An old friend who never writes — except to ask that I spend money buying into her latest business venture or charitable adventure — emailed to ask that I support her in yet another walk-a-thon. This time, I declined.
Even though I’m not contributing, others will. Walk-a-thons, bowl-a-thons, dance-a-thons … you name it, “a-thons” have become popular in recent years.
A business colleague confided that his informal research indicated “a-thons” were at the peak of their trend. “It’s that social angle,” he said. “Participants ask for money from their friends. The charity doesn’t have to make the ask.”
And therein lies the blessing and the rub.
When my friends participate in an “a-thon,” I give to support them … not to support the charity. Though the charity benefits from my initial donation and/or physical participation, it rarely gets a second check. My money is aligned with my friend, not the charity.
This point was not missed by Tom Belford of The Agitator. He dislikes that it’s “difficult, if not impossible, for organizations to subsequently build any direct relationships with these donors.”
He teases that contributors should be called “thonors” instead of “donors.”
In response, a UK reader offered an excellent suggestion that we in the charity auction world would be keen to follow.
Paul de Gregorio wrote about his success in converting event participants into monthly givers by following up with them on the telephone.
Paul suggests that your script should elicit the emotions the donor felt on the day they participated in your event, followed by an explanation of how he or she might continue their support in a different way.
Follow-up would take time. But I could see as how your nonprofit could glean future volunteers, in-kind donations, business connections, even honorees from a well-planned phone campaign.
I know of auction goers who witnessed one of our charity auctions and became inspired to get involved or donate the following year. Those guests are pro-active. Other potential supporters were sitting in the gala, but need a phone call to remind them of the fun they had and jolt them into action.
What do you think?