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Challenges and Benefits of Nonprofit Event Fundraising

Spring is here and so is the event fundraising season! Events that raise money for causes and nonprofits can take many forms from 5k runs and walk-a-thons to endurance bike rides. In recent years, nonprofits have expanded these activities to include mud runs, polar plunges, even head-shaving! But just like any large undertaking, planning a fundraising event has its benefits and challenges. They can bring in a lot of revenue for the organization, but can also put tremendous strain on a nonprofit’s resources. The operations and logistics can test your organization’s limits; however, the reward can certainly outweigh the risk if executed correctly.

One of the main challenges of putting on a fundraising event is the sheer effort and coordination that goes into the planning and execution. Nonprofits that are considering planning an event should start with a committee. This committee should be made up of internal personnel, as well as volunteers from your local community. Your organization needs to carefully plan who will run key aspects of the event. Assign small groups to be in charge of marketing, operations, logistics and other critical aspects of the experience.

Personnel are obviously an important piece, but so is budget. Make sure to set goals and objectives for your investment. To get a good sense of numbers, seek out organizations of comparable size that have hosted similar events and ask them. Corporate sponsorships are also critical to pulling off a successful event. They can obviously provide capital resources, but do not overlook the possibility of in-kind donations for crucial components of the operations - corporate volunteers or prizes to incentivize participation.

The benefits are somewhat obvious, but let’s just review for the uninitiated. The most evident benefit of event fundraising (and why frankly, so many organizations invest in them) is the huge potential to raise a lot of money during a set period of time. To get an idea of just how much is raised by the top organizations, we’ve put together this infographic of the top 10 single largest nonprofit fundraising events. These 10 events raised, in aggregate, over $138m in 2013!

Download this info graphic here: http://bit.ly/Top10FundraisingEvents

One of the other big benefits to organizing a fundraising event is brand awareness. This awareness is actually two-fold. First is the online reach. The participants who fundraise will be sharing your event and brand far and wide. Fundraisers will send out emails with your logo and messaging to thousands of friends, families and colleagues. To illustrate, let’s say the average individual has 100 contacts in their address book and about 300 friends on Facebook. Now, if you have 100 fundraisers that each sends out one email and one Facebook update, that’s over 35,000 people your nonprofit brand is exposed to (assuming 50 contacts overlap between email and Facebook).

The second type of brand awareness is at the local level. Organizing an event gives you much deeper roots in your community. Local volunteers and participants will interact with your staff and board in a way that you’d never be able to replicate sitting in the office or at a standard, programmed event. Operating an event is dynamic. The fluid nature of the logistics will force individuals to collaborate and work together in many different ways. Lastly, it can be a TON OF FUN!

There are a number of resources and conferences for nonprofit event fundraising. The Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum (formerly the RunWalkRide Conference) held their yearly conference last month. It is a State of the State for the event fundraising industry. Each year the P2P Forum compiles and publishes data and insights from previous years’ nonprofit events. This conference is a must for anyone who is running a fundraising event or looking to start one. Panels and breakout sessions include best practices on recruiting fundraisers, event sponsorship sales and analytics. They also have a pretty comprehensive resource section on their website.

Underestimating the challenges that event fundraising presents to an organization would be a mistake. However, if done correctly, the money, brand awareness and sheer enjoyment that a fundraising event can provide to staff, volunteers and participants can completely change the dynamics of a nonprofit for the better.

Joe Magee The preceding is a guest post by Joe Magee, vice president of marketing for RallyBound, which provides social fundraising software to nonprofits. He has helped organizations such as TED, Kaiser Permanente, and AOL implement digital initiatives aimed at solving problems and making an impact.
Topics: Fundraising
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