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Online event fundraising 101

publication date: Dec 11, 2012
author/source: Jamy Squillace
If you want to raise nine times more online than you are now, then event fundraising might be just what you are looking for. At Sage, we evaluated our online fundraising customers and saw that they were raising, on average, about 890% more from their online events than their main donation page. Jamy Squillace photo

What is event fundraising? 

Event fundraising is the planning, managing, and execution of an event designed to raise money for a nonprofit organization. The best-known events are runs, walks and rides. But don't feel limited to those; you can plan events such as galas, luncheons, trivia nights, golf tournaments and comedy nights. 

In addition to raising more money for your organization, fundraising events can build deeper relationships with existing donors and help you reach new donors or target a new demographic. Nonprofit organizations that create multiple avenues for connecting and communicating with individuals are more likely to have success raising funds to support their work. People are different and respond to different kinds of appeals, so having a variety of options encourages more people to support your cause. 

Sponsorships and donations can also help increase the success of your event. Many people are willing to spend more for an item or an experience when a portion of that cost will go to a charity, rather than donating those funds directly. So, consider including a raffle or auction as part of your next event. A well planned event can bring in more funds and extend your reach to new donors. 

Why do it online? 

Taking your event online is critical to maximizing the funds you raise. Why? Because that's where your supporters are. There are now 300 million smartphone users in the world and they keep their mobile device within arm's reach 24 hours a day. Online participants also tend to raise more money than offline supporters, and online fundraising makes it easy for supporters to reach out to their networks and bring new donors to your mission. 

With the right online fundraising tools, you can maximize your event ROI and minimize your staff time. You can quickly launch an event and open up your registration process from your website, sponsor websites, Facebook pages and via smart phones. Think about the time saved when you no longer have to manually key in participant registrations or process offline payments.   

What you need to know to run an effective event 

When you take a look at all the event planning resources on the web, the most important tip you'll see over and over is "plan." An event doesn't just come together overnight. Depending on the size and complexity of the event, your timeline may be two months to ten months or more. Invest time in the planning stage to save time later and execute your event flawlessly. 

Your plan is the road map for reaching your goals, implementing strategies, meeting timelines and executing successfully. You can begin your planning efforts by selecting your event type and date, reviewing your previous events and setting goals to improve upon past results. 

Essential steps for taking your next event online 

After the planning stage, the hard work of implementation begins.  Get all the pieces in place to make your event run as smoothly as possible. Build a microsite or devote a section on your website to the event. Create an online registration process, develop your fundraising system for donations; and select and confirm vendors and sponsors. 

Selecting the proper tools is essential to running a smooth online campaign. Assuming you already have a website, you'll also need an email marketing tool so you can get the word out to your email list. You'll need an online fundraising tool to create customized event registration and ticket sales,  integrate fundraising into the registration process, provide progress meters to track real-time success, and enable peer-to-peer fundraising. 

Conducting an event can be time-consuming, but it can also be rewarding in terms of additional money and awareness for your organization. It is also a chance to have fun and meet supporters face-to-face. Good luck! 

For a more detailed event planning guide, download Sage Nonprofit Solutions' Event Fundraising Best Practices E-Book.

Jamy Squillace is a senior product manager at Sage Nonprofit Solutions, a division of Sage North America. She is responsible for Sage Fundraising 50, Sage Fundraising Online, Sage Nonprofit Online and Sage e-Marketing. Jamy has 16 years of experience in product planning and management. Her goal is to create and evolve fundraising solutions that fulfill customer desires and exceed expectations. You can find her blogging at or on Twitter @jrsquillace.

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