Jessica Lewis, Fundraising Innovation Consultant, hjc
With all the buzz surrounding the Boston marathon this week, it brings back memories of my last race in New York in November. I caught the marathon bug a few years ago, running my first one in Toronto in 2012 and then Chicago the following year. After running Chicago, I decided that I wanted to complete another major marathon and was determined to run New York.
You can get into the New York marathon by either gaining entry through the lottery system, qualifying with extremely fast race times (speedier than Boston) or signing up with a charity team. I decided to sign up to run and fundraise for Team for Kids, which is the New York marathon’s partner charity that supports New York Road Runners by offering health and fitness programs to children in under-served schools across the United States.
I chose to run with Team for Kids for two main reasons. One, I felt a connection to the cause. Two, the minimum fundraising goal was $2,620 which seemed achievable in comparison to other participating charity requirements. It might not seem like a lot of money, but I knew that I would likely depend on the support of my peers for micro-donations of $25 on average. Breaking down my total goal meant that I would need to get over 100 people to donate to my personal fundraising page. According to The Next Generation of Canadian Giving, 64% of Gen Ys are 1-2 times more likely than Gen X, Boomers and Matures to support someone else raising money on behalf of a charity. Most of my peers fall within Gen Y, so at least I had a better chance at gaining their support!
At hjc, we have been doing a lot more work with our clients around mapping optimal donor journeys, which has often led to improving the overall experience (and conversion rates) for event participants. It got me thinking about my journey running with Team for Kids – from the first touch point of creating a profile online to receiving the alumni newsletter.
If I were to map out my own journey with Team for Kids it would look something like this:
- I created a profile with Team for Kids and received a confirmation email
- I received multiple confirmation emails, including an acknowledgment of my self-pledge, a summary of my registration payment and a fundraising agreement outlining my commitment to raise $2,620 by October 1st
- I received a fundraising kick-off email with ample resources to kick start my fundraising and sent out my first donation e-appeal asking friends and family for support
- I received the first donation to my personal fundraising page!
- I received weekly coaching emails over the 5 months leading up to the event, which included both fundraising and training tips, and inspired me to host my own fundraising event
- I posted a link to my personal fundraising page on Facebook asking my friends for support
- There were other emails, videos, conference calls that included multiple resources for both fundraising and running. These resources were inspirational and connected me to the cause.
- I hosted a cocktail party to raise money for Team for Kids and reached my fundraising goal!
- I got race day reminders (e.g. transportation, pre marathon breakfast) and started packing for my trip to New York
- I ran the New York marathon!
- After the event, I received a congratulations email
- I received a post event survey
- I am now subscribed to the Team for Kids alumni newsletter
In addition to receiving email communications from Team for Kids, I followed their charity page on Facebook to connect with other participants. Because of this, on the day of the marathon I got the VIP experience and was able to jump on the charity bus to go to the starting line and huddle inside the Team for Kids tent to stay warm. Not to mention, the charity had also arranged for access to hot water for my pre-race ritual meal of oatmeal and a banana. After crossing the finish line, I was welcomed by a nice volunteer who helped me stumble over to the finisher’s tent to rest my tired legs after a grueling 42 kilometers through all 5 boroughs of the city.
My journey from start to finish was fantastic – from the first Team for Kids coaching email to the post-race tent. This could have been dramatically different if the charity didn’t provide me with resources to help me reach my fundraising goal, such as social media banners I could re-purpose for my efforts, or inspirational stories that were shared with me along the way to build my connection to the cause. Not to mention, the race day support like hot water and a cozy post marathon tent. These were moments that mattered to me.
Putting on my consultant hat, they did everything right. Team for Kids provided me with the tools and support to reach my fundraising goal. We know from our work with non-profit clients that journey mapping is effective in increasing donor conversion rates and building more personal relationships with constituents.
Does your organization personalize and optimize the experience for event participants? What does your current journey look like for participants from the time they register to the day of the event? Do you know what your supporters would consider the ‘moments that matter?’
Jessica Lewis is a Fundraising Innovation Consultant at hjc, a global consulting agency in the nonprofit sector. She helps her clients use online technologies to fundraise, advocate and build brand awareness. If you want to chat further about this topic you can reach Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter @jessklewis.