Category Archives: Published Articles

Participants’ tips for race fundraising success, part one

This article is part one of a series that focuses on the participants perspective of an event fundraiser and how to improve participants’ experience with events, and increase overall event participation. It was originally published by Hilborn eNEWS, formerly Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy.


Participants’ tips for race fundraising success, part one

By Heather Burton, Stacy Dyer, and Stacey Miller

We love to participate in charity races, walks and rides. They’re a great way for nonprofits to amplify their reach and raise money. They make us feel good, emotionally and physically. And these days, it’s a rare weekend when some sort of athletic charity event can’t be found. We’ve even stumbled across a “yoga-a-thon,” which is not a race, run, or ride, but still a pretty cool idea for summer athletes in the winter months!

In this two-part article, we’ll give you a sneak peek into the participants’ perspective, with key ways to turn avid event participants into not only yearly attendees, but also fans for your cause.

The Toronto People With AIDS Foundation holds its Friends For Life Bike Rally each year. Tim Ledger and Carmelo Millimaci, co-leaders of the event’s media and communications committee, say some of this year’s participants are returning for their 11th year.

“Returning riders and crew tell us that, aside from the cause, the reasons they return are the sense of community they find during the event, the truly lifelong friendships they have developed, the physical challenge, and the feeling of accomplishment they get from cycling or volunteering for the six-day journey from Toronto to Montreal,” says Millimaci.

One chance to make a first impression

All participants love a well-organized event. Tell us where to park on race day. Give us a map of the course and clearly mark the starting point. The way you manage your race, run, or walk is how we will perceive your charity, especially if this is our first experience with you.

From setting the course to counting down to the start, it’s never too early to begin planning. A few key areas on which to focus include the anticipated number of participants, cost of the packets, advertising, weather conditions, and technology considerations for registration, communication, and tracking runner, walker, and rider times.


Spring and fall are considered race seasons. The weather and the desire to be outdoors make these the most comfortable and largest attended races. Open registration early, especially if you’re asking us to fundraise on your behalf. Four months isn’t too early to open registration. In fact, some participants prefer a six-month registration window. We need to get your message out to our networks, so give us time to do that. Consider this: What lead time would you need to ensure participants have the best possible registration experience?

A considerable number of runs, walks, and rides are held on Saturday mornings. If you set yourself apart by holding your event on Friday or Saturday evening, you give us the option to participate in multiple events. Remember to look at all types of events, including cycling, swimming, and triathlons, because cross-endurance activities are common. Check with your local run and cycle shops as they usually keep an active events calendar.

Location, location, location

Courses are a key component of any successful run, walk, or ride event. Great courses offer a challenge for a variety of fitness levels, good terrain, and nice scenery. Many participants will use your well-planned and enjoyable course to train for your event, so consider accessibility, traffic patterns, and overall appeal of your planned course. The best course routes are not only convenient, but also a pleasure to run, walk, or ride anytime – not just during race day.

Consider family participation

Give us a reason to make your race a “family affair.” If your charity can arrange it, cast a wide net by offering multiple events within one, such as a 5K, a 10K, and a Kids K. Doing this can get tricky, but having various distance challenges allows participants to market your event to multiple audiences to help increase participation and encourage family engagement with your cause. Arrange all the different courses to have the same start and finish line, so supporters who are not racing can cheer on all of the participants from one location.

Measure accurately

For avid racers, it’s frustrating to run or ride a course feeling like your time is incredibly slow or thinking this is your fastest race ever. Accuracy of the course distance is crucial. Please don’t use a car odometer because you’ll only be accurate within 1/10 to 2/10 of the stated distance. The most common way to accurately measure the course is with a Jones-Oerth counter attached to the front wheel of a bicycle. Better yet, get your course certified by Athletics Canada / Run Canada.

Course certification is great for garnering the attention of serious, competitive athletes in your community. It can also help raise the profile of your event in local media, increase participation, and raise more awareness for your cause. Participants like to check times from race to race, so knowing that your course is accurate helps us improve our fitness levels, as well as advocate for your particular event.

