5 Pro Tips to Plan a Far-Reaching Spring Fundraising Event
Dive into the five planning tips and proven best practices that turned a pilot project into a far-reaching annual spring fundraising event.
Revenue brought in from The Hike for Haiti Challenge increased by 35 times since its 2019 debut. Taylor Hebble, Hope for Haiti’s Director of Marketing and Communications, shares the strategies that made it happen.
5 Pro Tips to Plan a Spring Fundraising Event
1. Make Your Event’s Impact Clear and Authentic to Your Mission
Hope for Haiti’s mission is to improve the quality of life for Haitian people, particularly children. The Hike for Haiti narrows that mission down to a very specific initiative, to support education and public health programming at 24 partner communities. In 2022, the focus will shift to support infrastructure projects and rebuilding due to the 2021 earthquake.
The event’s clear goal keeps participants motivated each year. The niche focus makes it easier to understand how the hike differs from other Hope for Haiti activities they may take part in. When people feel more connected to the impact they’re making, it’s easier for them to communicate their specific experiences with others.
Best Practice: Select a campaign that’s easy to share
The best way to engage event supporters and participants to start working toward their fundraising goals is by giving them the opportunity to raise money as soon as they sign up.
Hope for Haiti leverages a Classy registration with fundraising campaign for their annual Hike for Haiti challenge. Fundraisers across the world are able to easily create individual and team fundraising pages to spread the word.
Each individual fundraising page matches the event’s look and feel while allowing fundraisers to personalize details to appeal to their networks. Hope for Haiti supplied fundraisers with a toolkit with graphics and language to explain the challenge and garner more support. The most successful fundraising team brought in $90,378 alone, and one participant hit 595% of their intended fundraising goal.
Best Practice: Break down barriers to entry
Hope for Haiti made the event accessible to anyone with fundraising commitments in Classy. The organization understood that the tax-deductible $30 registration cost of the event could be a barrier for many people amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Fundraising commitments allowed people to register and use the full month of the event to raise the $30 from their networks. This opened the door to participants who would’ve passed on registration otherwise.
Even though I was the one that was hiking for the challenge, I got my family and friends to support me. They donated on my fundraising page where I shared the reason it meant so much to me. Everyone felt like they were a part of the event’s impact this way and raising more than I could have alone made it all the more fulfilling.
2. Build a Community
Fundraising events are an opportunity for supporters to both engage with the organization and meet people who share a similar passion for the cause. Hope for Haiti recognizes this value and keeps community top of mind when crafting the Hike for Haiti Challenge each year.
Best Practice: Open your event for sponsors and brand partners
An important way that Hike for Haiti creates a larger sense of community is by featuring sponsors and brand partners on their event page. Think about whom you can reach out to when you’re in the early planning stages of an event and put out a timely call for sponsorship packages.
Entice organizations to join your mission and build your community so each year it’s easier to enlist support. Event sponsors and brand partners give people a group of faces and names who publicly stand behind the event’s success.
Best Practice: Introduce an ambassador program
Beyond formal sponsorship, your event can take flight with support from a few core ambassadors. These individuals help spread the word in an organic way that many people appreciate and respond to. In the age of influencer marketing, it’s not a bad idea to include an ambassador program that models the same concept.
Hope for Haiti featured 23 ambassadors for their 2021 event. These ambassadors ranged in experiences and backgrounds from athletes to performers and authors. A diverse representation will help your event cast a wider net for prospective attendees.
The Hike for Haiti is always on my mind and I’m constantly logging potential ambassadors, partners, sponsors, and participants as I see things on social media or in the news throughout the year. Our incredible global community is what drives the Hike’s success and provides feedback to make it better each year.
3. Create Compelling Communication to Excite Participants
A month-long event inevitably lends itself to lulls. Your communication with attendees has to extend past a simple confirmation when they register or a recap after the event. Hope for Haiti planned a series of strategic donor touchpoints throughout the campaign to maintain a feeling of excitement while keeping it from feeling overwhelming.
Best Practice: Introduce a sense of competition
Participants were eligible for prizes that served as compelling reasons to raise more. Hope for Haiti called out these prizes on the main event page to excite new participants and remind current supporters who checked back on the event’s fundraising progress. Consider how you can introduce incentives that create a memorable spring event experience and keep people coming back.
Best Practice: Establish fun milestone moments
Hike for Haiti featured two major livestream events for anyone, anywhere in the world to join in on the experience. The first was a Mid-Month Motivation Event, which was a full-day virtual fitness festival. The second was an All-Stars Celebration Event, which featured live performances by Hike for Haiti Challenge Ambassadors and an awards ceremony for the hikers.
Each milestone event lived on their Classy campaign page to entice donations. Get creative to tap into trends that might be popular around your event.
Best Practice: Align a social media engagement strategy
The month-long timeframe of #hikeforhaiti was the perfect opportunity to get people sharing regularly. Hope for Haiti gave fundraisers the hashtag to organically share their experiences on social media. It also helps participants located all over the world to interact with the event and each other.
When participants shared hiking moments or fundraising progress, Hope for Haiti entered them for extra chances to win prizes. The influx of organic pictures and videos Hope for Haiti received gave them content to post throughout the month. Instead of curating a month-long social media content calendar ahead of time, they focused on the real-time event experience.
