I spent a few days in sunny Atlanta last week at this year’s Run, Walk, Ride conference. Due to the overwhelmingly indoor nature of conferences, I didn’t actually get much sun, but I did soak up a lot of good information about both the current state and the future of event fundraising.

A little bit of good news — although year-over-year growth is still relatively slow for the 30 largest events in the country, data released at the conference last week shows that the industry appears to have popped out of the doldrums it fell into after the recent recession. The top 30 events saw a net increase of 2.5% between 2010 and 2011, bringing in a total of $1.7 billion.

One thing that really stuck out for me at the conference — social media is perfectly suited for event fundraising. What could be more compelling and persuasive than friends asking their friends for donations? With the increasing use of social media by organizations and event participants we think (and hope!) that it will help buoy future event fundraising results.

Here are three simple social media strategies we expect to pay off:

  • Encourage individuals to use their Facebook pages to fundraise. We see a disproportionate amount of resources focused on the event’s Facebook page instead of encouraging individuals to use their own Facebook page. Organizations should be using triggered and direct emails, the event sites, and other collateral material to regularly ask participants to post about their fundraising efforts to their friends. Don’t focus solely on leveraging your organization’s Facebook fans, you should also be trying to leverage your participants’ Facebook friends.
  • Provide Facebook Cover photos to highlight the event. Use the prime real estate the new Facebook Timeline allows to help promote your event. These images can be placed on the organization’s site and provided to individuals –- just make sure they follow the Facebook guidelines outlined here.
  • Purchase Facebook ads to recruit individuals to the event. While there wasn’t any data given, organizations attending the Run, Walk, Ride conference were seeing success in using targeted Facebook ads to recruit new participants. You can target your ads by geographic region, target only supporters of your organization, or target supporters of similar organizations, for example.

We expect these social media strategies to not only benefit the largest events, but also the hundreds of smaller fundraising events that take place every year across the country.

The point is: use social media! It’s naturally suited for event fundraising, and has the potential to give your event a nice boost.

Do you use social media for your event fundraising? Let us know in the comments!