Invisible but vital details

Finally, pay attention to elevation gain, traffic, road conditions, and any other factors that could make participating in your event strenuous for the less physically able. Remember, you’re not only catering to athletes, but also the general public and your current constituency. You may also benefit from contacting a local running or walking club for suggestions of routes that may fit your participants’ ability levels.

Millimaci adds, “Our bike rally is attractive to participants for many reasons – for fitness, for charity, for the love of community and friendship, and to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

In our next article, we’ll talk about choosing technology, marketing, and a few essentials for event day. Happy planning!

Please read part two of the series.

Heather Burton, product marketing director for Sage North America‘s Nonprofit Solutions business, has been involved in the nonprofit sector for more than a decade.

Stacy Dyer is a product marketing manager for Sage’s Austin-based Nonprofit Solutions business. She has worked and volunteered with nonprofits for more than 15 years.

With more than 20 years of experience in market management and marketing communications for both nonprofits and for-profits, Stacey Miller serves as a consultant to Sage Nonprofit Solutions.

Turning Offline Events into Powerful Online Donation Engines

My article: Turning Offline Events into Powerful Online Donation Engines, has been published in the Desert Charity News.  Check it out here, page 37.

It has tips and tricks savvy nonprofits can use to increase online giving for real-world events; such as races, golf tournaments, or opening night galas.

Interview: 7 Things a Nonprofit Must do With Their Facebook Page

I was recently interviewed by Jennifer Flaten for the Nonprofit Technology News about tactics for maximizing a nonprofit’s Facebook page, including the importance of embedding online donation forms right onto the page.

Excerpts below. Please read the full article here: 7 Things a Nonprofit Must Do With Their Facebook Page

Stacy Dyer, Product Marketing Manager for Sage Non-Profit Solutions reminds non-profits to use their current marketing methods, such as direct mail or an email campaign, to bring people to their Facebook page. Your goal is to get fans to “like” you, that way your posts show up in their feed, which keeps them involved in your organization. In addition, “likes” encourage other users to “like” you too.


“Remember Facebook is all about conversation”, says Stacy, it is important that non-profits provide a rich variety of content that encourages people to comment. She stresses that non-profits should “post replies, you want to build a sense of community with two way conversations.”

Be Consistent

It is a good idea to assign one or two people to monitor the stream and perform the postings. To facilitate maintaining voice, Stacy encourages non-profits to use a publishing calendar. In addition, Stacy advises using scheduling tools like HootSuite to schedule posts in advance of upcoming events. It can also be used to post items related to the event as it is happening.


Please read the full article here: 7 Things a Nonprofit Must Do With Their Facebook Page

Online Fundraising: Fact vs. Fiction

The following article, Online Fundraising: Fact vs. Fiction, was originally published in the January/February 2011 issue of Advancing Philanthropy, a publication for the members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and executives of nonprofit organizations and institutions.


Online Fundraising: Facts vs Fiction

By Stacy Dyer

Most organizations see the huge opportunity presented by online fundraising. Unfortunately, the majority have achieved limited success. In the 2007 Philanthropic Giving Index report, published by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, only 34 percent of nonprofits surveyed reported success with online fundraising. Even worse, survey participants ranked online giving as the least successful fundraising technique.

If your organization has yet to experience strong results raising funds online, it may be because you have bought into the online fundraising myths – that it is not as effective as traditional fundraising, that your donors don’t give online, or that you need expensive technology to be successful. These common misconceptions can easily be addressed with a few simple facts.

FACT: Online fundraising is just as effective as offline fundraising

Traditional fundraising campaigns focus on presenting professionally printed mailings, which include moving stories about your mission, and multiple giving programs to which donors may contribute. Too often, when donors go online, they find a generic giving form with no associated content as to how their donation will be used. Should it be surprising that they frequently abandon the process of making a donation online?

Make it easy for a donor to give directly within the content that motivated them in the first place. By creating donation forms that can be embedded within an email, or even within content pages of your website, you will remove barriers to completing the transaction and create a simple, elegant experience for your donor.

Start by evaluating whether you are committing a comparable amount of resources—people, time, and planning—to both your online and direct mail initiatives.

