There is a large group of people hovering anxiously around a painted line in the road. There is an electric energy in the air as they look at their watches. Some of the participants are stretching and kicking their legs in order to get ready. There is a shout from the front of the group, “Runners! On your mark! Get Set!” Then a shot rings out and the group of runners dash away in a group of controlled chaos away from the start line. There are fast runners, slow runners, walkers and weekend warriors. All of them have come to challenge themselves at this latest 5k. And all of them will be raising money for a cause. There are thousands of ways that organizations raise money to increase funds and awareness. Local 5K races are popping up everywhere. Why? Mainly because they are (relatively) easy to plan and there is potential for funds for the organization. (It doesn’t hurt that the organization can promote healthy living AND increase awareness as well!). And there is one thing that all of these 5K’s have in common. It’s all about the SWAG! Usually it’s the race t-shirt that runners covet. But it could be the race bag, race medal or all of the above. Runners want to challenge themselves to see how fast they can run. And they want to do it in a group for socialization and recognition. But don’t kid yourself. They want the race shirt. The lesson here is that (when done right) promotional products can have a BIG impact on your organizations next fundraiser. The concepts on how promotional products can affect a fundraiser are similar to how they can affect behavior for a business. But just to get your creative juices flowing, let’s discuss a few here. Increasing DonationsOne way I have seen non-profits successfully use promotional gifts to help in fundraisers is to incentivize higher giving. The organization will create “gift levels” that inspire donors to give a little bit more to get the nicer gift. Obviously, if you are going to employ this tactic, you need to have promotional incentives that move the meter! The key is to focus on things that have really high perceived value, without breaking the bank! But you can see this technique successfully used by everyone from Big Brothers/Big Sisters at Bowl For Kids Sake to your Public Radio and TV. When creating a program like this, value is very important, but so is exclusivity. If you can create a promotional gift that is a “one of a kind” then you have a great chance at really affecting behavior! If you want donors to really step up their donation, then you better step up your game. Think outside of the box here! What about a custom “lettermen’s jacket” that is done in the organizational colors? What about a custom guitar? Think of an “award” type promo that can be considered a collectors gift, but can also promote your organization for years to come. The lesson is, if you want a big result then make sure you are thinking big with your items! Increasing ParticipantsAt the end of the day, you want as many people involved with your fundraiser as possible. One of the best ways to increase your membership is to offer an incentive to “sign up.” As an example, my team and I are helping a local mud run to increase racers and ultimately, increase donations to our local park. The race itself has been going on for two years and is well-respected for the course and the obstacles. Now we just need to increase the number of racers! So the first thing we did was to improve the quality of the race day t-shirt. Many 5K races (and other local races) default to a basic cotton t-shirt for their race day giveaway. And for certain races, that is fine. The problem is, most serious runners don’t wear a basic cotton t-shirt when they are running. They want a nicer “performance” t-shirt. So by improving the basic t-shirt element, you not only increase the likelihood they will wear the shirt later (and promote your event) but the shirt also becomes a reason to do your race, rather than another. As a runner, I know this is a part of the discussion when choosing a race. The other thing we wanted to do was incentivize early sign up. Having racers signed up earlier has several advantages. You can better plan for everything from water stations to parking to even that t-shirt order. In addition, you get money in earlier to fund your promotional efforts. So one year we gave away a basic drawstring backpack for the first 250 racers that signed up. That quickly increased early sign ups and helped us promote the event overall! Promotion of the CauseOf course the long term effect of these promotions is you also get to promote your organization or cause! At the end of the day, the reason you are raising money in the first place is so you can do the most good! By promoting your organization (long term) you not only increase your reach, but you also make fundraising in the future easier and easier. Why? Because donors are more likely to give if they know and understand the mission and impact of your organization. So whether you are planning a local 5k to raise $1000 or a huge capital campaign with the intent of raising $1 million, make sure you consider the impact of including promotional gifts in the mix. This is an excerpt from the book Delivering Marketing Joy! Get your copy here.