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A Quest to Put the Fun Back in Fundraising

Uh oh! It’s that time of year again for your small NPO, and you’re starting the tortuous process of what to say, what to do, how to convince donors known and unknown to come across with money. It’s annual appeal time, or… …you’re responsible for the constant fundraising that is a way of life at private schools (or public, now!) and colleges and universities, needing to find new ways of engaging alumni, parents and other members of your community, or… …you have a one-time, mission-oriented need to raise money for a special project, cause, relief and you don’t want to disappear in the pool of pleas—and a pool it is, wide and deep: according to the Urban Institute, there were more than 1.4 million (and growing!) nonprofit organizations of all kinds in the US alone.


What to do to raise money is a question as old as schools and churches (although the “non-profit” idea, as an economic classification and a way of thinking, organizationally, didn’t truly emerge until between 1950 and 1970) and the approaches are fittingly numerous. If you want to be overwhelmed, just enter “fundraising ideas” into your browser. You’ll find a spectrum ranging from 1000 down to Top 5, with varying degrees of qualifying testimony. These days, the most successful small campaigns seem to boil down to familiar categories: mail, raffle or item sale, auction, or event. The age of fundraising events is definitely NOW. The event column includes dinners/house parties, “taste-ofs”, concerts etc. — and participatory fundraising is the new top contender. In this subgroup, the a-thons (walk-, run-, bike-, dance- etc.) are becoming more and more prevalent. As the Fundraising Authority.com puts it: “… getting 200 people to raise $50 each for your charity raises the same amount of money as getting one major donor to contribute $10,000 to your group.” What the thons add is getting your donors to get donors, which also adds visibility to your .org. That also means you’ll have an opportunity to find out more about the people who will support you. After all, the best way to help people give you money is to know what they like, what will draw them in, get their attention and, ultimately, their loyalty.

It’s the experience that counts

Another big plus is the experience, in which your (in many cases, new) supporters join other like-minded folks (participants) in an effort to support your cause, a school, project—a bonding opportunity that creates a community or a “family” working together. And they do it in an often quite visible, very public way. And the upshot, for many such efforts, is that people will come back, year after year, to rejoin that community, perhaps to achieve a new, personal fundraising goal. But what if there were a way to capture for your fundraising event the fever of participation, experience and community and add adventure, discovery, fun and … wait for it…the internet?! And also attract a younger demographic to your efforts? And have an event that requires no staging, policing, signage, or other infrastructure? And even collect information (aka, data) about your key audiences? No brainer, as they say. Enter PortQuest, developed by Graphic Details, which makes this possible. Another scavenger hunt, you ask? Not even close. Simply put, PortQuest is an app-driven quest that leads participants on a predetermined route (they go where you want them to go) based on clues they have to discover at stops along their adventure. The clues can be of nearly any sensory kind: visual, auditory, tactile, maybe even taste! They can be artistic, educational, and/or informative; they can relate directly to your cause. Additionally, clues could be structured to elicit answers that indicate individual preferences, information that will help you get closer to the people with whom you need to engage. All the clue has to be is discoverable; the right answer leads to the next set of directions on the quest. In Portsmouth, NH, recently, participants joined PortQuest, guided through a tour of town that offered history, architecture, local lore, and also introduced a number of local merchants, all for the benefit of the local repertory theater and a homeless shelter. Participants donated to the causes by registering to participate in a timed “race” along the course, and also by soliciting support for their participation from sponsors of their own…all the same kinds of things that “thon” participants can do. Additionally, you have the option of a one-time event that brings people together on a given day, at a time and place—or participants can “buy-in” by downloading the app and completing your quest at their leisure. Or both: What will work best for your organization’s supporters? Graphic Details will develop your app — working with you to create the messaging, clues, and data collection strategy. In the end, you have a fundraising strategy that is yours forever, along with the data and those new supporters!

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