FACT: More donors are more comfortable with giving online than ever before

A 2008 Nielsen Company survey showed that 94 percent of Internet users in the U.S. have shopped online. Clearly, there is little reluctance within the general population to make purchases online. So, is something holding people back from giving online to your organization?

The answer to this question has a lot to do with the options given to donors. If online giving software is complex, cumbersome, and unrewarding for a nonprofit, it is almost certainly complex, cumbersome, and unrewarding for a donor, too.

A donation is an extremely important social interaction, but once someone is committed to a gift, it is simply another transaction; and the more steps a donor is asked to take, the less likely he or she is to complete that transaction. Creating multiple giving opportunities for each of your programs and streamlining the donation process are two simple changes that can increase online giving and strengthen donor satisfaction.

FACT: Raise more money by reaching donors where they already are online

Many organizations try to reroute people from wherever they are on the Internet – such as social networking sites or sponsors’ websites – back to a central, generic giving form on their own website. However, the true opportunity of online fundraising is unleashed when you tap into the powerful networking potential of all the other websites that your supporters frequently visit.

If we look at the places individuals visit online everyday, their favorite charity is probably not among them. However, they do visit their employers’ websites, and they might take action for a nonprofit their company supports. They likely edit their personal pages or blogs everyday, and they’ll even publish about a cause that inspires them. They also visit their friends’ blogs and personal pages, and may post, email, chat, or tweet about their favorite charity.

The individuals engaged in these conversations include some of your strongest, most vocal advocates. They have established bonds of trust with their personal networks. Why, then, would you ask them to leave a site they trust and go to yours?

Instead, take your message to where the social interaction is already happening. Reach out to your network of supporting partners, and the personal sites of individual advocates, and encourage them to continue the conversation.

FACT: Set high expectations to achieve better results

In January 2008, the Barack Obama campaign raised $28 million online—88 percent of the total funds raised. In fact, in one day that same month, the campaign raised $525,000 online in one hour. Many political campaigns, like most nonprofits, consider raising five to 10 percent of all funds online to be a success.

Ed Kless, political candidate for the Texas State Senate has much higher goals. He says, “Online donations are critical to any small campaign. In fact, I expect to raise nearly 100 percent of my campaign contributions online.”

To be successful, organizations must commit to making the Internet a major point of supporter engagement. Kless agrees, “In addition to my website, which includes a regularly updated blog, I have a Facebook page. It’s crucial that I have a fundraising tool that’s both easy to use and integrate into my current website and campaign.”

FACT: You don’t have to stop what you’re doing

In the past, online giving tools were expensive, only worked on a single website, and were difficult to update once deployed. Today’s online fundraising solutions are designed to work with your existing website and program content, so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing. By directly integrating into the methods you already use to communicate with your supporters and advocates, you can create a seamless, multi-channel approach to your fundraising.

Apply the same focus to your online strategy as you have to other communication channels. New online fundraising and advocacy tools allow you to easily control the message without the need for IT intervention or complicated website updates. Be agile – experiment and test often. Use your results to design more successful campaigns in the future.


You already have a compelling story for why your donors should support your mission.  Leverage it by embedding rich media, such as images and videos, into your donation forms, and then empower your advocates to share that message on your behalf. Consider this your opportunity.  The vast social shift happening online will create winners and losers. Be one of the winners.

Prepare Your Website for Year-End Giving

This article was originally published by Sage Nonprofit Solutions.

Prepare Your Website for Year-End Giving
By Stacy Dyer

If your nonprofit is like most, you receive over half of your annual contributed income during your year-end campaign. Donors often procrastinate until the last minute to make tax-exempt donations to charitable organizations.

To be successful, nonprofits must be at the top of donors’ minds when the time is right. In order to be eligible for the current tax year, donations must be made before December 31. While that may sound like a long way into the future, it’s a crucial fundraising opportunity for which your infrastructure must be prepared.

Simplify Online Giving

One of the best ways to capitalize on the additional traffic — and increased number of highly motivated donors — is to make it easy for supporters to give via your website. Whether they have searched for you online, responded to an email, or visited your website directly because of a postcard or direct mail solicitation, donors should be offered both highly effective opportunities to give online and an easy, seamless transaction process.

