens like Nike’s probably not, but the concept is great. Let’s come up with a more economic way to execute this fun idea. Get a wifi connect, a projector and screen and show off your social-verse.  I was at Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation on Monday and they did this.  It was very cool!


reason1reason 8

Everyone has route markers, but similar to billboard make them say something – short, sweet and meaningful.  Make them big!  Make them a sponsorship opportunity – sell large individual route markers to potential sponsors.  Sponsors love to “own” something at the event and be the only logo on a sign. By making this a sponsorship opportunity you can offset the cost of large banners.


I hope I’ve given some ideas to think about.  My final thought for the day, sign up for these “cool” events in your area – attend them.  Learn from them and then do it better.  You don’t need Disney or Nike size budgets to create a fundraising culture for your peer to peer fundraising program – all you need is a little creativity and a willingness to try new things.  You have loyal and dedicated supporters that’s all you need to create a culture.

More Nonprofit Fundraising Tips

Got plans on April 16th?  No, join me and my friend Nancy Palo as we discuss the latest findings and trends from our Peer to Peer fundraising study.  Trust me, it will be fun and educational.  Sign up today!

Special thanks for my friends for letting me share their fabulous pictures in my post!  #urthebest


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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