Eeyore’s Guide to Event Fundraising

I got depressed about my job last week.  Usually, I brag about the fact that I get to help organizations raise money to support awesome missions like curing cancer and feeding the hungry; but last week, I caught a case of the Eeyores.  Mope mope mope.

It all started when I decided to take an informal survey of some friends to see who participates in fundraising events and why, and found that only one in ten has participated in the last 2 years.  Since it’s my job to help promote fundraising events, this bit of news got me down.

So I started wondering, not what motivates people to participate (my usual day-to-day), but what motivates them NOT to.  I asked my friends, and here’s what I heard.

Top 3 reasons they don’t participate:

  1. People are busy.  They work, they raise kids, they have busy social calendars.  They are not likely to participate in an event unless it directly impacts them or their immediate circle of family and friends.
  2. Events are a hassle.  The frustration of traffic, parking, standing, and waiting are not worth the social capital.
  3. Too many events.  There are events for almost every cause these days, so the event doesn’t feel “special” unless the person is directly affected by the specific cause.

I heard clearly that no matter what you do, there will always be people who do not want to participate in your – or any – event.  But challenges like these are what force us to evolve and become more creative – and that’s the best part of my job.  So, I thought about the good news I had heard:

  • Even though they aren’t interested in participating in an event, every person said that they would donate if a friend asked them to, or if the cause hit close to home.
  • Even though they don’t participate, most are getting involved in different ways – like donating, serving on committees, or volunteering in other capacities.
  • Even those who do not participate believe there is value in fundraising events – they spread awareness of the cause and the organization, and they help organizations reach new audiences.

It seems that in any given event, you’ve got your Tiggers and your Eeyores (and likely a sliding scale in between).  The Tiggers are motivated to participate, spread the word, and raise funds for you.  The Eeyores want stay home and away from the crowd, but they are still writing checks and supporting your cause in other ways.  I’ve spent so much time focusing on the Tiggers, I think it’s time to offer some best practices to engage all the Eeyores out there.  When you’re planning your next event, remember to:

  • Provide a virtual participation option so people can participate on their own terms.  My favorite virtual participation type is “Sleep in for the Cure.”
  • Be sure to include non-participants in your communication plan – craft a message specifically for those who have never participated, providing them with other ways to get involved.
  • Motivate your “Tiggers” to reach out to the “Eeyores” in their networks and ask, ask, ask!  Conditionalize and target messages to those who have not yet raised any money, and thank those who have.
  • Create a personal connection – give your event communication a voice, a face, and a name of someone directly impacted by your cause.  For those who may not have a direct connection to your cause, a personal story can help them understand your mission in a more personal way.
  • Brainstorm ways to make your event unique and fun – strive to rise above all of the other events out there and do something different.  Zombie costumes, gorilla suits, and lingerie have all been used to help “spice up” events.  What can you do to make your event unique?

As much as we’d like to, we can’t always convince everyone to participate in our fundraising events.  The best way to engage with people who don’t want to participate is to give them other options, and let them know that it‘s ok to be an Eeyore, so long as they find their own way to express their support.