Three Ways to Jumpstart Your Yearend Fundraiser
By Brad Dowhaniuk

Brad Dowhaniuk
Brad Dowhaniuk
With donors giving an average of $48 billion in November and December, these months traditionally represent the year’s biggest fundraising opportunity for nonprofits, which means it’s imperative that you start planning your approach early.

Planning for such a big opportunity can be overwhelming for smaller teams, so breaking the process into steps is the best way to go. Consider these three ideas to build momentum at the beginning of the giving season:

1. Kickoff the Season with an Event

The year-end giving season begins with #GivingTuesday, which occurs on the first Tuesday following Thanksgiving. In the past, nonprofits have raised, on average, $300 million in online donations on this date.

#GivingTuesday signals the start of year-end giving and the holiday season, and one of the best ways to embrace both is with a kickoff event.

There is a very wide range of events that your organization could host, some more planning- or resource-intensive than others. However, the holiday season is busy, so you’ll want to choose an event that invites your donors to give while allowing you to stay relatively low-stress during these busy months.

One option that satisfies both of these requirements is a group-fitness based fundraiser, such as a walk-a-thon. Though walk-a-thons most often take place in the fall and spring seasons, they’re a great event to consider for your year-end push.

Check out these steps when planning a walk-a-thon:
  • Identify your cause, goals, and timeline for the fundraiser. Walk-a-thons conclude with an event, so you need to articulate clear starting and ending points for your participants.
  • Begin marketing the event early, so participants have plenty of time to solicit donations from their network.
  • Plan a fun event that everyone will enjoy.
  • On the day-of, participants walk/run a certain distance and pledged donors give an amount corresponding to that.
A walk-a-thon encourages fitness with your community while raising funds for your organization. However, you can make this event even more beneficial.

2. Put a Twist on a Classic Event

While a walk-a-thon is never a bad choice, there’s a decent chance your participants have encountered many such events throughout their lifetime. You want your giving season kickoff event to honor your donors as well as encourage them to give, so you want it to be a fun time for everyone involved. It’s time to get creative.

One type of organization has perfected the imaginative walk-a-thon fundraiser model. Educational institutions have found major success by putting a creative twist on the classic event. Here are a few ideas for your walk-a-thon fundraiser with a twist:
  • Santa Claus Fun Run: Invite participants to dress as holiday characters.

  • Turkey Trot: Motivate participants to exercise following their Thanksgiving holiday feast.

  • Holiday Obstacle Course: Include holiday-themed challenges placed at specified distance check-points.
For a deeper look at how schools have revolutionized classic fundraisers, check out these PTA fundraising ideas.

3. Leverage Social Networks

If you choose to go the group fitness-based fundraiser route, you should invite participants to leverage their social networks to raise even more contributions for your cause.

Walk-a-thons rely on peer-to-peer fundraising. This is slightly different from crowdfunding, which has also grown steadily in popularity. Specifically:
  • Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: A donor invites their social networks to donate to their personal giving campaign, which is then transferred to your organization. In this scenario, the donor’s network is inspired to donate due to wanting to support the donor, regardless of whether they’re actually familiar with your cause. This makes it a great way to reach new audiences of potential supporters.

  • Crowdfunding: A donor educates their friends and family on your cause, most often through social networks. The donor then invites their network to donate directly to your organization in support. Crowdfunding platforms or your own central donation page can be used.
Peer fundraising is, foundationally, built into the walk-a-thon event already. However, you should consider inviting non-participants who may be interested in supporting your cause to crowdfund in your honor.

Not every person who contributes to your cause will be interested in participating in the physical event. You should consider creating a crowdfunding page for these donors to share on your behalf.

Brad Dowhaniuk is the co-founder of 99Pledges, which provides schools and teams with an easy-to-use, web-based fundraising solution to manage and drive success.
October 2019