Prize winners were announced on social media, giving people even more reason to check out the online conversation. Hope for Haiti built a strong cadence of posting and live moments on Instagram to highlight hikers.
Communication is so important to keeping your participants engaged over the event period, especially if it’s a full month long like the Hike for Haiti.
4. Deliver a Memorable Experience
An annual event needs to become a memorable experience for attendees and participants to return year after year. The Hike for Haiti Challenge strives to create this type of experience through every phase of the event.
Best Practice: Livestream key moments to make them globally accessible
Plan ahead to livestream moments in your event. That may include the opening ceremony, awards announcements, or key updates on fundraising progress. Get creative with how you use livestream functionality to engage virtual attendees at specific times.
Hike for Haiti’s All-Stars live-streamed celebration featured a live DJ and a donation page link at the top of the screen.
Another advantage of video content is that you can share it long after the event ends to continue pulling in donations. Send emails to those who registered for your event but didn’t attend, and feature video clips of the excitement.
You might also use the video content to promote the following year’s event. Even if you host a livestream event through Zoom, record it to house on YouTube later. You might even be able to lean on your fundraising platform for support. If you’re searching for an all-in-one event venue, Classy Live makes it easy to livestream content throughout an event all in one online event venue.
Best Practice: Choose an optimal timeframe
Hike for Haiti 2021 took place between April 1 and May 2. Given that weather can be unpredictable in the spring, the one-month span gave participants in any climate a way to plan their hike around weather conditions with more flexibility.
This is just one benefit of extending your event past a weekend. Any nonprofit can adopt this mentality, even if a specific part of the event still occurs on a dedicated day. Widen the possibility of attendance with less risk of a scheduling conflict and give fundraisers an entire month to collect donations.
Best Practice: Make the entire experience available on the fly
The Hike for Haiti campaign page, registration, fundraising, and donation pages are mobile-friendly. People can click on an ad on social media or in their mail app and seamlessly continue the experience on their phone. When links are accessible on any device, sharing feels like a natural extension of their day-to-day activities.
Our event is hosted on the Classy platform, and has been since day 1! Even the live-streamed portions of the event are streamed live from Twitch onto YouTube, which is embedded on the Classy campaign homepage. We—and our donors—love that our campaigns on Classy are attractive, easy-to-use, and mobile-responsive.
5. Don’t Let Perfection Hold Back a Big Launch
Iteration is key to Hike for Haiti’s success. Without taking the leap to test this new idea and launch the event for the first time, Hope for Haiti would have never known its potential to become a pillar event of their annual strategy. It takes both experimentation with new ideas and a regular feedback loop to know how to grow an event’s success. When you acknowledge imperfections and identify opportunities to improve, you can fine-tune your event to attract new supporters and retain your past participants year after year.
Best Practice: Set up a feedback loop
In 2019, Hope for Haiti hosted debriefing meetings after the event. Staff, partners, ambassadors, and key donors provided feedback on what worked well and any opportunities for improvement. Attendees provided additional feedback in a survey after the event too. For the next year’s planning process, Hope for Haiti had enough information to reflect back on with fresh perspectives. They’ve replicated this feedback process every year.
Best Practice: Evolve your event with the current landscape
In 2020, Hope for Haiti had big plans to introduce major in-person activations in key markets to their event. The event was initially a three-day weekend but then extended to its current month-long format in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The organization also made up for canceling in-person activities. The event introduced fitness instructors from major brands like DOGPOUND in a virtual capacity. Hikers gained free access to virtual “hike-inspired,” live-streamed classes, as well as a virtual community on Facebook where they could connect and share with each other. Hope for Haiti’s virtual efforts contributed to $106,000 raised in the first month of the 2020 challenge. The totals far exceeded Hope for Haiti’s goal of about $50,000.
In 2021, they took to technology to improve the experience again. Fundraising options expanded with livestream gaming and flexible payment options like cryptocurrency. They also launched a partnership with AllTrails for hikers to easily find hikes in their area that fit the same distance or elevation as the real mountain in Marre a Coiffe. The 2021 event once again crushed their fundraising goal.
We were luckier than many organizations when COVID hit, because the Hike for Haiti always included a virtual component. We definitely had a learning curve in learning how to build a virtual community for our hikers who couldn’t come together in person. Not every idea will be successful, but these are unprecedented times, and trying new things will only breed further innovation.
2022 and Beyond
We can only expect more innovation for Hike for Haiti 2022, which is already well into the planning phase. The 2022 event will shift focus as a “Hike to Rebuild” after the devastating earthquake in Haiti that took place in August 2021.
Taylor shares, “We’re hopeful to finally have in-person activations and will be bringing in additional revenue streams and technologies like cryptocurrency, Virtual Reality, and NFTs (among others). We’re excited to see campaign templates launch in Classy and are very excited for the Venmo launch in the new year. We have an ambitious fundraising goal, and hope to once again exceed it.”
We hope you find these best practices inspiring for existing events or to help bring that idea you’ve been wanting to try to life. You never know if it will become the next big fundraising event for your organization.
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