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How to differentiate a campaign from an event for nonprofits

April 20, 2022
This image shows two nonprofit employees looking at papers on a wall about nonprofit events and campaigns.

At first glance, campaigns and events seem to resemble each other in many ways. Both are organized efforts that nonprofit organizations host to achieve a goal, and they often lean on similar marketing strategies to succeed.

But there are key factors that separate the two. When you’re planning your fundraising strategy, you’ll need to decide which to host to garner support. Let’s take a look at the main differences between an event and a campaign.


You likely associate events with one-time, planned activities. For example, birthday parties or sports games may come to mind. If so, you’re partially on the right track.

Think of fundraising events as specific activities that attendees can participate in. Each event has a date, place, and time tied to it. Usually, events have a registration process, which may include a registration fee or a request for participant information. For example, you may have to pay an entry fee and fill out a form with your name and contact information to enter a nonprofit’s annual 5K. 

Event hosts might incentivize guests to register by selling swag items during sign-up. Let’s say you’re hosting a walk-a-thon. You might offer a $10 basic registration and a $20 full package registration that includes a t-shirt and water bottle. Participants will be more inclined to buy your merchandise when they see it’s only a small amount more. 

Events are effective fundraisers for bringing your supporters together and drawing a lot of focused attention to your cause for a short time.


Whereas events are activities scheduled for a certain day and time, campaigns are typically longer-running fundraisers. Think of campaigns as long-term initiatives to support a goal. People may participate in campaigns, but they don’t need to register to participate.

Campaigns are typically tied to a specific cause, such as raising funds for a new program, your quarterly budget, scholarships, and more. 

If you choose to host a campaign, set up your donation page to show donors where their dollars will go. Many nonprofits accomplish this by providing suggested giving amounts and connecting each amount to an example of how their contribution might be used. For example, you might explain that a $5 donation provides one meal for a soup kitchen visitor and a $50 donation feeds a visitor for an entire week.

Campaigns are useful for funding long-term initiatives and can span multiple months. While events can bring in quick bursts of funding, campaigns allow you to earn a steady stream of revenue throughout their duration. 

Making the choice: Events vs. campaigns for your organization

Campaigns and events are both powerful fundraising tools. When leveraged for their unique benefits, they can both make a difference for your nonprofit. 

Bonterra’s Guided Fundraising solution (formerly Network for Good) is geared to maximize impact for the exclusive and shared attributes of both. Check out our event and campaign features to find helpful tools that can improve your fundraising capabilities.

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