Online giving is driven by opportunity and convenience; yet, many organizations have online giving forms that are separate from the content meant to inspire the donor to give. If your donation solution requires supporters to leave your website to complete their transaction, you could suffer from higher abandonment rates and fewer completed transactions.

Instead, ensure your fundraising forms are embedded directly on pages with motivating stories, images, and videos about how donations will be used. Focus on keeping traffic on your site, and eliminate barriers to completing a donation transaction.

Create Targeted Donation Forms

Generalized donation forms – which are usually long and contain unnecessary or irrelevant questions – may also cause donors to abandon their transaction. Retain donor interest and motivation by keeping forms as simple as possible.

If different programs within your organization require different information to be collected, customize donation forms for each cause, and only require donors to supply the answers relevant to the cause that motivated them to donate in the first place.

For example, if you are offering promotional gifts in exchange for qualifying donations, don’t provide a list of every available item. Only list the items that are relevant to the program to which they are donating.

Start Identifying Opportunities Early

But, this kind of customized strategy doesn’t happen overnight. Challenge your team to identify all the giving opportunities on your website, and then create content that will resonate with new donors around each opportunity.

And, remember that it’s important to start preparations early. A thoughtful web strategy and well-implemented plan can significantly contribute to your year-end success, as well as stimulate new donor acquisition throughout the coming year.

Event Success: Operation & Execution

This is the third and final installment of a series about successful event planning for nonprofits originally published in Canadian Fundraiser eNews in October 2010.

Please read parts one and two of this series: Event Success: Practical Planning Tips and Event Success: Practical Promotion Tips


Event Success: Operation & Execution

By Stacy Dyer

As we explored in the first two parts of this series, planning and promoting special events, auctions, and ‘a-thons have many similarities. Different types of fundraising events, however, each have their own unique execution challenges.

A golf tournament may operate differently from a gala opening night, but there are several tips any organizer can use to ensure smooth operations and a headache-free fundraiser.

Harness the Power of E-mail

E-mail has become one of the most ubiquitous forms of modern communication. Seventy-eight percent of U.S. adults now use the Internet, and nearly all of those (91%) send and receive e-mail. (* Pew Internet & American Life Project, Generational difference in online activities, Accessed online January 28, 2009)

While many of us routinely ignore marketing messaging from generic organizational senders, most of us will open and read e-mails from friends, colleagues, and family. It’s important to empower participants and supporters to easily communicate with potential donors in their personal networks about your fundraiser.

Control the message your supporters share regarding your organization and its event by providing teams with e-mail templates. Consistent imagery and wording that matches other communications promoting your event will help the message resonate. Ideally, e-mail templates should not only contain information about your event, but also link back to a registration, sponsorship, or donation form where the recipient can take immediate action.

When you provide easy-to-use e-mail templates for your supporters to send on your behalf, you extend your reach far beyond your organization’s traditional online fundraising.

Technology Tip: Extend your online reach even further by adding a “Send to a Friend” link to your e-mails. Also include links from completed donation and registration “thank-you” pages online to immediately share participation on popular social networks. Look for systems that provide these links in your templates automatically. Some services also let your supporters customize personal donation forms, so individuals fundraising in their own networks can easily track their progress and monitor their success.

Create an Event T-Shirt

T-shirts are a wonderful way to promote your fundraising event. As supporters wear the shirts, they raise awareness about your upcoming event. Provide t-shirts to participants, sponsors, and staff as early as possible. Feature your event’s sponsors on the shirts to provide them with additional publicity, and sell the shirts online to raise additional money.

Technology Tip: If you aren’t able to secure a sponsor to print the t-shirts locally, consider a using a service, such as, so you don’t have to purchase a large inventory of shirts upfront. You can upload images and customize text to create your own unique design.

Maximize Event Revenue with Concessions

Successful sports franchises understand how important a concession stand can be to happy event attendees. Onlookers and supporters will remain at your event longer if they aren’t hungry or thirsty. And don’t forget about participants – take care of them, too, so they can walk further and, hopefully, raise more funds. To keep expenses at a minimum, get refreshments donated. Ask local restaurants, caterers, or wholesale distributors to become corporate sponsors. Be sure to check local ordinances if you plan to have volunteers supply food.

