Fundraising Tip #2: Offer prizes

Written by on May 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Finding a cure for multiple sclerosis is motivation enough for walkers — we walk for that day, not for fame and glory. But for those folks we ask to open their wallets for our cause, a small incentive can't be a bad thing.

One way to do so is to offer one raffle ticket for every $25 your friends donate. By setting a minimum donation per ticket, donors are motivated to increase their support to that level or some multiple thereof. Suddenly, a $20 check becomes $25, or an $80 check, $100!

iPod shuffle

iPod shuffles cost as little as $59 each and can recoup their cost as a fundraising incentive.

Before you make your solicitations, you need to know what the prizes will be so you can be up front with the potential winners about what the stakes are. The best prizes are those that the winner wouldn't otherwise get for themselves, so though gas, food, and coffee gift cards are appreciated, they may not prove very motivational. Instead, try something that would really be a treat, like dinner at fancy restaurant, autographed sports memorabilia, or even an iPod. If you know where to look, any of these items can be found for under $100, and you can expect to make more than that through your fundraising. (Many companies, such as Nintendo, have online forms you can fill out to request free product, though due to the volume of such requests, you may be better off buying your own prizes.)

Be sure your prizes have a broad appeal so that no one is likely to be disappointed by his or her winnings. If your prize is a gift card, make sure it's to a business with a location near the potential winner. If you want a universal gift card, try American Express or iTunes.

Be forewarned, though: the one time I tried giving away prizes, I had to draw several names before I found a winner who actually wanted one! Most of my supporters had donated because they believed in the cause and didn't want "stuff" in return — not even Red Sox tickets! Fortunately, at the winner's suggestion, we ended up selling the tickets on eBay and donating the proceeds to the NMSS, which helped the cause even more.

Have you had any experience with this fundraising incentive? What prizes would you be likely to give or receive this year?

Ken joined the MS Challenge Walk in 2005, more than a decade after his mother was diagnosed. After walking for three years and 150 miles, he switched to the support crew and now rides his bicycle along the trail, providing whatever encouragement (and snacks!) he can to the 600 walkers. He is also an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.

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