Fundraising is almost always challenging. You send emails, place phone calls, and make in-person pleas, but still, motivating people to donate isn’t easy. As your organization looks to reach its giving goals, consider these four valuable lessons from the PCMA Education Foundation’s recent efforts.
1) Don’t be so serious.
Donor contributions may be going toward scholarships, research, or other opportunities to make a difference, but allow some room for spontaneity in your fundraising initiatives. At the recent PCMA Education Foundation Partnership Summit, Phillip Jones, president and CEO of Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau and chair of the PCMA Education Foundation Board of Trustees, issued a challenge to the business events industry leaders who joined him at the Hyatt Regency in Incline, Nevada: If they helped the organization raise $5,000, he would jump into the freezing Lake Tahoe.
By the end of the day, contributions had already surpassed $10,000. Jones upped the ante and invited the rest of PCMA’s Executive Board to join him for the polar plunge. It paid off, raising more than $20,000 for the organization. “Phillip did such a great job of making the experience more than an invitation to donate,” said Meredith Rollins, executive director of the PCMA Education Foundation. “It was an invitation to be bold and have fun with your peers, too.”
2) Give one idea many iterations.
Launching annual fundraising efforts can often feel overwhelming with the need to create a new theme or new initiative for the new year. Instead of rebranding a campaign year after year, consider making small tweaks to the program. “After raising $37,000 with the 2016 Ride With The Foundation raffle, we decided to stick with the same name for 2017,” Rollins said. “But we wanted to incorporate a twist.”
Instead of the chance to win a Harley Davidson motorcycle for “riding” with the organization, those who purchase a raffle ticket in 2017 have a chance to win a different wheel-themed package: an elite Colnago C-60 Italian road bike and a trip to Paris for the Tour de France. (If that package sounds as fun to you as it does to me, you can purchase your own ticket here.)
3) Create an exclusive experience.
While an annual campaign may feel similar year to year, Rollins believes that it’s still crucial to add new opportunities to the calendar. In 2017, her team has added the “Foundation Cup,” a golf tournament at the Hinsdale Golf Club outside Chicago. “It’s a private club,” Rollins said. “That’s part of the cool factor. You can’t normally play there if you aren’t a member.”
The cool factor has paid off. Rollins limited the event to 18 foursomes, and it’s already sold out. (For suppliers, please note that there are still a few remaining sponsorship opportunities available for contests at the tournament. If you’re interested, please contact Rollins at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
4) Consider daytime events.
Fundraising is often tied to evening receptions. While the sparkly lights of a festive environment and a shining open bar may indeed be a good recipe for success, it’s important to recognize that not all givers are night owls. At the upcoming PCMA Education Conference, early risers can contribute to the future of business events, too. “To balance out our late-night event schedule, we’re also incorporating a 7:00 a.m. spin class for attendees,” Rollins said. “It’s important to make fundraising activities that fit into their on-site schedules.”
What are some of the most successful fundraising strategies you’ve used at your organization? Go to Catalyst to share your thoughts.