How to encourage your event fundraisers to self-donate!

It's not uncommon for fundraising event participants to start a campaign by donating to their own online fundraising page. Many events and challenges include a call to action like: "Donate to the cause" during the registration process.

What may surprise you is that this small action can have a pretty significant effect. Our research at FrontStream shows that events with more participants self-sponsoring will raise more money overall, often by a significant margin, even after removing the donations made by participants.

In other words, a self-sponsorship by your fundraisers encourages their subsequent donors to give more!

We typically find that between 12-20% of event participants will donate towards their own goal. After looking at the data and the psychology behind donations, we think nonprofits would benefit from encouraging participants to start off a campaign by giving on their own page!

Here are five great reasons why:

#1. Self-donations get the ball rolling

When participants self-sponsor, they are often the first to make a gift to the cause. When others arrive at the campaign page and see that donations have already come in, it helps to create a sense of urgency and reassures donors that the goal the event participant has set is well within reach.

#2. Self-donations make it clear your fundraiser is committed

In many peer-to-peer campaigns, donors support a campaign as a gesture to their friend, even if they don't have a major connection with the cause. Self-donating, with the participant's name showing up in the campaign's donor scroll, signals that this is not only an event that the registrant is looking forward to participating in, but it is also a cause they are passionate about. That insight makes the gesture of donating to a friend's campaign seem even grander.

#3. Self-donations are inherently social

It is no secret anymore that social media plays a major role in peer-to-peer campaigns. Our research shows that 14% of traffic in peer campaigns is driven from Facebook alone! When a registrant donates to their own page and uses Facebook or Twitter to share the action, it increases the likelihood that friends and family will hear about the campaign. The average Facebook user has 238 friends - that's a lot of potential supporters who may be hearing about the cause just because their friend donated. This effect is even more prominent when the registrant uses "social login" to donate and spread the word.

#4. Self-donations alleviate skepticism

If asked to make a donation to a cause or organization they're not familiar with, potential donors sometimes have concerns or reservations. Is this donation form or website legitimate? How can I be sure? By seeing that a friend or family member supports the cause with not only their participation in an event, but also with their own money, much of that skepticism can be reduced.

#5. Self-donations signal an acceptable donation amount

Potential donors can sometimes be unsure what to give to a campaign - they obviously have limitations on what they are comfortable giving, but also don't want to give much less than others have. Once donors see what others have given, they become more comfortable and ready to donate, at an amount that is often more than what they would have considered otherwise!

So, what can you do to boost the number of campaign participants that are self-sponsoring?

  • Explain the psychology behind self-donations to your fundraisers so that they know how doing so can truly help them reach their goal.
  • Right after a participant registers is the perfect time to recommend that they make a self-donation, right when they are most engaged and motivated about the cause. Make sure your online registration process includes this call-to-action.
  • If your participants are off to a slow start, send them a reminder email about how self-donating could be the big boost they need.

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