Event T-Shirts (Are They Worth It?)
Recently, a client contacted Turnkey concerned about the cost of the recognition items that were sent to participants in their walk program. It seemed twice as many people redeemed the items than Turnkey’s initial projections allowed for. When reviewing the final revenue for the program, the client revealed that twice as much money had been raised—$2 million as opposed to the $1 million goal. The client had overlooked two things: that the costs of redeemed recognition items are variable, and that the act of redemption had a direct impact on the success of the program.
This situation isn’t unusual. There is a common lack of understanding about the value of redemption in driving fundraising. As opposed to being a “thank you for your participation” item, the data shows that the act of redeeming for appropriately selected items results in higher levels of revenue on the part of volunteer fundraisers and donors alike.
What the Numbers Tell Us
Last month, Turnkey published an e-book titled, “Volunteer Fundraiser Motivation,” which looks at the role of recognition in fundraising. Our findings reflect in-depth research of 83 programs from 33 different organizations in the U.S. from January 2012 to November 2015. The data is drawn from a variety of platforms our clients use. The organizations’ events included walks, non-competitive runs and DIY efforts.
Collectively, these organizations raise more than $100 million in online event fundraising per year in individual fundraiser income (which excludes event registration fees, sponsorship funds and funds donated to the event at-large instead of to the individual). The data represent more than 1.5 million individual fundraisers and 198,000 recognition earners (redeemers).
For walk and DIY events, we found the following:
- The overall redemption rate was 51 percent among all those who were offered a recognition item.
- Average fundraising was $1,097 for redeemers vs. $865 for those who declined.
- Median fundraising was $585 for redeemers vs. $465 for decliners.
- Redeemers raised more than those who did not in 98 percent of the programs.
- In all but two programs (3.38 percent), median fundraising by redeemers is higher than that of those who declined.
The data shows that, overwhelmingly, people who redeem for recognition items fundraise at higher levels than those who do not. And if that is the case, what should we expect from people who redeem in the future?
Are People Who Redeem More Mission-Aligned?
If people who redeem are more mission-aligned, we should expect that volunteer fundraisers who redeem will show higher fundraising and retention the following year. For example, if Mary earned a recognition gift through fundraising, whether she redeems for the gift, will tell you a lot about her future behavior. If she wants that gift, she is more likely to return and fundraise, and when she does, she’ll fundraise at a higher level. If she doesn’t redeem for the gift she earned, she is likely to fundraise at lower amounts in the future, if she returns at all.
And that is exactly what we found. We took one large client that held fundraising walks for a deeper dive into “Year 2” behavior. This program represented more than 200,000 participants per year. We looked at how redeemers (recognition seekers) vs. decliners performed in “Year 2.”
- 51 percent of the time, the redeemer returned in “Year 2,” a much higher rate than the overall retention rate of 16 percent and much better than the industry standard of 30 percent.
- 41 percent of the time, recognition decliners returned in “Year 2,” also better than overall and industry averages.
- Redeemers raise more money in “Year 2” than “Year 1” 35 percent of the time compared to the 29 percent for recognition decliners.
- Redeemers were 26 percent less likely to be a zero-dollar fundraiser in “Year 2” and 20 percent more likely to earn recognition in “Year 2” compared to recognition decliners.
What does that tell us? Clearly, people who redeem for recognition items are more mission-aligned than those who do not. Seeing this behavior in the large sample that was examined in the case study above,and having seen it in other analyses, we are confident equating “mission alignment” and “redeemers.”
But Exactly How Are Redemption and Fundraising Related?
The data tells us that redeeming for a recognition item and fundraising are strongly related. But what is the relationship exactly? It could be that people who redeem are going to be the highest fundraisers, anyway. Maybe the act of redeeming for a recognition item is only correlated to higher fundraising. How do we know that getting someone to redeem for a recognition item causes him or her to fundraise at higher levels?
Enter the Zeroes
To answer this question, Turnkey looked at two national walk programs that had “zero-dollar fundraisers.” People who had registered, but even after being prompted, had failed to fundraise online. Between the two programs, there were more than 43,000 “Zeroes.” We sent them a simple message recognizing them for their registration to fundraise, along with an offer to redeem for a decal with the organization’s logo and the name of the program. Twelve percent of the Zeroes redeemed for the decal. And the results were dramatic.
People who redeemed for the sticker went on to raise $2.5 million for the organizations. More importantly, redeemers raised 245 percent more than those who did not redeem ($294 vs. $120).
Redemption Leads to Higher Levels of Fundraising
We conclude, while the act of redemption is a marker for high alignment, the act of redemption is also an act of alignment, actually causing higher fundraising and retention in the future.
Interested in digging into the numbers? You can download “Volunteer Fundraiser Motivation” for all the details.
Katrina VanHuss and Otis Fulton have written a new book, Dollar Dash, on the psychology of peer-to-peer fundraising. Click here to download the first chapter, courtesy of NonProfit PRO!
Otis spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising” and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.
Otis is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has degrees in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and The University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.
Katrina VanHuss has helped national nonprofits raise funds and friends since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Her client’s successes and her dedication to research have made her a sought-after speaker, presenting at national conferences for Blackbaud, Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Nonprofit PRO, The Need Help Foundation and her clients’ national meetings. The firm’s work is underpinned by the study and application of behavioral economics and social psychology. Turnkey provides project engagements, coaching, counsel and staffing to nonprofits seeking to improve revenue or create new revenue. Her work extends into organizational alignment efforts and executive coaching.
Katrina also regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” When not writing or researching, Katrina likes to make things — furniture from reclaimed wood, new gardens, food with no recipe. Katrina’s favorite Saturday is spent cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass, making something new, all while listening to loud music by now-deceased black women, throwing in a few sets on the weight bench off and on, then collapsing on the couch with her husband Otis to gang-watch new Netflix series whilst drinking sauvignon blanc.
Katrina grew up on a Virginia beef cattle and tobacco farm with her three brothers. She is accordingly skilled in hand to hand combat and witty repartee — skills gained at the expense of her brothers. Katrina’s claim to fame is having made it to the “American Gladiator” Richmond competition as a finalist in her late 20s, progressing in the competition until a strangely large blonde woman knocked her off a pedestal with an oversized pain-inducing Q-tip. Katrina’s mantra for life is “Be nice. Do good. Embrace embarrassment.” Clearly she’s got No. 3 down.