Technology Tip: Create volunteer registration forms on your event website to collect contacts from interested individuals. Have information from the web connect seamlessly to your existing donor database where coordinators can track contact information, assign duties, and schedule shifts, as needed.

Hold an Auction

A live or silent auction is another fun way to generate extra donations at the event. Get local businesses to provide items you can auction. If you have an emcee at your event, they can oversee live bidding and help encourage participation by attendees.

Technology Tip: Check out this thread in the On Fundraising group of LinkedIn, sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (registration required.) The ongoing discussion includes tips and best practices from nonprofit professionals using eBay Giving Works to enhance their organizations’ auction potential using the Web.

Photograph the Event

You can use event photos in many fun and creative ways. Publish photos on your website; include them in next year’s event publicity posters and pamphlets; or create keepsake photo books to use as thank you gifts to sponsors, committee members, or team captains.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” so photograph as many activities as possible. Use images to tell your organization’s stories; however, make sure to check with your legal counsel on what photo consents you need before publishing.

Technology Tip: Use Flickr to create a Photostream highlighting your organization’s activities. Explore Creative Commons licensing ( to allow others to share the images of your mission-related work, fundraisers, and events. Maximize the viral nature of compelling imagery by selecting images that do not require captions to clearly demonstrate your organization’s presence.

Don’t Forget to Say ‘Thank You’

Everyone who helped make your event a success should receive a personalized thank you note. Send a thank you gift and letter to your sponsors, recognizing their contribution and the impact it will have on your mission. Many organizations opt to invite participants and team captains to a special post-event celebration, where you can hand out prizes and recognize their efforts.

Technology Tip: While it may be tempting to utilize the mail merge functionality of your donor database, this is one occasion where a streamlined technological process can hurt you. Depending on the size of your event, consider hand-writing as many thank you notes as possible. The personal attention you invest will pay dividends since those appreciated volunteers, sponsors, and participants will be easier to recruit next time.


Executing your fundraising event smoothly and successfully doesn’t have to be tedious. Remember these simple tips and tricks to help make the most out of your next ‘a-thon, tournament, or auction. By planning ahead; utilizing multiple promotional channels; and setting the right operational expectations for staff, participants, sponsors, and volunteers; you can create a phenomenal fundraiser to support your mission without interrupting programmatic priorities.

Event Success: Practical Promotion Tips

This is the second installment of a series about successful event planning for nonprofits originally published in Canadian Fundraiser eNews in September 2010.

Please read parts one and three of this series: Event Success: Practical Planning Tips and Event Success: Operation & Execution


Event Success: Practical Promotion Tips

By Stacy Dyer

Fundraising events – like ‘a-thons, tournaments, and races – can help build community support for nonprofits and causes. While planning a successful ‘a-thon may seem like a daunting task, preparation goes a long way. Last month, we looked at practical tips to help you get started with event planning.

Now that you’re organized, let’s focus on strategies and tools for publicizing your fundraiser. Use these promotional tips to maximize engagement and tap into the power of social networking to ensure your next event is a fundraising success.

Get on Calendars Early

You’ll need the participation of your organization’s supporters and donors, if your ‘a-thon event is to be successful. As soon as the event date is confirmed, mention it in any communication you send to donors. If “thank you” confirmation letters or emails are automatically generated, update the templates with your event’s information.

Send out save-the-date postcards several months in advance of your event. Submit your schedule to community calendars published by newspapers and television and radio stations. Include any deadlines for registration or entry, as well the event date. Also, submit your event to local Chambers of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureaus.

Technology Tip: If your fundraiser is tied to a specific event date, use the Events applications on Facebook and LinkedIn, or, to schedule your event and invite your fans to attend it. Consider listing your event on,, or (for large cities).

Exploit Free Publicity Opportunities

Maximize free publicity opportunities for both your event and your nonprofit. Submit public service announcements (PSA) about your event to local television and radio stations.

