Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia

YOU, the appreciative fundraiser

In Special Events on April 29, 2014 at 3:51 pm


I have a secret.

I know that in fundraising we talk a lot about ROI (Return on Investments) and that special events are, supposedly, not where we should be focusing our energy. Events are time consuming and can be expensive. people say.

But, I…. well you see…I really LOVE putting on events.

There, I’ve said it.

And no, it’s not because I like to throw a big “party,” it’s because events, when done right, can give organizations a good ROE (Return on Engagement).

Walk for Memories has been raising awareness and bringing those living the dementia journey, together, for over two decades. It was eight years ago that the Society determined it would be a special event fundraiser.

Over the past eight years, just like the number of people with dementia have grown in our province, so has the event in participants and funds raised. It remains the largest event we hold each year and one that everyone in the office looks forward to.

Why and How? So glad you asked!

Here are Sarah’s Essential Components of a special event fundraiser
(This does not include media planning or budgets, because I know you are already awesome fundraisers who are careful about partnerships and staying within a budget!)

1. Communication – Are you only communicating with your guests just a few months before or all year long? Our participants are affected by dementia, they are a family member, a friend or a support worker. We invite them all year long to participate in the programs their donations ensure are available to Nova Scotians. And at those programs, we post pictures to the Walk for Memories social media, because we want to let our donors know what we are doing with their money.

2. Connecting Participants to the Mission – So you have all these wonderful, awesome supporters come to the event. Are your program staff their to answer questions, provide information, meet the donors who make all of it happen? When I became the coordinator of Walk for Memories the first thing I did was try to rectify two divides I found with our events: On-site mission promotion and the emotional connection of participants.
Onsite mission promotion: at our Walk for Memories, we have a “Brain Fair.” Organized by the Programs and Services staff, they find partners to work seven booths of activities that focus on the seven ways we can all make our brain healthier at any age (Being socially, mentally active, physically active, eating healthy foods, being stress free, paying attention to our medical health and being wise about keeping our heads safe. See how even in a blog post about events you can incorporate mission promotion!)  Event participants can go to as many of the booths as they want and leave with a takeaway. We include one booth that I just around dementia and the programs and services that donors make possible.
Emotionally Connecting participants: Before coming to work at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia, I had just completed participating in a special event that gave me an opportunity to single out the person I was there to honour. We didn’t have anything like that at our event, which was outside and included walking on a pathway. We created “Memory Lane” which gave participants a chance to pass in artwork, or a picture, of the person they were walking for before the event. We stapled them to pickets and that is what lined the pathway towards the end of the 5km. We have grown over time and moved locations, but Memory Lane remains as a reminder of why we all gather (and in 2014, it is going to look very cool. Stay tuned for the wrap up post!)

3. Appreciation – Just like talking to your participants all year round, how are you showing your appreciation and thus (hopefully) stewarding them? At the event we have a photo booth, and the very next day after the Walk, each persons photo arrives in their mailbox with a thank you. For our Top Teams, we present them frames at the event, for their team picture, with a little write up placed in it. Family teams aren’t likely to want a plaque I think, so photo frames that come with an insert to write a message is an affordable way for any organization to show their appreciation.
We also have a certain pledge level that anyone who reaches (or exceeds) is recognized at the event as a Pledge SuperStar. They wear something different from the rest of the crowd. This could be a different coloured t-shirt (we don’t do t-shirts every year) or a lanyard, or this year a For-Get-Me not pin!

There is so much more I want to tell you about Special Event Fundraising! But I will leave you with this: after six years as the coordinator of the event, a new coordinator will be in the lead of this years Walk for Memories. I have all the confidence in her (I hired her!) but letting go has been a hard transition. The event participants, who share their personal stories to raise donations, are very special to me. They support everything we do. They have made me bookmarks and let me into their world to create videos and campaigns to promote the event. They buy ducks during our other special event and become Ambassadors on social media.

We are so appreciative for all that they do and we hope to make each special event about celebrating all that THEY do to help Nova Scotian families living the dementia journey.

(If you want to talk more about special events, leave a comment. I could go one for another 1000 words!)

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