Not-for-profits touch many lives and undoubtedly your intended audience truly appreciate what you do. But it can be a difficult situation to raise funds in, because often those who use the service are not the ones that can (or should) fund it. However, using experience to drive donations can be a part of the solution.

An obvious example is homelessness, raising funds means often relying on people who may never have been touched by the need. To those who haven’t been in the situation, it’s unimaginable and completely intangible, competing with many other issues and potential causes. The Vinnie’s CEO sleepout brings experience to the fore, where leaders in business, community and government sleep rough for a night and raise money in the process. A lot of money. In 2017 this event raised nearly $6.9 million.

Other issues have directly or indirectly affected most people, yet you still need that extra push to make it relevant.

Through the camaraderie of growing a moustache, and a very catchy name, Movember makes men’s health engaging, fun and front-of-mind, reaching people on an international scale. By involving them personally, the charity is using experience to drive donations. About $22.6 million worth (in 2016).

Over seven years, Relay for Life participants have raised $137.5 million for the Cancer Council and taken part in an event where they felt challenged, had fun, bonded with others and got out in their community.

Using experience to drive donations works for the following reasons:

  • A key event or experience can make it easier to attract and work with a supporting partner, it also presents opportunities for sponsorship.
  • Having a key annual event to work towards can go some way towards alleviating volunteer burnout, rather than a sustained and trickled commitment throughout the year.
  • A planned campaign and a large amount of donations in one period can assist in planning for the year ahead, rather than trying to adjust to ad-hoc amounts across the year.
  • This planning can lead to a second (and third) wave of exposure as you can announce the results and then the impact – where funds will be spent.

The trade-off in this approach is consistency, with benefits building over time as the event or experience builds a reputation and people begin to plan around it. It also must be resourced properly and professionally executed.