I think we can all agree things are a bit crazy nowadays. Whether it’s politics, extreme weather, celebrity gossip, or something in between – the frequency of news and events is at an all-time high, with more channels than ever to digest it.

With so much going on nationally and globally, it is easy to ignore what is happening right outside our doors – especially if it costs extra money.

There are dozens of fundraising events hosted by non-profits across Rhode Island all throughout the year. These events raise critical funds to ensure each organization’s mission is carried out, which usually involves improving the lives of people in our own communities.

After reading a few Blackbaud reports on Peer-to-Peer Fundraising and overall charitable giving, and after gaining first-hand knowledge working on clients’ fundraising events, there are a few trends worth paying attention to.

Online Fundraising

From 2014-2017 the average online donation grew by nearly 2% while the average online fundraising per participant grew by 4.5%. This is good (and expected) news. This makes it imperative for event organizers to do their homework on event hosting sites. An easily navigable platform will streamline the online donation process, which could go a long way in capturing more donations.

Another interesting note is the breakdown of registration fee vs additional gifts during the registration process. Over the three years from 2014-2017, additional gift giving during registration rose in cycling events (+2%), endurance events (+9%), and 5Ks (+6%). Walking events grew by 1%. This tells us people are comfortable enough to pay larger amounts earlier in their journey from sign up to event day. This could be to either offset the burden of fundraising later in their journey, or to kick off their fundraising by “setting the bar”.


According to Blackbaud, national participation rates are down across the board. KSA has noticed a slight dip in average event attendance at several Rhode Island events as well. This could be due in part to the fact Rhode Island has one of the highest (if not the highest) number of non-profits per capita. If 10,000 people signed up for fundraising events in 2004, it could have been between 15 organizations or causes. Today, those same 10,000 participants likely choose from 25-30 organizations.

We have also noticed a slower registration pace. Participants are signing up closer to event day than ever before. This could be due in part to busier schedules or financial uncertainty, but one thing is certain: people are taking their time to make their decisions.

This could have adverse effects on fundraising and overall event success. Less time between registration and event day means less time to fundraise, which could also account for some of the larger “self-donation” numbers mentioned earlier.


The number of emails sent can have huge positive impacts on fundraising and overall experience. As an event organizer, you want to find the happy middle ground between “too much” and “not enough” information, as well as be cognizant of the quality and tone of your writing.

A poorly worded fundraising reminder might not get you the desired results. Too many emails about fundraising might annoy your participants. A weekly email that doesn’t contain useful information about the event could lead to lower open rates and click-through rates.

The balance between email subjects, as well as the frequency of each type of email, can make or break retention levels. Someone may become annoyed at how often you email them, or by useless or annoying content. They might just choose to participate in a different fundraising event.

You also want to encourage participants to send their own emails. “Great Fundraisers” (those with 5+ donations to their name) send up to 10x more emails than “Good Fundraisers” (2-4 donations to their name).

Final Thoughts

Non-profit fundraising events are no walk in the park. It takes passion, long nights, early (and I mean early) mornings, and lots of planning. The success of your event depends heavily on your communications strategy. Giving your participants useful information at the right times, adding personality, and providing support and flexibility will all lead to a more meaningful connection with your participants.

Of course, a great communication strategy with participants and donors will only be effective if people are signed up in the first place!

To drive registration, offer incentives for signing up earlier in the registration window. An earlier registration gives you the opportunity to coach and encourage the participant to fundraising glory. Maybe create a prize structure for participants to “unlock” as the event gets closer. Make each unlocked level event-related to further drive that meaningful connection mentioned earlier.

After someone has registered, start a meaningful communication process that both enables the participant to confidently ask for donations to their cause, as well as informs participants of milestones, and other event news. As time goes on, tailor your communications to those who have been the most responsive – they are your best friends. Establishing a “personal email basis” connection is much more effective than communicating by mass mailing lists as deadlines (and your event) approach.

Are you concerned about declining event attendance numbers or the ever changing trends? KSA has experience with event organizations large and small. Call today and we can partner with you to ease your worriment.