Fundraising events seen as challenge

Retaining participants in fundraising events is tough and requires long-term engagement and cultivation, while getting people to participate and raise money through events requires effective communication, two new reports say.

Six national nonprofits taking part in a “benchmarking” meeting on peer-to-peer fundraising events retain only 25 percent of their participants from year to year, says the first report from Blackbaud.

To boost participation in events, nonprofits need “to move away from the current transactional event process and focus on long-term engagement and cultivation,” the benchmarking report says. “Event communication plans should be ongoing, never ending.”

The second report, based on an online survey of 1,390 participants, or “consumers,” in peer-to-peer fundraising events, found participants see event participation and fundraising as separate tasks, driven by different motivations.

To “empower” participants, it says, nonprofits need to “make sure you are communicating the right message.”

Strategies for recruiting individuals to participate in an event “differ based on the event,” says the benchmarking report, which is based on data from three years of events from 10 national event programs.

But once an individual has signed up and decide to help raise money, it says, “the type of event does not define their ability to fundraise.”

It also says an individual participating in an event without a “fundraising minimum” is equally as effective as one participating in an event with a fundraising minimum.

The report says leaders of fundraising teams at events are the most effective fundraisers, raising nearly three times the total raised by an individual participant or team member.

While team members account for most people participating in the event, outnumbering individual participants three to one, the report says, both groups are equally effective fundraisers.

People who participate in fundraising at events in multiple years are twice as effective at fundraising as are first-time fundraising participants, while people who serve as team captains in multiple years are three times more effective at raising money than first-time captains.

And participants who donate and raise money are the most effective fundraisers, the report says.

On average, it says, organizations “do a better job retaining team leaders who tend to be their most engaged and loyal participants.

The greatest opportunity to increase revenue, it says, “lies in retaining more participants from one year to the next, as multi-year participants are more effective fundraisers than new participants.”

The report based on the consumer survey says 49 percent of respondents were asked by a friend or family member to participate in an event.

Participation “is about personal connection,” it says, with “connections to the cause or to an individual” remaining the two key factors for participation.

Forty-four percent of fundraising participants said they were asked to raise money when they were recruited by a friend of family member to participate.

But only 24 percent said the organization made it clear they were supposed to raise money.

“Organizations consider walks, runs and rides fundraising events,” the report says, “but there seems to be a disconnect between how organizations view these events and how they‘re marketed to the public.”

Among fundraising participants surveyed, 26 percent did not have a goal, while 80 percent of respondents who set a goal raised exactly as much as their goal or more, with over half of them raising more than their goal.

And forty-seven percent of respondents said they did not raise money because they were not asked, while 45 percent do not raise money for events without a fundraising minimum.

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