There’s nothing like a physical fundraising event to meet and connect with your supporters. In person you have a special opportunity to shake hands, exchange stories, and bond over shared experiences. A successful fundraising event can create a positive experience that leaves a lasting impression on your guests and strengthens their relationship with your organization.
But events can be one of the more challenging components of fundraising. They can be logistically very complicated and laborious, and can easily seem to require years and years of experience and expertise to develop an effective strategy.
The High Fives Foundation is defying these preconceived notions. Founded in 2009, The High Fives Foundation’s programs raise awareness for injury prevention among mountain action sports athletes and provide resources and support for those who face life-changing injuries. In the last seven years, the nonprofit has quickly grown and now runs several annual signature fundraising events throughout the year, across the country. From ski-a-thons, to golf tournaments, to an annual fundraising dinner, the High Fives Foundation refers to their events as the life-blood of their organization and fundraising methods.
To better understand the strategies that contribute to their success, we spoke with their founder and executive director, Roy Tuscany and their social media manager, Becca Lefanowicz to learn more about what makes their events run smoothly and grow year over year. Check out these tips to see what you can apply to your own organization’s fundraising initiatives.
1. Prioritize Creative, Engaging Design
To make their events as shareable and easy to engage with as possible, the High Fives Foundation knew how important it was to create an exceptional, beautifully-designed donor experience.
The more engaging the design, the more engaged folks will be to check it out and want to find out more.
To ensure event participants moved through a visually compelling, seamless registration and fundraising process, The High Fives Foundation partnered with Classy.
We chose Classy because it’s very visually easy and appealing, and people can use it on their mobile devices.
Responsive design pages allow potential participants to sign up and start fundraising from any device. Because the pages are also a visual extension of their brand, they feel safe and secure to registrants.
With this software in place for the last two years, the organization has seen tremendous growth in their fundraising efforts.
While great design is a crucial element, it can only take a campaign so far. Circulation is just as important to scale an event and reach your fundraising goal. Roy believes their organization has learned how powerful the right partners for an event can be when it comes to promotion. They now actively pursue relationships with sponsors that will bring their events and campaigns to new audiences and amplify their social presence.
2. Continue to Learn as You Go
Anyone in the event-planning business knows it’s not always smooth sailing. Things are bound to come up unexpectedly. What’s important is that you know what to do with the new information moving forward.
We sometimes forget to update the backend of the website with offline pledges. This is important because you want to make sure you are always communicating the correct amount and how close the organization is towards their goal.
The High Fives Foundation makes a point to acknowledge the areas they could improve as they work through their planning process in order to always take their events and organization to the next level. Even small hiccups present takeaways that ultimately lead to a smoother experience in the future for their staff and participants.
For example, during their last golf tournament they ran, two of their phones died on the golf course in the middle of the event. To ensure this wouldn’t happen again, they spoke with a sponsor and were able to acquire portable power-charging packs for future events. But they didn’t stop at identifying and securing the equipment they needed to address this problem.
We added [power-charging packs] to our event sheet technology section and we put two of the charging blocks in our tool box that goes to every single event so we would not have this problem again.
Every time the High Fives Foundation identifies a key learning, they update their event template with the new information so they’re sure to incorporate it moving forward.
Whether you hold a debrief meeting or use a shared document, consider how your organization can prevent learning opportunities from being lost after an event and speak to your team about best practices for collecting and sharing this information.
3. Remember That It’s Called F-U-N-draising
If there’s one thing the High Fives Foundation seeks to ensure at their events, it’s that they put the FUN in FUNdraising. It might sound a little silly, but this mentality keeps their focus on the participants’ experiences.
Fun doesn’t come down to one secret ingredient, but the High Fives Foundation does focus on elements that engage and delight participants to make sure they have a good time. For example, many of their events allow people to register and raise funds as a team. This option lends a social element to the fundraising experience that creates a sense of camaraderie and healthy competition between team members.
The organization also provides incentives to excite their participants and drive attendance.
Through our partners we get sponsors that will contribute product as well as financial support. It includes amazing prizes which people are motivated to sign up for… When we break different goals on the fundraising meter someone wins a prize. And then also at the event there are prizes, so there are a lot of incentives that make it exciting throughout the fundraising period and then at the event.
But just as great design wouldn’t be as effective without exposure, fun can’t be effective without communication. When asked what the key is to create a successful signature event, Roy stated,
Communication. That is the key to success, practicing and implementing the best communication between the supporters and potential supporters of the event/campaign.
After your organization has determined what will make your event fun, don’t let it go to waste. Whether you want to promote team fundraising options, cool incentives, or a matching period, develop a thorough communications plan to spread the news about key opportunities throughout your campaign.
To spread the word to as many people as possible, leverage the full mix of your social channels to supply different types of updates.
The High Fives Foundation uses the following mix:
- Instagram: Images that promote the event or highlight years past
- Twitter: Timely updates around the event’s goals
- Facebook: A collection of marketing materials such as images, videos, and posts
- Website: Post updates and blog posts that dive deep into specific topics
By posting different types of messaging across several channels, they prevent message saturation on one channel and engage multiple groups of followers.
All our event sheets actually have information about [social] sharing, so we can get it out to as many people as possible.
Create templates with set language and assets and distribute it to your partners, sponsors, staff, volunteers, and cause champions to promote your event. Armed with the information they need ahead of time, event promotion becomes a simple task for your team that reaps serious rewards.
5. Seek to Create Annual/Recurring Events
The High Fives Foundation doesn’t organize an event unless it has the potential to become a recurring or annual fundraising opportunity for their organization.
As such, they pour their energy and resources into ensuring its success, sustainability, and scalability. The trick? The event needs to “wow” guests and deliver an experience that not only has them returning year after year, but also spreads positive word of mouth that naturally expands the event’s guest list.
This frame of mind going into an event pushes The High Fives Foundation to make it as successful as possible because they know that not just one year’s revenue is at stake—their future income is too.
As you plan your next fundraising event, let these lessons serve as reminders of what it takes to create an event that fuels the success of your programs and organization. Is there a particular area above that you could invest more time in? Set processes in place to support the growth of that area, and your participants and beneficiaries will be sure to thank you.
Have any fundraising event planning best practices you’d like to share? We’d love to hear your insights in the comments below.