Fundraising events have become an increasingly important and ubiquitous tool for nonprofit organizations.
But what is it that ultimately makes an event “successful?” and how can events provide new and potentially exciting forms of value for participants?
This session will dive into new Bloomerang-funded research from the Rogare Fundraising Think Tank at Plymouth University, which outlines for the first time what overarching factors may have a part to play in distinguishing genuinely outstanding fundraising events from merely ‘average’ ones.
Discover how your own efforts compare with an international focus group
Learn the critical success factors that lead to event success
Uncover key recommendations for creating memorable experiences
Why Special Events?
•Difficulty in recruiting
donors via other channels
•Difficulty in engaging
•Aid in identifying high value
Study Methodology »
• A review of events fundraising
• International advisory panel
event expertise from the UK, USA
• Organizations identified who had
particularly successful events
• 30 interviews with key event
leaders in these organizations
Governing Boards need to be
taken out and spanked
Why not …
• Commitment and Trust?
Explains 54% of intention to continue giving
Motives for Involvement
• Philanthropic - the donor believes in the underlying charitable cause
• Prestige - person wishes to be seen at the event as it provides either a
signal of wealth or of social grouping
• Leadership - to encourage others to give, show of generosity
• Relationship with the charity - donor has direct personal experience of
relevant cause, for example losing a friend or family member to cancer
• Warm glow - donor takes enjoyment from giving to charity
• Associated warm glow - supporting friends or associates who are organising
• Peer pressure - friends and committee members encourage attendance. In
practice, we believe a significant reason why people attend fundraising
Source: New Philanthropy Capital (2003)
2. A Focus on Fundamental Human
• Make A Difference
• Purpose in Life
• Self Acceptance
Need to make a difference:
• Defined as the competence to choose or
create environments best suited to an
individual’s needs/values and where they
are capable of making a desirable
• Defined as a sense of self-determination and the
ability to resist social pressures to think and act in
certain ways. An individual would experience a
high degree of autonomy if they perceive that they
have selected a new and innovative event in which
to participate. They will also experience higher
autonomy if they are in some sense in control of
their own experience and in the context of
fundraising have options around who to ask and
• Defined as the need that people have for
warm, satisfying and trusting relationships
with others (Deci & Ryan, 2011). One might
experience a close relationship by being
introduced to other donors at an event, or by
connecting directly with a beneficiary of one’s
giving. The greater the sense of connection
that one might engender the higher the
psychological wellbeing along this dimension.
• Defined as a feeling of continued
development, realizing one’s own potential,
seeing oneself as growing and expanding,
seeing improvement in self and behaviour
over time, being open to new experiences,
and changing in ways that reflect more self-
knowledge and effectiveness.
Purpose in Life
• Defined as having goals for the future of
one’s life and a strong sense of direction.
Research indicates that the clearer one’s
life purpose is the higher one experiences
• Defined as the ability to experience
positive feelings about their sense of self
in the past. Looking back, can we accept
the selves we have been …
• What kinds of people will we attract
• What needs will those individuals have
• How can we design or adapt an event and
its associated communication to meet
• The higher the level of perceived needs to be met, the
more ambiguous and more uncertain people feel about
judging their fulfilment
• The more ambiguous people feel about what a fulfilled
life means the more they would look to others to help
them define what a fulfilled life means
• The more uncertain, the more likely they are to rely on
others to help them form the judgement
• Dates are tied to the present mindset –
extents of time to the future
• Emotions discount faster than logic
• Negative outcomes discount faster than
• Temporal distance (time);
• Spatial distances (physical space);
• Social distances (interpersonal distances,
such as distance between two different
groups or two dissimilar people); and
• Hypothetical distances (imagining the
likelihood that something will happen).
At everyone's table, there were books. In the middle of the breakfast we
asked: what was one of your favorite books when you were a child?
Now think about that and how excited you were to have it
Too many children have never had a book of their own…
You WILL HELP change that today for a child!
Pick out a book and write a message about what such books meant to you
All of these books will be given to children to take home
and your message will be inside.”
Case study »
• Children’s Literacy Organization
• “The second time you experience something, it will be marginally less
enjoyable than the first time, the third time less enjoyable than that and so
on until you finally notice the experience doesn’t engage you nearly as
much as it once did. Welcome to the commoditization of experiences, best
exemplified by the increasingly voiced phrase, ‘‘Been there, done that.’’
Pine and Gilmore (2014, p26)
Tarssanen and Kylänen (2005)
• Individuality, which is about triggering in the customer a sense of being
dignified as an individual.
• Authenticity, which reflects the customer’s subjective perception of what a
genuine product, (or experience), is.