Make connections in the local media. Ask reporters from the community or lifestyle sections of area newspapers and business journals to cover your event as a story. Make yourself available for media interviews, and be prepared to discuss how your event supports your organization’s mission.

Technology Tip: Want to make it easier for donors to find your organization on the Web? Try applying to Google Grants, which provides free Google AdWords (PPC or “pay per click”) advertising for nonprofit organizations. Learn more at

Reach Out to Supporters Online

Your supporters are probably already among the estimated 46% of American adults now using social networking websites, such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn. (Amanda Lenhart, The Democratization of Social Media, presentation given on October 8, 2009) Enable your participants, supporters, and donors to become donation engines by giving them tools that easily share information about your event on their own personal networks. Encourage supporters to continue the conversation.

Technology Tip: Use or to monitor conversations from several social media sites in a single dashboard.

Remember the Rule of Threes

Remember the time-tested marketing theory known as the “Rule of Threes.” A person must hear about your event three times before they will remember it and possibly take action. You’ll need to speak to the community about your event many times to ensure that people hear it enough to drive them to take action.

Technology Tip: Use social media channels, such as to publish status updates and enable others to share the message on your behalf. Provide “share” buttons that send links to popular networks automatically on your event registration and donation forms.

Reach a Wide Audience Using Multi-Channel Communication

Different people prefer different communication methods – email, phone, text message, etc. Keep this in mind when you create your publicity plan. Utilize as many channels as you can, including traditional direct mail, email, social media, newspapers, and radio or television, to help get your message out.

Technology Tip: Keep your donor and participant databases in-house so that you can own the relationship and keep in touch with these supporters. Don’t be tempted to outsource your fundraising efforts. By maintaining control over your own data, you can incur fewer fees and help ensure that your donor list remains up-to-date.

Use Story-Telling to Make Personal Connections

Help supporters make a connection between their donation and the cause it will support through individual stories. Studies show that human empathy tends to diminish as we are asked to help a larger and larger group of people in need. Give your community personal, individual stories that demonstrate why your mission is important.

Technology Tip: When supporters are moved by your compelling story, don’t rely on donors to click on multiple links to get back to a generic form on your website.  Give your supporters personalized donation forms, so they can ask friends and family for donations directly on their social networking or personal websites. Create mini fundraising pages and forms that include images, video and other compelling content.

Motivate Donors by Clearly Communicating Results

Donors want to see evidence of the difference they’re making. Make a habit of regularly updating your supporters on program results, project status, and fundraising progress so they feel more connected to your mission. (And, don’t forget to do this using multiple channels – direct mail, social networking sites, etc.)

Technology Tip: Use online “thermometers” to show your financial goal and the amount of donations received. Seeing your organization get closer to your goal will keep participants and donors motivated and excited.


Promoting your next event doesn’t have to require a massive budget to be successful. Take advantage of existing networks, publicity opportunities in local media, participant fundraising, and powerful story telling to create buzz and encourage community engagement.

Now that we’ve covered planning and promotional activities, we’ll look at tips and best practices for executing on those plans in the final installment of this series. We’ll learn how to create an exceptional experience for participants and supporters, both during and after the event.

Read parts one and three of this series: Event Success: Practical Planning Tips and Event Success: Operation & Execution

Event Success: Practical Planning Tips

This is the first installment of a series about successful event planning for nonprofits originally published in Canadian Fundraiser eNews in July 2010.

Please read parts two and three of this series: Event Success: Practical Promotion Tips and Event Success: Operation & Execution


Event Success: Practical Planning Tips

By Stacy Dyer

Fundraising through events, such as ‘a-thons, is an increasingly popular option for nonprofit organizations. Whether a walk-a-thon, golf tournament, race, or a mustache-a-thon (yes, they exist), a well-organized event can help you increase public awareness of your cause; build support and sentiment within the community; and raise more funds for your mission.

This three-part article series will contain practical tips you can use to turn your next event into a successful donation-a-thon! This first installment will cover tips to help you plan your event, from selecting an appropriate date to making sure your website is ready.

Start Early and Claim the Date

To get the community involved, you should get your event date on the calendar as soon as possible. It’s impossible to guarantee support, but think about what day is most likely to encourage the most participation.

