How to Make Participatory Events Part of Your Organization’s Fundraising Plan

by | Oct 15, 2013


Recently, Transform Consulting Group blogged about how revenue diversification may be the key to lessening future losses in times of economic difficulty. As we discussed, a detailed Fund Development plan should include funding from many different revenue sources or “buckets”. Fundraising events should be one of your organization’s “buckets” of revenue. One of the benefits of this funding source, unlike grants or fees-for-service, is that there are usually “no strings” attached to this funding source. As a result, an organization can use this revenue to pay for indirect and administrative costs like staffing, technology, or perhaps other infrastructure needs.

Successful special events not only raise money, but also create publicity, attract members and volunteers, engage and recruit board members, educate and enhance relationships both in the community and with sponsors, and hopefully turn special event participants into long term donors. With fundraising events, several focus on raising a small number of large gifts. However, a large number of small gifts can also have a meaningful impact. Think of the last Presidential election and all of the $25 individual donations that were collected, resulting in significant campaign funds. Participatory fundraising involves many people participating in a single or series of events to raise money for an organization. Are participatory events part of your fund development plan?

Participatory fundraising is hard work, and can be an organizational challenge. Track staff time and other costs to ensure a positive return on investment (ROI). Some widely known and successful special events held by local nonprofits include:

Drumstick Dash Logo

  • The Wheeler Mission’s Drumstick Dash, held for the last 11 years on Thanksgiving morning. Proceeds from the run/walk support the homeless men, women, and children Wheeler Mission serves. The event even includes an “Outta Town Dash Around” option so those that travel for the holiday can still participate. Those picking up race packets can also stop in at the BlueMile store in Broad Ripple on Wednesday, November 27 and Thursday, November 28, and BlueMile will donate 10% of their proceeds to Wheeler Mission. Event participants can also raise funds through individual or team “fund racing”. Runners from the 2012 Drumstick Dash teamed up to raise more than $13,000 through the optional fund racing site.
  • SpellingBeeLogoThe 7th Annual Indy Reads Spelling Bee will take place on Thursday, October 17th 2013 at the Hyatt in downtown Indy. Teams go vowel-to-vowel against teams from other companies and organizations to find out who has the best spellers, and proceeds support Indy Reads adult literacy programs. Indy Reads is also taking part in the 2013 Heartland Film Festival. Every Festival screening ticket purchased online using promo code [books!] will give back $2 to Indy Reads!
  • Many in Indianapolis grew up with the annual Children’s Museum Guild’sHaunted House Haunted House. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the fundraiser for the museum, which has raised more than $8.5 million since it began in 1964.


  • Rock It To A Cure LogoRock It to a Cure is a an annual rockfest featuring bands coming together to perform to raise money for charities that are mainly involved in the research and cure of childhood diseases and the improvement of the quality of life of these children. This year, Rock it to a Cure will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and The Anthenaeum Foundation. Sun King Brewery is also donating a portion of every can of beer that is sold at the concert to RITAC.

These are just a few examples of participatory fundraising events! Be creative and think about what kind of activities your supporters are interested in. There are many ways to set up a participatory fundraising campaign for your organization. Need help with Fund Development or Event Planning? Transform Consulting Group knows how to make your organization successful. Contact us today for a free consultation!




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