Lesson 1: Removing Yourself from the Fundraising Equation

Hopefully you’re caught up on my path to fundraising enlightenment and the Four Noble Truth’s of Fundraising. It’s time to put the ideas into practice.

Perception is reality, right? Meaning my reality is based on my perception of life, of the world, of fundraising.  Here’s the first question, because I perceive the situation to be one way is that the truth?  Is that how people feel?  Is my perception the reality?  I don’t know.  That’s why I turn to data.

Most of us in the peer-to-peer fundraising world would consider our walks, 5ks and rides a fundraiser. They also raise awareness for the cause and the profile of the organization but, at the end of the day we host these events to raise money. Do your participants think your event is a fundraiser? Yes, right?  I mean how could they not know it’s a fundraiser, it’s all over my website and emails.

Would it surprise to you learn that some participants didn’t know they were supposed to fundraise.  I know you’re thinking this is totally wacky.  How do people not know the event is a fundraiser, I’ve included it in all my communications? Here’s the thing, sometimes what may seem obvious to us isn’t so clear to others.  Ergo the lesson of the socks.

The Lesson of the Socks

Five years ago, I ran my first ½ marathon, VA Beach Rock n’Roll, it was a blast! And I learned a very important lesson while “training” – if I was telling you this story in person, I’d place air quotes around training… I’m not sure you can call my VA Beach prep – training- but, I digress.  I did learn that in addition to good running shoes you need good socks.  Cotton socks won’t do… you need special running socks.

Since VA Beach I’ve continued running and buying lots of different socks.  I’m always trying new socks, looking for right ones to cut down on shock, prevent blisters and provide added arch support. Did you ever think buying socks could be so difficult?  I didn’t. There are times I feel like Goldilocks trying to find the right porridge.


One day I opened up a new pair socks and laughed.  In case I couldn’t tell which sock was for which foot – they helped me out my kindly labeling the socks with R and L.  Talk about stating the obvious!  It’s pretty clear by the construction of these technical running socks which one was for my right foot and which was for my left foot.  But, to make sure there’s no confusion these sock makers added an R and L.

Thus the lesson of the socks was born: just because something is obvious to you, it doesn’t hurt to state the obvious for others.

Peer-to-Peer Consumer Survey

What do socks have to do with fundraising? Sometime you need to remove yourself from the situation to understand your audience’s needs.  For the past three years, Blackbaud and the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council have conducted a peer-to-peer fundraising consumer survey.  We wanted to go right to participants, ask them questions and get their perspective on fundraising.  This year instead of writing a white paper about the survey results, I thought I’d share them through a variety of blog posts.  One of my favorite questions we ask is “Why didn’t you fundraise?”  As a former fundraiser, I’m intrigued by the responses (see chart to the right).

didn;t fundraise

Here’s what I’ve learned from this questions: 

  1. As we learned from the lesson of the socks, it never hurts to state the obvious.  And, in this case it’s needed as 26% of respondents didn’t know they were supposed to fundraise.
  2. We need to make sure we’re asking people to fundraise. Along with making it clear this is a fundraiser, let’s make sure we’re asking people to raise money.
  3. While fundraising isn’t as challenging as it used to be some folks still aren’t comfortable asking for donations.  This group needs a little extra coaching to help them feel more comfortable asking for donations.

I’m realizing this post is getting long.  I have a lot more to stay about non-fundraisers.  I’m noticing some opportunity within this group… and I was about to give up on them completely! Wow, data… you constantly amaze me.  Stay tuned to for Part II: Why didn’t you fundraise?

If you want to get caught up on past studies check out: 2012 Peer-to-Peer Event Fundraising Consumer Survey and 2011 Peer-to-Peer Event Fundraising Consumer Survey