Dear events. Meet direct marketing.

Published by Jonathon Grapsas on

I’m an unabashed direct marketer. Turned fundraiser. Or if we’re being pedantic, direct response fundraiser.

I live and die by results. It’s why (I think) our clients like working with us. No fluff, no window dressing. Just out and out obsession with producing great results.

Facetiously, it’s in part why I never really “got” events. When I started fundraising and met event fundraisers I felt uneasy when I was told that their event didn’t raise much cash but generated a “heap of awareness”, and “was great for stewarding some major donor prospects”.


You’re a fundraiser. I’d accept this drivel if the event really was the conduit to asking for a big gift (as opposed to what was cobbled together for a board report) or actually raised a shedload of income, but short of that, what a waste of time.

Fast forward several years (cough, cough) and here I am running a digital and direct response agency that amongst others things helps clients drive income from events.

Oh the irony.

I’d worked on the (incorrect) belief for some time that events were a law unto themselves. I really had little idea on how people found themselves at the local 10k run, or the glitzy gala dinner.
And then suddenly we were thrust into the events sphere when a client asked us to give them a hand recruiting some participants for a local walk.

“Sure, we can do that”. Gulp.

Enter agency panic mode. How the hell will we do that?

After peeling away any mystery and allure it suddenly dawned on me that really this was all about asking individuals (real people), to do something. Hmmm, let me think. Have I done that before?

Dear events….. Meet direct marketing.

Over the past couple of years we’ve recruited thousands of participants online for charity walks, driven enormous growth from a mature peer to event, increased net income for a golf weekend, helped deliver inspiring content for gala balls.

And I’m now hooked.

All of these insights, successes and wins driven by what was right in front of me. A really good understanding of how to get people to act.

Tailored, personal eDM’s to reactivate past participants.

Inspiring video content to get people fired up, and give more.

Strong, direct advertising with a clear call to action.

Colloquial, warm, human language at the core of everything.

Single focused asks.

Bloody good donor care.

Get the point?

SpecialEventsHeaderDirect marketing plays a role. An increasingly big one in the role of successful events.
We’ve managed to combine the science of direct marketing to the intricacies of events fundraising. Galas, challenges, peer to peer.

We’re continually understanding what it should cost to recruit a participant for a month long walking challenge. What’s the sweet spot for number of videos to use in that welcome/registration cycle. What sort of open and clicks should we see to that eDM renewal stream.

And how much net income can this all deliver? Let’s face it. It’s all about the net.

I had my head in the sand for a long time. It’s well and truly extricated now, and I’m making up for it.

My name is Jonathon Grapsas. And I really like events. I might even add events fundraiser to my skills on LinkedIn.

Jonathon Grapsas

Jonathon is the founder and director at flat earth direct, an agency dedicated to fundraising and campaigning for good causes. Jonathon has spent the last decade working with charities all around the world. Initially in the UK, and more recently in Canada and his native Australia. An influential blogger, writer and speaker, Jonathon's spends most of time now helping charities reach out to people online.


Jenny Mitchell · March 27, 2014 at 16:12

Love this! Made me smile. Thanks!

Mitch Hinz · March 29, 2014 at 07:45

As always Jonathan, right on point. I took the same route, except was ‘forced’ into events at one my first DM jobs at a cancer agency.

The events people ended up asking ME to help them get a bigger turnout. When we hosted the FIRST, EVER Rollerblade “Skate for Hope” in Central Park, (yes I’m that old), it was our direct mail lists that got out the head count .

Web same same. Social media same same. But as you say, you have to always put the “sports spin” on the event folks — and make them “Aim for the Net!”

Mitch Hinz

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