Taking the Leap from Proprietary to Third-Party Fundraising Events

For many nonprofits, the role of “proprietary events” is the largest piece in their development pie chart. But, what happens when that piece keeps getting smaller and the cost outweighs the return?

Some nonprofits in this position feel like they have to stay with the status quo no matter what the cost — after all, how else will they engage with their constituents? Other nonprofits see that by partnering with an existing third-party event (for example, marathons, color runs, etc.) or by offering their constituents the opportunity to participate in a third-party event and fundraise on the nonprofit’s behalf, they still have the marketing exposure of an event without the headache.

If your nonprofit is facing the event season with low numbers in participants, fundraising, and sponsorships, and you’re looking for a way to make the switch to third-party events, following are some things you should consider.

First, think about the issues that can arise from a major shift in your event fundraising:

  • Event fundraising software: Depending on the software you have purchased, you may not be able to leave this big-ticket item behind. For most third-party events, you’ll still need your participants to register through your site so that they can fundraise on your behalf.  Ideally, you’ll continue to communicate with them as you normally would have for your proprietary event.
  • Marketing/branding: When you move to a third-party event, you’ll lose the ability to market the event as your own. But, there may be opportunities to showcase your organization within the event, especially if you’re chosen as a charity sponsor.  Look for opportunities to be included on the event website, in event emails, and on site. Or, ask to have a special area for your participants to congregate before or after the event.
  • Loss of direct interaction with participants: This will no doubt be the most difficult challenge to overcome, but it can also be an opportunity.  Can you take the interaction that constituents would have had with a speaker or special guest to another venue like a conference or a panel discussion?  By focusing the direct interaction with participants to a more educational or limited engagement event that doesn’t require the onsite set up that an endurance event requires, you can position your organization as one that offers more benefits to their participants.

Next, think about the benefits of moving to a third party event:

  • Cost: Perhaps the most substantial benefit of moving from proprietary events to third-party events is the cost. You’ll no longer have to worry about permits or portable toilets, and can focus your money and time on fundraising for the event. It will be up to you if you want to offer t-shirts or other incentives for participants, and while this will add some cost to your involvement, those costs should be covered by higher fundraising levels or by sponsors.
  • Volunteers: In most cases, you won’t need an army of volunteers to assist with the event. (However, there are some third-party events that request that you supply volunteers on event day to help.) This means that instead of focusing your volunteers on event day tasks, you can ask them to help with spreading the word about the event or making fundraising calls.
  • Sponsorships: Just because you’re not hosting the event doesn’t mean that you can’t secure sponsors. While sponsors may not get the same type of exposure that they would with your proprietary event, you can still offer space on your website, inclusion in your emails, and space on your t-shirts if you decide to offer them. Sponsors can also be a great source of items for incentives to motivate your participants to reach their fundraising goals.
  • Awareness: By participating in an event that isn’t focused solely on your constituents and your mission, you’ll be able to reach a greater audience. Request an opportunity to speak on behalf of your organization at the start or finish of the event, or request a booth that can serve the dual purpose of a meeting place for your participants and an opportunity to market your cause.

The journey to third-party events from proprietary events can be a long one, and Cathexis Partners is here to help. If you think that this may be the path for your organization, contact us, and we can help guide you.

by Laura Higgins, Strategic Consultant, Cathexis Partners
Laura specializes in fundraising and community-building events, and has worked with nonprofits for more than 15 years.

Leave a Reply