Beyond the run/walk: Fresh ideas for tired fundraising

Walks, marathons, gala dinners, silent auctions and golf outings: Been there, done that. While some nonprofits swear by the same annual fundraisers, seeing great turnout and successful giving, they may very well be in the minority. Most fundraising events run in life cycles. Sometimes the end is reached after centuries of tradition and other times, the story ends barely after the “first annual” banner has been hung. Regardless, don’t let your organization get stuck in a rut thinking the same-old-same-old is the only answer. Get creative—think about these ideas to expand your options:Put a new twist on an old idea:

  • The run/walk … with a map
    Have you ever seen the television show “The Amazing Race”? It’s based on the idea of urban orienteering and gaining popularity as a fun and exciting new event for fundraising. Participants sign up in small teams and are then asked to collect a minimum donation from supporters to participate. On the day of the race, teams must reach mystery check points throughout the city or town using clues and relying on public transportation. The first team to reach the final check point wins a grand prize: a donation from a sponsor, such as tickets to a sporting event, a vacation package, gift certificates and other grand prize-worthy gifts. Boost the winnings by offering special prizes like Beach Towels, Rolling Coolers or Fleece Jackets for every $200 raised by a team.
  • The mixer … with a hidden treasure
    Hold a fundraising event with board members that encourages a little relationship building, like geocaching. Geocaching can be described as a high-tech treasure hunt in which participants use global positioning system (GPS) devices and maps to locate buried (cached) treasure. Geocaching events, like urban orienteering, require a fair amount of time outdoors and also ask that participants raise a minimum donation to participate. Geocaching will require the rental or donated use of hand-held GPS devices made just for such events and enough time to work with professionals to hide and log the location of buried prizes. Begin the event with a picnic that allows for conversation and networking. Then, place participants on teams, each one led by a board member and begin the hunt. Start with small gifts in each cache, like T-Shirts or Mini Flashlights, and end with a bang—a large gift certificate or cash prize.
  • The silent auction … online
    Save some time and some money by moving silent auctions online prior to a fundraising event. Use online platforms and websites to facilitate the auction and then announce winners and give away the prizes to winning donors during a reception. This can take the focus off milling around a room looking at items to socializing and networking and enjoying food and entertainment instead.
  • The golf outing … with a few obstacles
    Urban golf is a less competitive, arguably more fun alternative to the golf outing. Much like regular golf, it consists of four-somes who have made a donation in order to compete. Unlike golf, it takes place in the middle of a city—hence the “urban” part—instead of a traditional course. Standard clubs are used with specially manufactured golf balls to ensure safety, and holes or targets are placed literally anywhere to make up the course. These events tend to have a higher energy and a slightly less competitive edge to them. They are also sure to be a hit, especially when concluded with a grill out or gathering at a local pub. Send participants home with themed giveaways like Visors or Golf Balls and Tees.
  • Appeal to niche audiences
    Looking to attract new audiences to become donors? Consider creating a fundraiser based on an audience’s interests. LANs, as they are commonly known by computer aficionados, or local area networks if you aren’t a computer guru, can be set up to host a 24-hour gaming party that attracts a unique cultural subset of the population. Charge a gaming fee to participate in your LAN party and provide awards applicable to gamers, like Seat Cushions or Water Bottles. Appeal to wine lovers by creating a wine making and tasting event that features education on grape varietals, regions and production. Attendees could leave with their very own wine glass to commemorate the night.

The bottom line is that while traditional fundraising events may be effective for some organizations, they aren’t the only option available. Find the fundraising event or strategy that works for you, and your organization’s fundraising life cycle is certain to be a long one that’s always kept fresh.

 

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