Case Studies of Fundraising and Education in Trips

Screen Shot 2019-12-24 at 10.43.49 AMThe balance between fundraising and education in nonprofit travel programs is not easy to achieve. It takes thorough planning and a little trial and error to get the mix right.

In a previous article, I examined the role of ten factors and helped you place your organization on a continuum of fundraising and education.

In this article, I provide case studies about three very different travel programs, so you can see how others have found their balance and why it is working for them. But take note: there is no one best model—everything depends on your organization and network.

Total Education


This nationwide membership organization found their way to an education-only model after much experimentation. They offer 12-14 trips per year to their members, and revenue comes by way of registration fees. The model is so profitable that they have done away completely with the fundraising elements of their travel program. The fundraising staff do not attend the trips, play no role in marketing or recruiting, and are not even notified when their donors give. It is worth mentioning that the fundraising staff have many other opportunities to engage donors through events, visits, and campaigns.

Not every organization can find success in this model. Attributes of success for this organization are:

  • They have a large membership base (200,000+), many of whom are wealthy and well-traveled.
  • They work on volume, offering many trips per year.
  • They have staff capacity to handle much of the travel logistics internally.
  • They keep most of the registration fee, thereby making the trips profitable.

Total Fundraising9

This midsize healthcare organization also found their way to a fundraising-only model after much experimentation. They take two trips per year, offered by invitation only, and bring two to four of their major donors (giving at least $1 million a year) to their site of impact each time. Travelers pay for the cost of their travel, and there is no built-in donation in the trip. This travel program is a strategic part of the donors’ stewardship plans and is built into the organization’s development plan.

Not every organization can find success in this model. Attributes of success for this organization are:

  •  They have taken the time to build relationships with their donors over more than ten years.
  • They have high-net-worth individuals in their donor pool who have flexible schedules and access to their own modes of transport (private jets).
  • They have a robust donor pool and dedicated staff who work in major gifts.
  • They keep the trips small and offer them at limited times of the year, thereby reducing the burden of planning and logistics.

Education-Fundraising Hybrid10

This small (staff of eleven) hyperlocal nonprofit landed on a hybrid model after much experimentation. They did not have the donor pool needed for a pure fundraising trip, had only the capacity to offer one trip a year, and could not profit from something purely educational either. Currently, they take fifteen to twenty supporters to their site of impact each winter. They work with a tour operator who provides logistical support, and the trip fee includes the cost of travel, agent’s overhead, and a sizable donation to the nonprofit. Because of the built-in donation, the trip raises money whether or not travelers make additional gifts. There is no appeal for support on the trip, but select travelers get individualized follow-ups.

Not every organization can find success in this model. Attributes of success for this organization are:

  • -Their board is well-connected and plays an active role in making introductions to new supporters.
  • They outsource their logistical planning to an operator, and that frees up staff time to build relationships with key travelers before and after the trip.
  • They leverage their supporters by having them coordinate house parties and small events to promote the trip, attracting new supporters to the organization.
  • They can recruit enough travelers and charge enough of an overhead to make the trip profitable – this is harder to do in expensive destination and with price-sensitive donors.

So, where does your organization land?

Download the continuum to see where your organization’s programs are placed!

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