When a major or mid-sized donor writes a cheque for $2,000, $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 the response from most charities is usually very prompt and very personal.

A warm call from your CEO perhaps, a personal hand-written note from your development director at the very least, and likely a swag-bag full of acknowledgment in appreciation of their generosity. And rightly so – you or your gifts officer likely worked very hard nurturing that relationship over many months or even years, so that when the cheque finally got written it was worthy of the acknowledgement and celebration. 

What’s often the icing on the major or mid-sized donor cake is what happens after you bank their gift.  Donors like these, who are stewarded well, have tremendous potential to deliver additional value to your charity including:

  • Additional gifts in the future
  • Peers they willingly introduce you to 
  • High capacity volunteer skills and a willingness to help
  • Committee or even Board of Director leadership potential

Your Other Major Donors 

Here’s the big secret: the very qualities you seek in these donor prospects (the ones you and your development team spend hours, days, and weeks searching for in your database) are mirrored in many donors who are already supporting your charity – team captains. 

Yes, team captains

Buried in the dusty participant list of your well-loved peer-to-peer fundraising event are some faithful and passionate major and mid-sized donors that you may be missing out on. These generous, faithful influencers are right under your nose and deserve your attention. 

Here’s a short list of why you should dedicate MORE time and attention to your team captains:

  1. They Often Self-Donate – Most team captains make the first donation to their campaign. They pull out their credit card and self donate to get things going. Some give quite generously, but regardless of the amount, these folks are known for having skin in the game. 
  1. They Fundraise Well – Team captains are often outstanding fundraisers and the longer they fundraise the better they get at it. It’s not enough to give themselves, they expect their friends and families to give too. They are your unpaid development team: a captain who fundraises $1,000 will personally ask 15-20 donors that your charity would likely never meet otherwise.
  1. Their Team Fundraises Too –  Not surprisingly, they inspire their friends and family to fundraise with them. The average team fundraises about $2,000 but many hit higher levels of $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000.
  1. They Come Back Year After Year – Team captains often take part in a well-run p2p fundraising event for a minimum of 4-5 years. They are incredibly faithful. Take a moment and do the math: what’s the value of even a modest team that raises $2,000 annually for 4-5 years? (And that’s not taking into account the anecdotal, undocumented benefits of additional gifts, volunteering, etc.)
  1. They Recruit Religiously – Captains tend to be great at recruiting the people in their network to walk, run, ride, hop, etc. with them. Most team captains take their role very seriously. If you ask them well, make your expectations clear, and help when they need it, they’ll recruit to heaven and back for you. 
  1. They Spread the Word – During your event (and after) team captains like to talk about their experience, your charity, and why they got involved. It comes naturally to them. Does your $20,000 major donor evangelize for you this way? I wonder… 
  1. They Sing Your Praises –  Team captains are often your biggest, loudest, and most vocal cheerleaders. They love your cause and they may even love you. Imagine what they would do if they got your attention? If they felt acknowledged and seen? 
  1. They Can Introduce You To Others – A captain’s high fundraisers and large donors could be valuable prospects for your charity. Treat captains well and then ask for an introduction. This is one way to ensure your event feeds into your year round fundraising efforts.
  1. They Have Great Ideas (If You’ll Ask Them) – Imagine how much insight a team captain might have about your annual p2p event if only you’d ask! They see stuff you can’t. They want you to be successful. Ask them for advice! Plus, asking team captains for advice doesn’t just help you, it helps them feel connected and in relationship with your charity. 
  1. They Often Have Potential To Give More – If your team captain self-donates then they are prime candidates for giving directly, outside the event. This is one of the easiest asks you’ll have all year. You know they give, they gave to you so, what’s stopping you?  
  1. Some Of Them Own Businesses – Leaders in business often find themselves as leaders in p2p events. So as you scour your registrants and notice their email is a business be sure to get to know them better. They could become matching donors, major donors, sponsors, or centres of influence.  And if you notice a business owner on a team who isn’t a team captain then look to get an introduction to see if you can’t get to know them a little better. 
  1. Youth Team Captains Have Parents Worth Noticing – There’s not much more to say here except before potentially turning your noses up at lowly youth teams, remember who their donors might be: parents, grandparents, and other adults who want to support their youthful zeal. It’s kind of funny to think that the gatekeeper to the wealthiest donor prospects in town might be on one of your youth teams. You can’t make this stuff up. 
  1. They Will Take Your Call – If a team captain has self-donated, fundraised, recruited, and led their own team in your event then you can be pretty confident that they know who you are (as event director). They will take your call. You can’t abuse this access, but you can be confident that at the very least they’ll pick up when you dial. 
  1. They Are Humble And Kind – Well no, not all of them are nice, but honestly, after 17 years in p2p I can say that the vast majority of team captains are incredibly decent human beings and a joy to work and talk with. They give without strings or expectations, other than perhaps throwing them a little bone once in a while acknowledging how they are busting their butt for you and your charity. Please give them that. 

Team captains really are wonderful. And better yet, they are low maintenance, often living off the scraps of their meaningful experience in your event, or the briefest of discussions with you on event day. Can you imagine how they might respond if they received your full attention? They’ve already bought in to some extent, it’s time you give them what they deserve, considering all they are giving to you. 

So by all means, keep digging for new prospects in town. Have at it. But when you get tired of that exhausting excavation, dig up your participant list from last year’s walk-a-thon and open your eyes to the rich potential your team captains list offers you. They are the hidden gold in your p2p fundraising event. 

Next Steps

  • Do a deeper-data dive on your team captains – discover your treasure. 
  • Write a plan to better love, acknowledge and nurture your team captains. 
  • Include a communications plan to give them ‘insider’ info on your charity or event.
  • Begin to think through an individual stewardship plan for each identified captain. 
  • If you are in the middle of your campaign, be sure to call them to say thanks today.