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A Year in the Life of a Fundraiser: Year-round Fundraising for Everybody

The big day is here ... the one you've been working and planning toward all year ... your annual fundraising event. It's a success! Fantastic! Well done! Take a breath. Congratulate your staff and yourself, thank your supporters, and let the celebration dust settle before you start planning for next year.

Large annual fundraising events are standard practice for a reason. They raise a lot of money and get your supporters really involved with you and your organization's community. But they also require a lot of planning, a lot of resources, and a lot of energy (thus one per year). And they don't consider the fact that your supporters are still your supporters during the rest of the year.

I recommend running smaller, more frequent fundraising campaigns parallel to your annual event.

"I'm So Busy, You're Going to Have to Convince Me"

One of the most obvious benefits of frequent or ongoing fundraising campaigns is that more funds are raised. When you have less frequent fundraisers, all too often people who would otherwise donate to your event aren't able to at that time, or they just don't get around to it. Providing sponsorship opportunities without time constraints lets you capture more of your available pool of donors.

Another benefit of ongoing fundraising and events is more frequent engagement with your supporters. You already have a community of people who care strongly about your cause and want to help; providing more opportunities for them to be actively involved can create a deeper sense of community and commitment.

A third benefit is virality. Every time you run a campaign that encourages your supporters to be fundraisers, you create one more time to get your message out to the world, helping to build awareness and bring your cause to the top of people's minds. The more creative and compelling the campaign, the more memorable it will be, and the greater the likelihood that your community will grow as a result.

"How Am I Going to Do This When All of Our Resources Are Tied Up Planning Our Regular Event?"

There are many simple things that you can do to drive fundraising and supporter engagement year-round. Some are highlighted below. Important factors to keep in mind when you're planning additional fundraising campaigns are time, money, and energy. Incorporating an on-line component into your fundraising can make things simpler and less expensive.

"How Do I Get Started?" (Or, "Do You Have Any Suggestions or Examples of Things I Can Do?")

Why, yes! This article is titled "A Year in the Life of a Fundraiser" because it outlines activities that augment your annual event and that you can fit into your yearly calendar. For the purposes of this illustration, let's say your big annual fundraising event is in May, and that your cause's National Awareness Month is in October.

  • The Big One
    Your annual big event could be a walkathon, a bowlathon, a run, or whatever you've found works for you. You organize it and promote it, encouraging your supporters to register for the event and get sponsors to donate. This is a powerful way to bring your community of supporters together and to motivate them to spread the word about what they are doing.

  • Smaller Periodic Campaigns
    It's hot. Send an e-mail to your supporters asking them to set up a virtual lemonade stand in support of your cause. They can ask their friends to make a small donation and drink a glass of lemonade at home; this is a great way to let your community engage their own communities to support you.

    Encourage your supporters to launch their own grassroots fundraising appeal in honor of your National Awareness Month. If they are using an on-line fundraising page, they can easily communicate their passion for your cause and help educate people while they raise contributions. Awareness months are obviously focused on education, but you'll find that people like to take action then, too, and that this activity lets them.

    Remind your supporters that they can ask for donations to your cause in lieu of holiday gifts; the giving spirit really takes over at this time of year, and they may find that their friends are more than happy to make a donation, even if they gave earlier in the year.

Year-round Campaigns

Almost every nonprofit has a "How to Help" section on its Web site for a reason: people want to help, for all kinds of motives. Maybe they have a personal connection with your cause through a family member. Maybe they received help from your organization in some way and want to give back. In any case, you should provide them with a way to become an advocate and raise funds for you. Simply listing an on-line fundraising site as a resource makes it easy for people to garner support for you in honor of their wedding or their birthday, or in memory of or in tribute to a loved one.

In Summary (Or, "What a Great Concept!")

These ideas do not require much time or money, and they involve very little management on your part. The point is to keep things simple and to harness the passion that already exists in your community.

Your supporters will appreciate having a range of opportunities, one of which is bound to fit into their schedule and appeal to their sensibilities, through which they can get actively involved in supporting you. And you'll make the most of your community while engaging them in a deep and meaningful way.

Laurel Ackerman, Firstgiving
© 2007, Laurel Ackerman

Laurel Ackerman is the marketing director for Firstgiving, an on-line fundraising company. Firstgiving opens up on-line fundraising for anybody by running a Web site where people can raise money on-line for any charity, for any reason, at any time. For more information, visit or contact Laurel at
Topics: Fundraising