One of the most difficult questions that many nonprofits have is “What motivates someone to give back?” Giving back can include many different avenues such as supporting an organization through your wallet or supporting an organization through your time and effort. When it comes to event and team fundraising, the same question remains “How do I get people to participate or get involved”

To help break down the psychology of event and team fundraising, it’s important to first understand the general motivating factors that encourage people to give back. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but to highlight the most prominent motivations to consider:

  • Connection: Deborah Small, Professor of Marketing and Psychology at Wharton Business School, states that personal connection plays a large role in why an individual would support an organization. “Oftentimes people start giving when they feel some strong connection to a cause. Maybe it’s a loved one in their family who suffers from a disease, they experience a natural disaster, or even sometimes something more distant, like they hear a story on the news that tugs at their heartstrings and that engages them with a particular cause and causes them to start giving.”
  • Altruism: Wanting to “save the world” and doing things simply out of a desire to help.
  • “Warm-glow” theory: According to economist James Andreoni, warm-glow giving is the theory that people derive joy and satisfaction from the experience of “doing their part.” Giving actually produces an internal benefit to the donor.
  • Recognition: Donors want to see their name on a plaque, or annual report.

Now that we have a good grasp on a donor’s motivation to give, the next step is to utilize these methods and harness the power of collective action. Together, your strong supporters can combine their fundraising efforts and boost your fundraising success on Mightycause with event and team fundraising.

Bringing People Together for a Common Cause

When it comes to event and team fundraising, good campaigns incorporate the concepts we’ve reviewed above that get to the core of why people get involved and give back. The best campaigns build on these while incorporating other motivations that make the campaign fun and engaging.

There are 3 key benefits that participating in an event or team fundraising campaign provides that a regular donation does not. The first is the love of competition, something we can all admit that we are more driven by than we might like to be. The second is the opportunity to be part of a larger community or network of people. The third is the “martyrdom effect”, which is the idea that individuals are more likely to participate in a charitable event if there is a prospect of having to endure pain, like a 5k or polar bear plunge.

Friendly Competition as a Driving Force

One of the most important reasons that event fundraising is both successful and engaging to participants is because it comes back to human nature and our love of competition. It’s one of the reasons why sports are so fun as kids, and why adults recreate that feeling with fantasy sports leagues. Friendly competition is a way to connect with other people in your social circle. We are hardwired to want to win, even when the only incentives associated with winning are bragging rights. When you add in rewarding incentives on top of the bragging rights, competition becomes an even more motivating factor. 

Event fundraising plays on this driver, and on Mightycause, we showcase a leaderboard as one of the centerpieces of the campaign. Leaderboards are a great example of gamification. Gamification is the application of taking a game-like design or strategy to non-game contexts, such as donating and fundraising. Studies have found that gamification increases online engagement.

The leaderboard on Mightycause showcases in a very public way how much each event member has raised, and who is in the lead. With this in mind, events on Mightycause see 60% more donations than the average fundraiser.

As the leader, you feel encouraged that you are on top, and as someone farther down the leaderboard, you’re motivated to take action to see your name rise to the top. Furthermore, the leaderboard helps to create a sense of healthy peer pressure among event members. Nobody wants to be the event member that is in last place, or that has brought in $0 for the effort. The leaderboard can hold your event members accountable while building a sense of connection among the event members. 

This competition doesn’t just play in for your event members, but the donors supporting their campaigns as well. Donors want to see their friend or family member win the competition (as long as they aren’t playing against them!). Seeing the leaderboard results on the page can spark this competition for donors, and encourage them to make a second gift or a larger gift than they were originally intending, in order to help support their friend.

Building a Community

In addition to healthy competition, leaderboards also provide a feeling of community amongst peers. The belongingness hypothesis states that human beings have an almost universal need to form and maintain interpersonal relationships with other humans. Great event or team organizers will build camaraderie among fundraisers, or host an in-person activity to cap the end of the team fundraising campaign and celebrate the team members’ efforts. Team members that feel like they are a part of something greater will have a better chance of success. Whether your event is a read-a-thon, a bike race, or some other social activity, people will be interested in participating in the activity, sometimes regardless of the cause it’s supporting.

For example, in spring 2019, a group of Saint Louis animal shelters came together and held their  Saint Louis Area Shelter Slumber Pawty event and team fundraiser. The now annual event brings together volunteers and staff members of several Saint Louis Area animal shelters for a national “pawty” inside the shelters. Participants crawled into kennels with adoptable dogs and cats for 24 hours to show the world what it’s like to be a shelter pet. The shelters used their Mightycause pages to highlight why the campaign was so important for their missions.

Aside from raising funds for each rescue organization, the fundraiser also helped encourage volunteers, staff members, friends, and loved ones to participate in a fun night of camaraderie. Individuals were more willing to participate because of the community emphasis.

With the power of community, they were able to raise close to $300,000 and receive close to 4,000 donors!

The Martyrdom Effect

Saint Louis Area Shelter Slumber Pawty also provides a great example of the “martyrdom effect.” According to Christopher Olivola, Associate Professor of Marketing at Carnegie Mellon, the “martyrdom effect” is the idea that when people have to endure pain or suffer in order to raise money for charity, donors end up donating more. His study found that people see donating as more meaningful when the process of fundraising involves a form of suffering, such as jumping into a frozen lake or running a marathon. The sacrifice of one’s own comfort creates a more meaningful connection to a campaign. It is important to note that the martyrdom effect is most powerful for organizations that are associated with alleviating suffering.

Common examples of an event or team fundraiser that use this type of strategy are a polar bear plunge, fitness challenge, or most famously an ice bucket challenge.

Next Steps

Now that you understand how events and team fundraising can bring your community of supporters together for bigger impact, the next step is to start building your event so your supporters can get started with their fundraising efforts.

Ready to start your event today? Get started here!

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