Digital channels are continuing to transform community fundraising around events. Greg Johnson looks at the numbers, challenges and rapid growth of this area.

The use of online fundraising tools is helping to pave the way for growth in events fundraising over the past financial year. Average peer donations are up 31% to $91, while the average community fundraiser is raising 21% more at $739, according to GoFundraise.

Everyday Hero has also reported growth, with the average number of peer donors to each fundraiser up 10% to 11 across the 33,287 fundraising pages registered on its website in the past 12 months. Social media has played an important role in that growth, with traffic originating from social media websites up by a whopping 60% over the past year.

Breast Cancer Network Foundation is one nonprofit that’s experienced the growth through the Sussan’s Women’s Fun Run, for which it is the official charity partner. General manager Candice Charles says that while the number of fundraisers hasn’t grown greatly, it has seen a 46% increase in funds raised from 2008 to 2010.

“There was an increase [in fundraisers], but it wasn’t as high as the dollar increase over that time,” explains Charles. “What was interesting is that there was an increase in the number of donations made and an 18% increase in the average donation made.”

Raising the volume of fundraisers

A challenge worth tackling for nonprofits is increasing the percentage of participants that actually raise funds for your cause. Cancer Council South Australia is one organisation that’s benefited from addressing this issue at its Ride for a Reason cycling event. While the average raised per participant has remained steady at around $665, by growing the number of people fundraising from 92 in 2009 to 535 this year, it’s benefited to the tune of $290,000.

Breast Cancer Network Foundation also sees increasing the volume of runners fundraising for its cause as an area of growth. “It was 4% of the people that ran in 2008 and 4.5% in 2010, so there’s still plenty of scope I would see in encouraging more online fundraising,” says Charles. “Australians are just beginning to get the idea that you go into these things and use it to raise funds, so there’s plenty of experience elsewhere that says this area will continue to grow.”

In an effort to increase the number of people fundraising, MyCause’s online platform forces all participants to create a fundraising page in order to complete the registration process. Managing director Tania Burstin says it’s important for nonprofits to use available technology to maximise their event’s potential.

“There are still a number of participants who won’t share the fundraising page and just want to pay their $20 to run,” explains Burstin. “However, over 70% of participants will share their page and get sponsored. This significantly increases the funds generated by the event.”

Challenge event ideas prove challenging

One area marked for continued growth is challenge fundraising events. Composing challenge events that are unique from other offerings, yet appeal to participants and inspire peer donors to offer their support will, ironically, be a challenge nonprofits face over the coming year.

Big personal challenges can lead to even bigger fundraising results, according to GoFundraise Stuart Finlayson. He believes it’s important for nonprofits to have a wider approach to community fundraising, with challenge events having an increasingly important place in the fundraiser lifecycle.

“I think nonprofits need to say ‘what’s next?’ after their big events, because it may be that fundraisers don’t necessarily want to do the same thing year on year,” notes Finlayson. “They might want to do a charity challenge, and I think that type of activity is becoming more and more important in the fundraiser lifecycle.

“These out-there ideas are really creating more opportunities for people to do more interesting things all year around,” explains Finlayson. “Not just a running event, which may not particularly appeal to all supporters.”

Mobile on the move

General consumer data from the US suggests that mobile devices are playing an increasingly important role in the digital space, an argument which seems to extend to the nonprofit sector. A recent survey of CEOs at Australia’s top media companies indicated the trend of online users moving towards mobile consumption is taking hold Down Under, too. As the gap between computing and mobile devices narrows, it’s expected that this trend in consumption will continue to flourish.

Everyday Hero has already observed a notable change in the devices its users are using to access its website. The percentage of mobile devices has lifted to 5% of all traffic in the last 12 months, up from 1.5% in the previous year.

“So, what’s really happening is that community fundraising events have a lot more immediacy now,” says Everyday Hero co-founder Simon Lockyer. “They’re a lot more accessible and you’re going to see that continue to increase.”

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