Compete for your Impact, Not for your Event

For those nonprofits which rely heavily on event revenue to make their bottom line, the news out of the nonprofit ecosystem regarding the plateau, stagnation, and downturn of revenue derived from walks, runs, rides, and other type events, is startling and of great concern. In an article this week from Denver, ( evidence shows that run/ride style events are no longer the juggernaut of fundraising they once were. If you depend on them for more than 30% of your annual nut, that’s a serious problem that cannot be ignored.

Sadly, the reaction of many nonprofits to this concerning turn of events is to double down on their run and make it more outrageous or unique, competing for the event and not for their impact. What gets lost in the message?

The value of an investment into your organization and the return your participants bring as lifetime loyalists to your cause.

Yes, having thousands onsite for your event gives a great opportunity to blow up your optics and share your mission- all eyes on you. But the reality is the runners, walkers, and riders will most likely forget your cause by the next week.

Unless you have a Long Tail plan.

For decades nonprofits have seen these events as a means to an end – raise funds by having fun. Period. Oh, and tell the participants about your cause.

Once a year they assemble the masses, speak the mission statement, pop the starter pistol, cheer on the runners. Then they post a few pictures, get a mention in the local paper, and move on to the next big thing.

In the meantime, the runners participating are getting cultivated by other organizations that they find valuable and worthy who have forgone the heavy costs of an event and have instead invested in personal engagement and speaking to impact. They are being solicited by mail, invited to lunches, meeting staff and clients, mingling with board members. All without you in the room. They are being courted, 365 days a year, by other organizations not investing all their time and resources into a once-a-year event.

It’s not as dire as it sounds though, IF you have a plan of action in which you invest resources into cultivating all your attendees AFTER the event and leading up to the next year’s engagement.

Begin your plan before the event even reaches the starting gate. Identify those who are registered through wealth screenings. Note the high net worth individuals. Create relationship trees in your database to see who is connected and nurture those connected to your organization currently.  Make plans to introduce those who are not.

Define which participants you need to meet, which need to meet the board, which need a place of honor. Which ones can get you to the next big donor? Who is of notoriety? Who represents a company you need to connect with? Who represents a group valuable to your mission? Data knowledge pre-event is gold.

Then be prepared with a plan of action beginning the day after the event is completed. Outreach by email, mail, phone calls, notecards, group invites to all participants in some level, in some way. No one is left untouched until the next year. You’ve spent, sometimes, hundreds of thousands of dollars to get them to you, now keep them and nurture them the remaining 364 days of the year with very specific tasks and actions to engage each one.


Your investment will return:

Greater event participant loyalty

Increased participation in your event through donor networks

Increase in low to mid-level donations outside of event revenue

Increase in major donor prospects

Increase in major donor gifts and the quality of major donor gifts

Greater brand awareness

Greater recall and loyalty to your mission and impact

Greater advocacy for your cause

Increase in your pool f prospective volunteers

Increase in prospect pool for committees and boards


Isn’t it worth the increased investment in resources toward nurturing the attendees toward a lifetime of giving rather than creating a bigger and crazier event?


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