Transforming traditional/transactional fundraising events into TG events

Golf scrambles, auctions, jog-a-thons, and wine and cheese tasting events:

The problem with utilizing the aforementioned activities in your development program is that they attract people on a basis other than the cause, building a relationship with you from the outset that is not a mutual accountability relationship.

The traditional/transactional formulat goes something like this:

  • golf and then hear about our cause in the clubhouse afterward;
  • bid on an item totally unrelated to our cause so that we can use your money to impact the cause;
  • taste the wine and cheese with your friends, and don’t mind me while I tell you a little bit about our cause.

It all sounds so sensible, but I can’t resist asking just one teeny-tiny question:

Why do we assume that our causes in and of themselves are so unattractive to people that they must be paired with wine and cheese to make them palatable?

What, in other words, would it look like for you to do an event where the evening’s activities are based entirely and only around enabling individuals to directly participate in the cause?

The key is that the event needs to provide the occasion, the equipping, and the opportunity for your owner-level champions to invite those in their sphere of influence to actually do the word related to your cause. Not just learn about it. Not just be emotionally impacted by it. Not just to give money towards it. But to be it.

There is a potentially risky but highly rewarding path, however, that involves your ministry taking these kind of traditional/transactional events (e.g., golf scrambles, auctions, jog-a-thons, and wine and cheese tasting events), completely upending people’s traditional experiences of them, and utilizing them to enable direct participation in the cause.

I say potentially risky because:

  • What many ministries do when they hear this is to keep the essential traditional/transactional structure of the event intact but add a transformational element or two. There’s certainly nothing illegal about that, but there’s nothing highly rewarding about that either. If you’re still recruiting people on the basis of the wine and the cheese, you’re still recruiting people on the basis of the wine and the cheese.
  • You don’t want to do a bait-and-switch. The idea isn’t to convince people they’re coming to a traditional golf scramble and then surprise them by assigning a homeless person to their threesome. There again, you’re recruiting people on the basis of the golf scramble and upending their expectations…in the wrong order (and in a way that will make you far more foes than friends).

So the key is to do the upending in the invitation process. That is, make sure the potential guest knows what they’re getting into. Do it right and not only will your owner-level champions have a powerful vehicle for recruiting new people to the cause, but the event may gather a word-of-mouth velocity of its own that causes even participant-level champions to want to replicate it in their own sphere of influence.

I saw a particularly powerful example of this last week, with Yorba Linda-based With This Ring.

Much of the gold and diamonds used in wedding rings is mined in Africa. Although “blood diamond” abuses are more rare these days than in the past, there’s no denying that the mining takes its toll on the miners themselves (in the form of low wages), not to mention the environment (runoff from mining can contaminate water sources). You can see more on the With This Ring website.

What With This Ring does is to invite people to donate their wedding rings to the organization so that the organization can sell the rings and use the money to drill drinking water wells in Africa. It’s a neat P/E/O organization that enables champions to be involved in any number of ways at each step in the process.

Recently With This Ring began holding auctions…but not the typical nonprofit auction where a mishmash of items and services are sold to raise money for charity.

Instead, With This Ring auctions are auctions of the actual wedding rings people have donated…and the story of how they came to donate the ring, as well as the history of the ring itself, are told as part of the auction.

In essence, the auction enables a ring to be “redeemed”.

After all, engaged couples are unlikely to be satisfied by going ringless or using crayons and colored markers to decorate cigar bands. Why not “redeem” a ring by purchasing it through the With This Ring auction, such that 100% of the proceeds of the purchase don’t go to the jeweler but rather back to Africa to aid the people who mined the materials in the first place?

And while you’re at it, why not take your honeymoon to Africa and participate in the drilling of the well that your donation helped make possible?

Note, by the way, that the auction is a platform With This Ring provides to its champions. The champions are the ones providing not only the rings themselves but the stories and the histories that make the rings compelling items on which to bid.

How can your ministry redeeem an event like an auction or a wine and cheese tasting event or a golf scramble? World Vision transformed the “-athon” into direct interaction with the cause through the 30 Hour Famine. What about you?

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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1 Response to Transforming traditional/transactional fundraising events into TG events

  1. Pingback: We get letters: When is it OK for a nonprofit to ask for money to meet a need? « Transformational Giving

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