Do you ever think about acceptable loss? | npENGAGE

Do you ever think about acceptable loss?

By on Jul 20, 2011


The other day I watched the movie, Extraordinary Measures with Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford.  If you haven’t seen it, here’s the skinny.  Brendan Fraser plays a dad who’s trying to find a cure for a rare disease called Pompe, which two of his three kids have.  Fraser the business man and Ford the scientist are working together on a new drug for kids with Pompe. There’s a scene in the movie where Fraser’s talking to a drug company about Ford’s research and drug theory.  A man from the drug company ask Fraser “What’s your acceptable loss?” A struggling Fraser answers “75%.”  Meaning that in order for the drug to be profitable it will only work for 25% of kids with Pompe.

There were many valuable lessons in Extraordinary Measures, but the comment about acceptable loss stuck with me.  It got me thinking.  With events, especially one’s without a reg fee or fundraising minimum one of the biggest challenges is zero dollar walkers.  We’re always trying to convert zero dollar walkers into active participants.  But, with all this effort zero dollar walkers still make up a large portion of your event population.

Data gathered from our donorCentrics events benchmarking group, show zero dollar participants represent 36%-41% of the event population.  It’s interesting to note that the larger the event the more zero dollar participants.  So here’s my question, despite all our best efforts zero dollar participants do not seem to be going anywhere – what’s your acceptable loss for zero dollar participants?  Are you good with 40% or would 30% be acceptable?

I ask this because, I believe that we can move the needle and reduce the number of zero dollar participants.  But, I don’t think we’ll hit the 100% mark. Here’s my advice and please share yours.  When creating your event plan look at the current number of zero dollar participants, then think about a the tactics you’ll use to get folks fundraising and finally give yourself a realistic goal.  Maybe your goal will be to reduce zero dollars participants by 5%.  It’s okay to have them, you just want to have more active fundraisers than zero dollar fundraisers.

Got an idea or tactic to reduce the number of zero dollar participants?  If so please share.

Here’s my latest idea.  Instead of sending the last minute message “you’ve raised $0, but with a week to go you still have time to fundraise.”  Or, sending the post event ask “thanks for walking, but there’s still time for you to help us reach our goal.”  Try this.  Create a zero dollar walker campaign and factor this campaign into your event plan.  Three weeks before your event begin communicating to zero dollar participants.  Instead of asking them to donate $25 to themselves or  raise $100 ask them to send 5 emails.  Give them easy tasks to do that will result in donations.  If you can’t tell from my last post, I’m really into task based fundraising.  Events are all about engaging with participants, so let’s focus on engagement, which will result in donations.

What do you think?  What’s you’re acceptable loss?  What tactics are you using to turn zeros into heros.



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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