Fundraising Strategies For Successful Nonprofits, Part 2: Events



This is a continuation of last week's post: Fundraising For Successful Nonprofits, Part 1: Donor Cultivation. In this post, I would like to discuss the role events and peer-to-peer fundraising can play in a successful fundraising strategy. As I mentioned, successful fundraising is the difference between a productive nonprofit and an ineffective one. Without resources to allocate there is nothing to give those who would benefit from them. In Part 1, we discussed the importance of donor cultivation, and how to go about cultivating them. That is the foundation of your fundraising strategy, because the whole goal of donor cultivation is to convince individuals on the validity and importance of your cause. If you can get them impassioned about your cause to the point where they will support it financially, they have a great shot of becoming ambassadors for it; thus promoting your cause to their network. Your cause has become their cause. And it’s this one-by-one, individual approach that is so powerful, because as humans, intimate interactions resonate with us the strongest. When friends or loved ones passionately believe in something, and persuade you of the importance of said something, you are forever affected; more so than if you had encountered it in other ways. With that in mind, there are other fundraising strategies that we can use to support the process of donor cultivation, that can magnify its effectiveness. I’m referring to using events and peer-to-peer fundraising, the subject of this post. Let’s discuss events first.


Hosting events is a great way of introducing a large amount of people to your nonprofit. Events can be any type of performance, speaker series, ball, clown convention, sporting competition, auction, you name it. The internet is rife with creative event suggestions, and with a little bit of research, you can easily find one that fits the personality of your nonprofit, and will excite your community. Without getting into specific events, I would like to discuss attributes of a successful event as well as what types of things you should be trying to achieve with each event you put on. 

1. Events are advertising.

View each one of your events as an opportunity to advertise your nonprofit and cause. You’re trying to reach out to people who may not know about your nonprofit, as well as re-engage those that do. It’s an excuse to have multiple touch-points with your audience; before, during, and after the event. Before the event takes place, your marketing committee must be actively promoting the event and your nonprofit using inbound marketing like social media, blogs, and even pay-per-click ads. The goal, of course, is to sell out your event, but if that doesn’t happen, you at least want the people in your community aware of, and talking about the event. Then, a natural connection will occur in your community’s collective mind (this is not a thing, but you get the point) between the event and your nonprofit. You want the active members of your community to start to associate your nonprofit with fun things that people attend. And thus, even if this event isn’t completely sold out, the fruits of today’s advertising efforts will benefit your organization’s future events. After the event, it’s important to send out recap tweets and posts (with pictures!) so attendees can relive their experience, and non-attendees can see what they missed.

2. Events bring communities together.

Nonprofits connect with multiple segments of the greater community, and events bring them all together. For example, the people that benefit from your nonprofit, the nonprofit board and members, donors, and folks just interested in the event itself will all share the same room and experience. This is has the makings of a powerful interaction because commonality becomes established between what may outwardly be disparate groups. Different people with different interests intersect through a common experience. This forges relationships and builds culture, and that gets associated with your event and your cause. Successful events become a carrier memory that gets ingrained in those that attend. It carries the association of your nonprofit, and when remembered, your nonprofit is remembered as well.

3. Events let you mingle with donors.

It’s not easy asking people for money, regardless of how well you know them. An event can be a great opportunity to break the ice with prospective donors. Remember, people “buy” from people they like. And though fundraising isn’t exactly a commercial endeavor, it’s still a sales process. Think about it, if you couldn’t stand someone, would you donate to their cause? I would guess that there are some extreme cases when you would, but for the most part the answer is no. Events give nonprofit boards a casual way to interact with prospective donors; to build rapport interpersonally, and to create goodwill for the nonprofit. Events support the donor cultivation process.

Peer To Peer

What is peer-to-peer fundraising? I’m tickled you asked! Peer-to-peer fundraising is a campaign that leverages your supporters or members to fundraise on behalf of your nonprofit. It can also be called social fundraising. For short, we use p2p fundraising. Let me give you an example of a type of p2p fundraising. Every year, The Jimmy Fund hosts a walk-a-thon. Participant fundraisers raise money from their social and professional networks to sponsor them in the walk, and all proceeds go to benefit The Jimmy Fund. This one event helps raise millions every year.

P2P fundraising is a way to increase the reach of your nonprofit by activating the networks of your members and supporters. It is a popular and fun way to fundraise because it creates a platform for your supporters to become heroes of their own story. They can passionately support a worthy cause, and publicly make a difference. It’s fundraising that feels good because your friends and family see you making a difference, and want to participate.

For nonprofits, a p2p campaign can be immensely successful. Consider this: Receiving donation solicitations from someone you know and trust can be hundreds of times more effective than receiving solicitations from the nonprofit itself. We tend to disregard solicitations, be it corporate or nonprofit, but we always read emails and messages from people we care about. And if their message is compelling, we donate. Just like events, p2p campaigns are great advertising for your nonprofit. In some cases it can be more affective because you’re not just relying on your marketing team. Again, you are leveraging your supporters who will be posting and messaging on your behalf.

I recommend including events and peer-to-peer campaigns in your fundraising strategy because it compliments your donor cultivation, and corporate partnerships campaigns. In the next post, I will conclude this three part series by discussing corporate partnerships.


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