The following is a guest post by our friends at Event 360, which provides fundraising consulting, technology and event production services for nonprofits. Whether you need to improve an existing event fundraising program or create an entirely new mission experience, their event fundraising professionals can help.
Are you reluctant to approach your special event volunteers about fundraising? Do you attend the school of thought that volunteers donate their time (not money) and that asking them to fundraise is too much? If so, your organization is missing out on a significant revenue opportunity. An opportunity that the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure series of events chose not to miss.
In 2009, the Komen 3-Day for the Cure all-volunteer crew raised over $1.2 million for a world without breast cancer. Over 5,400 active crew members contributed to that number, but imagine if Komen hadn’t asked these volunteers to fundraise in the first place?
The fundamental key to volunteer fundraising is that you have to ask. For many organizations, this means letting go of your apprehension and simply asking your event volunteers to fundraise. To do this, you need to provide specific instructions to your volunteers to help turn them into successful fundraisers.
For example, instead of asking volunteers to “raise money,” ask “Will you ask ten of your friends to donate to you?” This also means that volunteers need to be equipped with training and tools to improve their skill in asking others for support on your behalf. And technology can help—most event fundraising software typically provides a participant center with tools that make this easier.
There are several additional ways to engage and encourage fundraising, including:
- Bring It Back to the Cause – Many volunteers are involved in an organization because they have a connection to the cause. When asking them to fundraise, give them the facts about how their dollars will contribute to the goals of the organization. When volunteers are armed with the facts, it is easier for them to explain to their potential donors how their contribution will truly make a difference.
- Let the Peers Model the Way – Engage your captains and team leaders first and ask them to begin fundraising and be advocates for their teams’ fundraising efforts. Once a volunteer sees that their leader can do it, they’ll be more apt to start themselves. There is great strength in peer leadership – encourage it!
- Get Competitive – Everyone can be at least a little bit competitive by nature. Leverage that. Share the results of individual and team fundraising efforts with the entire volunteer base. There’s nothing like a little bit of acknowledgement and encouragement to beat that highest fundraiser! You’d be surprised at how a little competition can go a long way.
- Give Them the Tools – Do you have a Facebook widget or are you setting up other participants in your organization with personal fundraising pages? Well, share those with your volunteers, too! The more tools you can provide to the volunteers, the easier it will be for them to engage and be successful in their fundraising efforts.
- Make a Well-Articulated “Ask” – Create an “ask” that is specific, concise, tailored to a defined outcome, and hard to refuse! On one recent project we were able to significantly increase the number of emails that volunteers sent to their donors simply by making sure we asked the right question.
- Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your New Volunteers — During an event your volunteers serve as your voice, your reach, and are essential in accomplishing your goals and mission. Create a formal onboarding program for your volunteers and give them the same care you would a new staff member.
Take a little time to think and plan for how you can engage your volunteers and how they, too, can become some of your best fundraisers. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how these steps can go a long way.
For more tips on converting event volunteers into fundraisers, visit the Event Fundraising Blog at www.event360.com/blog.
Sarah Coniglio has been working in the event fundraising industry for over 10 years and specializes in volunteer operations and event production. She’s currently the Director of Production at Event 360 where she oversees the planning and volunteer operations for the Susan G Komen 3-Day for the Cure event series in 15 cities across the country.