What's the ROI of Online Voting and Fundraising Contests? | Beth's Blog

What’s the ROI of Online Voting and Fundraising Contests?


Source:  Extreme Foods

For the third and final Conversational Case Study on America’s Giving Challenge from Allison Fine and I, we  pose a question rather than answer one: Is there a “special sauce” for successful participation in online fundraising contests?   The post summarizes the strategies used by contest winners.

I wonder if the secret sauce is to do a cost/benefit analysis before you start preparing your favorite social media sauce?   Hit the pause button and ask:   “Should our organization participate in the first place?

But how do answer that question?      I got several emails from social media folks at nonprofits today asking that question and wanting a checklist to share with their development officers.   As one person shared in an email, “How do I, as the person responsible for social media, make the case to the fundraising department who is attracted to the potential winning dollars – like moths to  flame?”

Last week’s case study about how the Students for Free Tibet vets participation generated some great responses and advice in the comments from Wendy Harman, Red Cross and Stacey Monk, Epic Change, both veterans of online fundraising and voting contests.

So, I thought I summarize these into a “Cosmos Quiz” format.   There are twenty questions.

If you answer yes to:

15-20 questions:

10-15  questions:
Use the questions to quantify the cost/benefits and then make the decision

Under 10:

Contest Sponsor

The first screen should be a cross-check with your organization’s values, mission, and goals and the contest sponsor.   There’s a lot to be said for good contest design from sponsors, but nonprofits should also ask these questions.

  • Are the sponsors and competition model in alignment with our personal values?
  • Are the sponsors and competition model in alignment with our organization values?
  • Do we have a relationship?
  • Do they get social media?
  • Does the contest design align with our mission?


Many organizations only look at the dollar amount of the winner’s prize, but it is useful to take a holistic look at the benefits beyond that.   The first question is whether you have a reasonable change of winning.  Here you have to be honest with yourself and analyze the competition.  That means it might not be in your best interest to jump in first.

  • Do we have a reasonable chance of winning?
  • Are there benefits beyond the money?
  • If we don’t win, what can quantify other gains?
  • Can we follow up with new stakeholders that we connect with?
  • Will winning have a positive impact on our mission or ability to deliver programs?
  • Will the contest provide a meaningful opportunity for stakeholder empowerment?
  • Is participation in this contest for our community meaningful, fun or engaging?
  • Will the contest provide any long term benefits?


You have to think beyond the costs of staff time or related expenses for the contest.  You also need to analyze the social capital cost.

  • Do we want to encourage our community to use the tools required to participate in the competition?
  • Is the contest designed in a way that prevents donor fatigue?
  • Can our closest fans and allies participate on the platform?  Is it inclusive?
  • Do we have the bandwidth to manage our participation in this contest?
  • Does the contest help us build social capital or do we have enough deposited to make a with drawl?
  • Is the contest in line with our organizational priorities demanding our time and resources?
  • Does this competition complement our communications and fundraising activities for the year?
  • Does the contest have potential for abusing our community’s trust or frustrating them with a platform that doesn’t work well?

Let’s continue the conversation over at the Case Foundation Blog and share our recipes for special sauces.

Tags: , ,

9 Responses

  1. Wendy says:

    Thanks for embarking on this project Beth. I think it’s going to help everyone involved.

  2. Hi Beth

    I am facilitating a free online course ‘Facilitating Online’: http://wikieducator.org/Facilitating_Online

    I am looking for someone who works in the non-profit sector who uses online communication tools/social media to facilitate campaigns and online communities, who would be prepared to have a chat with the students about his/her experiences.

    Do you know anyone who might be prepared to do this?

    thanks so much, Sarah

  3. We invite you to see how B2B supplemental fund raising works with our new Help A Thon which taps into a percentage(around 25%) of B2B spending.

  4. We’ll try this link to ensure it works.

  5. giant bikes says:

    I’ve been looking so long for good recipes. Thank you.

  6. […] What’s The ROI of Online Voting and Fundraising Contests? – May 2010 […]

  7. Ive been looking over your blog posts and really like it. thank you for the awesome reads! do you ever do any biking ?

  8. Julia Stone says:

    Thank you for sharing this article, İt is really Helpful, Thanx/3/26/2011 11:59:13 AM

  9. Hello ,Really Thank You for sharing this article, it was helpful ,thnx, i saved ur blog to follow ,thnx/3/27/2011 8:40:15 PM