First, choose a weekend day, especially if your primary audience is working professionals. Also, choose a time of year with pleasant weather, since your participants can dress warmly when the weather is cool, but it’s difficult to beat the heat during hot, humid times of year.

Technology Tip: While you may not be a weather forecaster, you can use available tools to pick the best date for your fundraiser. To see the historic average high and low temperatures for any day of the year, go to, enter your city, and click the “Month” tab.

In addition, you should check thoroughly for conflicts. (This is sometimes easier said than done!) Avoid scheduling your event during significant local, national, or international sporting events that may cause a conflict for your supporters. Also, check with other local nonprofit organizations to avoid overlapping events.

Create a Dedicated Publicity Committee

You’ll want to create a publicity plan at least one year ahead of your planned event date. Name a publicity chair and enlist the assistance of a committee of staff and/or volunteers that will help drive publicity-related tasks.

Starting six to 12 months out, the committee should meet at least once per month. Closer to the event, they should meet more frequently to keep everything on track.

Technology Tip: It can be difficult to schedule meetings, especially if you’re including outside volunteers. For a free online scheduling tool, try or In just a few minutes, you can send an e-mail link to committee members, proposing several different dates and times. Each person indicates his or her availability, and you can easily see when schedules align.

Recruit Corporate Sponsors

‘A-thon events are an ideal opportunity for nonprofits to partner with strategic corporate sponsors who can provide the capital funds needed for critical pre-event planning expenses. Companies may prefer to support your event via in-kind donations of much-needed items, like printing, publicity, or concessions, especially if they can secure a lower cost for supplies.

The most successful sponsorship partnerships are a win-win relationship – exposing both organizations to new audiences and customers. Not only does the sponsor reach new customers, but they can also encourage employees to form fundraising teams and participate in your event.

Corporations sponsor charity events to make a positive contribution to their community and foster goodwill. However you can help them generate publicity for their business will increase both their perceived value and the chance you will receive the sponsorship.

Prominently feature sponsors on event literature, websites, t-shirts, advertising, and signage. Recognize sponsors’ contributions during the event, too. Having different levels of sponsorship available (with corresponding levels of benefits) can help you get more small and medium sized businesses involved.

Solicit Matching Funds

If you can find a corporate sponsor or other benefactor who is willing to provide matching funds, you’ll find that more people will become involved with your event and that you can raise more money. When donations are being matched, participants and donors perceive their efforts as having twice the impact.

Create a Website or Blog

When promoting an ‘a-thon or event, it helps to provide a single place where everyone can access the latest information. Set up a website with a URL that is easy to remember, and link to a blog where you and celebrity guests can post information about the upcoming event. Then put that address on your flyers, direct mail, and other materials. You can even include the website address in listings on community calendars and on t-shirts that are distributed early.

Technology Tip: You can set up your organization’s new blog at no charge by visiting or

Remove Barriers to Online Giving

According to “Wired Wealthy – Using the Internet to Connect with Your Middle and Major Donors,” a study conducted by Convio, Sea Change Strategies, and Edge Research, 66% of major donors check out an organization online before committing to donate.

The study also found that 80% of major donors have made online charitable donations, and 51% of donors prefer to give online because doing so is fast, efficient, and allows them to give while it’s on their minds.

A well-designed website will appeal to potential donors, reinforcing their desire to be involved with your organization and its mission. State your goals clearly and be upfront about the stewardship of your receipts. Directly ask for the funds you need, and state why you need them. And, make it easy for donors to give directly from your site.

Technology Tip: Your home page and event page should contain three essential items: a concrete definition of your mission, personal descriptions of the impact your organization makes, and a prominently featured “Donate Now” button. For even better conversions, embed a donation form that is secure, simple to use, and requires no additional clicks to other pages.


Proper planning is critical to ensuring your ‘a-thon event is a success. Start early and use these tips to create an event that engages your supporters and the community.

In part two of this series, we’ll look at tips and tools for promoting your event, plus best practices for getting the most out of social media networks and online fundraising efforts.


Read parts two and three of this series: Event Success: Practical Promotion Tips and Event Success: Operation & Execution