To celebrate the Centenary of Stellenbosch University, we have achieved yet another first by entering a charity team in the Cape Town Cycle Race, which took place on 11 March. Our Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers, led our team of 65 cyclists, who set off at the charity start time. There were a number of other cyclists who also sported #Maties100 cycling gear, riding for bursaries.
In the early days, fundraisers talked about “a-thon fundraising" to describe charitable running, walking and cycling programmes. In fact, an industry group launched in 2007 was called the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council. A decade on, we refer to peer-to-peer fundraising.
Today, due to changes in technology and social expectations, we find ourselves in exciting times as the industry continues to evolve. More than ever, the friends, alumni and supporters of non-profits such as public universities want to have a say in how, when and where they'll fundraise.
As a result, we see a new genre of creative and semi-autonomous peer-to-peer fundraising programmes growing in popularity and featuring do-it-yourself and virtual events. These programmes cater to the desires of a new generation of supporters by providing them with the flexibility to fundraise on their own terms, according to their own schedule, and doing their chosen activity.
When I look at the global benchmarks on peer-to-peer fundraising, there are quite a few signs to indicate that we're starting our fundraising activities in the right sporting code:
- Research shows that cycling participants outperform those in all other event categories: They raise more money, attract more and larger gifts, and use online tools more often and more effectively.
- Globally, participant loyalty (also known as participant retention) showed a decline in all event categories between 2015 and 2016. In all categories except cycling. This shows that, much like all the other areas of our fundraising activities, there's a need to address both the recruitment and retention of participants for fundraising events.
- Research also shows that some individuals switch between different events offered by the same organisation, challenging themselves while continuing to demonstrate their loyalty.
- Denying the parity principle completely, but along similar lines, a small percentage of star fundraisers account for the majority of event revenue. In a recent study, a mere 3% of 5 000 participants were responsible for 65% of the donation revenue. It's essential to retain star fundraisers – and to coach new star fundraisers.
What do I mean by star fundraisers? Well, participants tend to fall into four categories:
- Non-fundraisers, who receive no online donations;
- Self-donors, who receive one online donation only, typically a donation to themselves;
- Good fundraisers, who receive two to four online donations; and
- Great fundraiser, who receive more than five online donations.
We know that participants who ask for money actually raise it. There's a simple, straightforward correlation. As a call to action in our coaching messages to participants, we encourage them to reach out by e-mail (and social media), asking friends and family for donations. We also provide them with sample messages to ensure that they have the right tools to ask for contributions effectively.
We're really excited by our initiatives in this area of peer-to-peer fundraising. There's so much scope, nationally and internationally. So you will understand why I was yelling my lungs out from the pavement on Sunday 11 March, and I hope that, if you were there, you did too.
Organisation-driven fundraising – whether traditional running, walking and cycling events or endurance fundraising – foregrounds our thinking around giving days and virtual events; and may well encourage individual-driven fundraising for the University. We see growth in this latter area too – project-based fundraising and personal crowd-funding. These are the new frontiers that challenge a fundraising office such as our own and force us to investigate how we can be enabling while simultaneously surrendering some control.
As you'll be aware, it can be laborious for a large organisation to strive towards greater agility and nimbleness. Luckily for us, people come wired with a vast capacity for change; it is this innate ability that is often constrained by present conditions. We're working hard at being more empowering so that our staff, students and friends can achieve greater independence and autonomy, while promoting more open communication channels in group activities to ensure continuity, congruency and the fostering of the University's ethos.
It's more pedal power for us all. May the wind be at our backs.
Senior Director: Development & Alumni Relations