Fundraising for the Komen 3-Day can be challenging for all walkers, whether they are walking for the first time or have taken the 60-mile trek before. When it comes to raising money for the 3-Day, new walkers have the benefit of first-time enthusiasm to fuel their fundraising efforts. They (and their donors) are excited about the 3-Day and making a difference in the fight to end breast cancer, and often that excitement can sustain them during the weeks or months that it may take to reach their fundraising goals.
But what about walkers who are returning to the 3-Day for the second time? Or the fifth time? Or the fifteenth? Many worry that fundraising will get harder and harder the more times they do it. So I put my head together with Seattle 3-Day coach Paula—between the two of us, we have walked/fundraised for the 3-Day 32 times—and came up with some tips specifically for returning 3-Day fundraisers.
Go Back to the Well — Have you raised some or all of your money for past 3-Day events by asking your family and friends directly for donations? If it’s a strategy that has worked for you before, use that strategy again! I know that many veteran walkers worry that their donors will tire of their fundraising requests year after year. In answer to that concern, I can confidently say no, your donors are not getting sick of you asking. Statistically, a donor who has supported your 3-Day fundraising in the past is more likely to donate, and will give more, than someone you’ve never approached before. You may think you’re being a pain in the backside by asking year after year, but with few exceptions, you’ll find that your donors are honored to support you as you continue your 3-Day journey. Your years-long commitment is extraordinary, and your donors will be happy to recognize that.
Be Specific — As a returning walker, you have a fantastic resource at your fingertips that can easily direct your fundraising: your donation history. Look at your list of donors from last year’s 3-Day (The Contacts section of your Participant Center has all of your donors conveniently grouped together. If you can’t find it, the 3-Day coaches can send it to you). Send each donor a personal message or note asking them to match or increase what they gave last year, naming the amount they gave in the past, in case they forgot. If every person gives at least as much as they did before, you’ll find yourself at or near your goal in no time. (Here are some other reasons why asking for a specific amount is a great fundraising tactic.) We’ve crunched the numbers, and 3-Day donors are more likely to increase their donation amounts over time, rather than decrease them.
Add a Gimmick or a Goal — If you feel like a standard fundraising ask won’t be enough to persuade your past donors to give again, try adding an attention-grabbing angle to inspire them. Say you’re fundraising for your 10th 3-Day; ask donors to increase what they gave last year by 10%. Or perhaps your lifetime fundraising total is close to a notable number (you’ve raised $16,500 over the past 7 years, for example); entreat your supporters to help you get to that milestone total (“Help me make it to $20,000 in 2016!”).
Don’t Make Assumptions — Paula emphasized the point about not shying away from asking people for donations because you think that they’ll say no: “Don’t assume friends and family won’t donate. Always ask them, and they can decide if they will donate or not.” Furthermore, don’t automatically assume that a lack of response means no; just because someone doesn’t donate right away doesn’t mean that they never will. Following up periodically with updates about your progress is a great way to remind procrastinating donors that there’s still time to support you. Many 3-Day participants report that it’s the second or third request that gets the donation. So don’t give up after just one try.
Focus on the Cause — For as amazing an experience as the 3-Day is for participants, at its core is an awful disease that has affected so many of us personally. Remind your donors that, while your 60 miles of walking is an important accomplishment and an unforgettable experience, it’s really their fundraising dollars that are making a huge difference in pushing us closer and closer to ending breast cancer forever. Share how much you—with your donors’ help—have raised over your years as a 3-Day participant (and if you walked in 2015, share how much your event raised in total), and let them know where those dollars are going. In the past 13 years, 3-Day participants and donors have raised more than $800 million. Direct them to The3Day.org/Komen for more information about how their donations are making a difference.
Try Something New — Mixing things up (hosting a fundraising event, pursuing corporate gifts, cashing in on the power of matching gifts) can be a whole new fundraising strategy for you, or simply a way to supplement other fundraising tactics that have worked for you in the past. Paula says, “If you feel you have tapped out friends and family, consider a fundraising party, or other means—market your talents!” And Paula would know; she has held Boobapalooza, her backyard fundraising extravaganza, seven times, and it has become a much-anticipated party that raises thousands of dollars every time.
Share Your Experience — As someone who has done the 3-Day before, you can show your donors the power of the 3-Day event itself and move them to generosity. Create an online photo album of past events you’ve participated in, or go ‘old school’ and make up a photo collage to copy and send out with mailed letters. If you let your donors see firsthand your remarkable commitment to the 3-Day and the powerful effect the 3-Day experience has had on your life, they will be inspired to support you with donations. Paula is great about making sure her supporters feel included in her journey when she communicates with them: “I always make it about what we have done, meaning my past donors have already ‘participated’ as well. I remind them of what we have accomplished and what we can still do together.” If you somehow got through your 3-Day journey without taking any pictures, we have some good ones at The3Day.org/Pinterest that you can use.
Say Thank You — This is particularly important if you’re asking past donors to give again. When you’re writing your fundraising letter, be sure to include a heartfelt thank you to folks who have supported you before. Thank them by name and let them know that your 3-Day journey would not have been possible without their help. Recognize their past gift first before you ask for the next.
Walkers who come back to the 3-Day year after year are such an incredible part of what makes the 3-Day so special. We’re always here to help our walkers—new and veteran—to reach their goals. Let us know how we can help you!