Event & Community Fundraising

Published by Ellen Janssens on

Over the last years, fundraising events have become more and more important. Events like the Dutch Alpe d’Huzes (20M in 2011) and Roparun (4,9M), and the UK Cancer Research’s Race for Life (raising over £362 million since 1994) clearly indicate the potential of person-to-person fundraising. Our most dedicated supporters are no longer just our ambassadors, they become fundraisers themselves!

When you’re considering organizing your own event, great info can be found online on choosing the right event for your organisation, like e.g. the Convio Report “Peer-to-Peer Event Fundraising for Everyone – Choosing the right event for your organization”, or, on our own 101fundraising blog: How much can I expect from my fundraising event?

However, with the growth of the number of events, also more and more critical notes can be found. Questions whether the market for (sporting events) isn’t becoming saturated quite rapidly, given the large amount of initiatives at this very moment. Some of them hardly reach the break-even point, still others are already quite profitable the first year. So, even more important, questions arise on the effectiveness of these events, like e.g. the interesting article Are Charity Walks and Races Worth the Effort?

Another important consideration is whether your organization should organize an event itself. There are of course other options, like:

  1. supporting  and empowering the existing events already organized by your supporters.
  2. facilitating the organization of own events, by handing your supporters ideas, guidebooks, fundraising materials and support, like e.g. the BHF’s Red ideas and downloads and the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life
  3. Taking part in existing sporting events, e.g. by offering arrangements to run for your charity in one of the larger Marathons.

IFC presentation – Events and Community Fundraising

Given all these options, I was delighted to find out that the IFC hosted a dedicated workshop on Event Fundraising, hosted by Kerry Packman (Head of Fundraising Maggie’s Cancer Centres) & Ruth Ruderham (Head of Fundraising British Waterways). This workshop, titled “Events and Community Fundraising – Collaborative working to maximize income” was apparently the first IFC workshop on this subject over a timeframe of 5 years.

Community Fundraising is empowering your supporters to fundraise via an event/ activity they organize, with Event Fundraising you enable your supporters to fundraise by participating in an event.

Some striking facts and figures from their presentation:

  • Event fundraising comprises 5.1% of all fundraised income for the top 500 charities in the UK (2008/9 Charity Market Monitor 2010), and raised £300.91million
  • A large event can single-handedly provide a significant amount of income for charities. For example, Cancer Research UK were hoping to raise £60 million from Race for Life in 2010, according to their website, and the Virgin London Marathon raised £47 million in 2010
  • For some charities, events represent a major income stream. For example, almost 70% of Breast Cancer Campaign’s income comes from events.

In their presentation, they handed us some great and inspiring examples of (new) fundraising concepts. With these concepts, they illustrated some key points in considering Event & Community Fundraising:

  • Both supporter and donor acquisition & retention: Where Event & Community fundraising is often only considered and evaluated as a means of raise direct funds, it is also an important means to 1) acquire not only new supporters, but also new donors. Kerry and Ruth presented the stunning figure of 40% of the participating athletes being converted to donors! And 2) increase loyalty of both your volunteers and donors, by handing them other means to support and get to know your organization.
  • Taking a professional approach: To obtain the optimal benefits of event/community fundraising, it can no longer be seen as something you take care of next to your other fundraising activities. Inspiring 8 to 18 point contact schemes for supporter contact care, from first email inquiry until the last ‘thank you’ note, clearly indicate the structured way you should organize your supporter contacts.
  • LISTEN – Most importantly: start (and never stop) with listening. Without the right market insights, all your effort will be in vain. What are your supporters already doing right now? What would they like to do? What support would they appreciate, what events would they like to organize and/or participate in? And afterwards, involve them in evaluating and enhancing the concepts you’ve introduced.


So, concluding, is there one straightforward advice on whether or not to take Event Fundraising to the next level within your organization? In my honest opinion: no. Whether you should start (or continue for that matter) with organizing your own fundraising events is a question only you can answer. To be able to answer it, you need sufficient insights in your target audience, to be able to estimate the potential and support. Next to that, determine whether an own event is part of the strategy and positioning of your organization.

However, for Community Fundraising, the events already organized by your supporters, for most of us a lot can be gained. Supporting the Community fundraising by empowering and encouraging your supporters, and involving them to find the best ways to support them are crucial steps to be taken.

Ellen Janssens

Ellen is a Freelance Fundraising Strategist & (Open) Innovation Specialist with several years of experience in Innovation Management. She is a strong advocate for attracting supporters instead of donors, giving people the opportunity to support their charity of choice with other means like time, expertise, network or e.g. data. Or their creativity, making innovation a truly joined effort. Within and outside of the organization. For the last two years, she has been involved in the organization of the IFC Innovation Camp. Ellen's website is www.collective-innovation.nl, you can follow her on twitter at @ellenjanssens, and connect with her on LinkedIn here.

1 Comment

Jordan van Bergen · November 21, 2011 at 16:00

In the Netherlands all charities subscribed to GeefGratis (3000+) will receive a free to use crowdfunding platform. It will be launched before the first of January 2012. Here are a four examples:
Not to be used in production before 2012 but all Dutch charities will be able to see what they will get for free.

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