• The story, which performs the primary function of linking all the elements of
• Multisensory perception, which means that the event offers an experience
that can be appreciated through as many senses as possible.
• Contrast, which refers to the event’s ability to contrast with what the
attendee might have been expecting or with their everyday routine.
• Interaction, which represents the relationship between donors, the nonprofit,
the beneficiary and other relevant stakeholder groups. As we outlined earlier
this is a factor widely accepted as being linked with life satisfaction and
5. Driving Emotion w/ Storytelling
Detailed attendee research (gathering data on lifestyles, connection
to the cause, feelings about fundraising etc.) can lead to “personas”
Event planners were then able to focus on the needs of those
“personas” and plan experiences they would find deeply moving
and personally meaningful.
Driving Emotion w/ Storytelling
• Foster Care/Adoption Organization
What would it be like for you to find out tomorrow that you weren't going
back to your family and you may never see them again.
A youth speaker then shared his story
He told attendees what it felt like to know that there was a family waiting
for you at the end of the day because nothing is forever except for family.
Afterwards, attendees went through an adoption process and the
celebration that happens once a child gets adopted.
We then informed the donors they made this happen!
Case study »
• Save the Children's Forced to Flee event
Groups led into the space and given a number, a headset to
listen to real stories of children affected and a child’s rucksack.
Case study »
Eventually attendees reach a play area, which represents the work
the charity does in areas of such conflict to bring play to children.
• Informal discussions with supporters;
• Informal discussions with employees and/or volunteers;
• Analysis of complaints received;
• Focus groups with supporters;
• Focus groups with other stakeholders;
• Organized team-based brainstorming sessions;
• Individual brainstorming, not using a facilitating software package;
• Individual brainstorming using a facilitating software package;
• Organized creativity sessions using techniques other than brainstorming (e.g., lateral
thinking, SWOT analysis, an idea generation template obtained from outside the
organization, environmental scanning or similar techniques);
• Senior managers’ insights; and
• Accidental discovery and/or by-products of existing activities.
• Informal discussions with people in other charities;
• Analysis of the activities of other charities;
• Attendance at exhibitions, conferences or conventions;
• Perusal of professional fundraising magazines;
• Information from a professional body or trade association (e.g., the AFP);
• Foreign charities;
• Other foreign sources, e.g., foreign visits, foreign conferences;
• Web sources dedicated to ideas for charity fundraising;
• Web sources dedicated to idea creation for general business purposes;
• Books devoted to fundraising;
• Advertising/Creative agencies;
• Ideas consultants;
• Fundraising consultants; and
• Suppliers of charity promotional merchandise
Bennett and Savani (2011)
% and Rank
Analysis of the activities of other charities 48% (1) 52% (1)
Information from a professional or trade association 44% (2) 46% (3)
Internet pages dedicated to fundraising ideas and
information exchange forums
40% (3) 48% (2)
Attendance at conferences, conventions and
33% (4) 40% (4)
Organized team brainstorming 27% (5) 16% (10)
Focus groups 25% (6) 18% (9)
Advertising agencies 22% (7) 20% (8)
Fundraising and other consultants 18% (8) 22% (7)
Senior managers’ insights 16% (9) 29% (5)
Individual brainstorming 15% (10) 24% (6)
• Raised by internal rather than external
• Based on a close understanding of clients’
• In some way unique.
Source: Pavia (1991)
But for us ..
and with less
Missing Link connected
by this report
Training is not often invested in »
Avoiding Burnout (true stories)»
“We had a fundraising event every single month. It's insane.
It's just not sustainable. It's not good. There was a ton of
turnover in the position that was organizing all these events!”
"We used to hold 10 events a year. Now we have ratcheted
down to three events a year and we're primarily a major gift
Our revenues have doubled because all of those events were a
drain and yet people didn't want to give up all events.”
9. A Focus on Technology
• Most events studied used technologies to
enhance supporter satisfaction.
• Social Media
A Focus on Technology
data to use for
A Focus on Technology
• Make it easy
to engage and
As a minimum
10. Creating Board Champions
Potentially outstanding events can still be stifled by
management and board!
• Need to involve leaders from the outset for new
• Actively consider when would be the best stage in
the innovation process to involve specific individuals
Don’t forget the follow-up »
1. “Thank you for coming.”
2. “What did you think?”
3. Be quiet and listen.
4. “Is there any way you could see yourself becoming involved
5. “Is there anyone else you can think of that we ought to
invite to a __________?”
Our Recommendations »
• Put donor in mission recipients shoes!
• Move beyond golf tourneys and galas
• Don’t be afraid to experiment!
• Leadership buy-in is key
• Research and network with colleagues
Executive Summary & Full 62 Page Report »