And, rightly so, the weather is turning warmer and everyone’s thoughts seem to be on getting out after a long winter.
I am often asked by organizations who are holding galas or other fundraising events, what is the key to turning event attendees into loyal donors?
I do have to say that this is not an easy feat in and of itself. Most folks who attend a fundraising event are doing so because they have either been invited, they are attending because it is a social night out, or for a host of other reasons that are not necessarily about a measure of donor commitment or loyalty.
I believe that there are a number of things that you can do to stimulate interest both pre, during, and post-event to at least begin to develop a relationship with some donors who may be interested in supporting your charity in a more transformative way.
I will outline several steps below that you can take to steward your event attendees after the event.
Here is a possible post-event stewardship plan:
New attendees – Call preferred for all by Board member with a relationship or other assigned designee. Mention donation made, how the money will be used, and learn about their possible interest in the organization.
Repeat attendees that did NOT donate – Handwritten note by Board member with a relationship or Executive Director. Thank for continued support of the event and ask about their interest in learning more about the organization.
Repeat attendees that did donate – Call if a relationship or donated more than $1,000, note for everyone else. Mention donation made, how the money will be used, and learn about their possible interest in the organization.
Donated but did not attend – Call if a relationship or if donated more than $1,000. Mention success of the event and how the money donated will be used. Ask about their interest in learning more about the organization.
People who donated significant auction items – Personal call by the person with a relationship and letter of acknowledgment. Executive Director and/or Board Chair may send a note as well. Mention how the money will be used and ask about their interest in learning more about the organization.
While you don’t have to follow this post-event stewardship plan to an exact science, the one thing that you need to do is to have already developed your post-event stewardship plan before the event even happens so that immediately after the event, you can put this plan into action.
Think expansively and creatively about how you can recognize your donors. But, the important part is to put some thought in it, to begin with.
Key things to think about:
Who? To what categories of event attendees? For instance, Silent auction and raffle donors? First-time attendees, etc. And, who will be doing the follow-up? Board members with relationships, staff with relationships, etc.
What? What vehicle will you use to steward your donors? Will it be a hand-written note, a telephone call, or a visit, etc? Will you use e-mail and social media? And, how? What is the message? What do you intend to share with them?
When? When will this stewardship take place? Immediately after the event? A week or so later?
Other follow-up and planned engagement? What planned follow-up after the initial engagement will you schedule in?
The key piece again, please do not wait until it is too late. Think through your post-event stewardship plan, seek buy-in and ownership from the Board, and be ready to implement fairly soon after your event concludes.
While these are some of the hardest folks to take from transactional to transformative, it can be done with a bit of thoughtful planning and strategy.
Don’t let your event, just be an event. Use it as a way to cultivate potential new donors who may be interested in who you are and what you do.