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5 Tips to Boost Donor Retention Through Fundraising Events

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For nonprofits, the importance of donor retention can’t be overstated. While acquiring new donors is still important (and always will be!), finding ways to inspire those first-time donors to become long-term supporters is more vital than ever.

After all, new donors require significant resources to attract and secure, and over 60% of those hard-earned first-time donors never make a second donation.

One strategy to turn those numbers around at your nonprofit is to host a fundraising event that puts donor retention at the forefront.

Events are a naturally engaging way to inspire new donors to deepen their involvement by supporting your fundraising campaign, volunteering, or otherwise engaging with your cause.

Here, we’ll walk through the following five tips for hosting a fundraising event that pushes your retention rates to the next level:

  1. Offer multiple giving opportunities at your event.
  2. Take advantage of storytelling opportunities.
  3. Utilize event technology that enables recurring giving.
  4. Promote ways to get involved after the event.
  5. Make your follow-up communications count.

By the time we’re through, we suspect you’ll already have a list of ideas for your next event. But before you start calling vendors and organizing table arrangements, make sure you have comprehensive event fundraising software to help guide the planning process.

Unfamiliar with this powerful technology? Take a look at Onecause’s event fundraising solution to get a better idea of what these tools can do!

Also, if you’re having any issues with your in-person events we suggest checking out OneCause’s guide to virtual event fundraising for good ideas of what to do in the interim.

Now, let’s get to the tips.

1. Offer multiple giving opportunities at your event.

We’re sure you’ve done a great job of promoting your fundraising event and securing a full house, but ticket sales shouldn’t be the end of your fundraising efforts.

At your event, you should offer a number of ways for supporters to donate. Some events inherently offer plenty of giving opportunities outside of ticket sales, such as bidding on amazing items at a silent auction. Other times, you may need to find creative ways to draw in donations at your fundraiser.

To get the brainstorming going, take a look at our favorite ways to give at fundraising events:

  • Mobile bidding software. If you’re hosting an auction, you can encourage donors to make additional donations directly from their phone using their mobile bidding app. That way, even donors who don’t land the highest bid can still feel great about their contribution.
  • Raffles, wine pulls, and games of chance. Versatile enough to fit almost any fundraising event, raffles and other fun activities drive donations by giving guests a way to participate in the excitement. Work with your sponsors and local businesses to procure raffle items, bottles of wine, and other intriguing prizes.
  • Merchandise. Offering a chance to take home a prize is great, but providing a guaranteed way to donate to your cause in exchange for a stellar product can be even better. Offer branded merchandise or other relevant fixed-price items so that all of your guests can take a part of your event home with them.

When you offer a plethora of giving opportunities at your event, you give your supporters a chance to make even more of an impact on your cause!

Plus, when you offer donation methods that tie into your event and create an even better experience for guests, they’ll remember how much fun they had and look forward to future fundraisers.

2. Take advantage of storytelling opportunities.

To truly engage your donors, it’s important that you tell the story of your nonprofit in a way that relates to them.

Luckily, fundraising events are the perfect place to use your mission to connect with your donors. Why? Because your supporters are your captive audience, all there to celebrate and promote your cause!

Fundraising events give you a chance for in-person interaction with supporters. With no screen to separate your nonprofit team from your constituents, you can get to know them one-on-one and relate to them in a more personal way.

So, where do you find these opportunities for connection at your fundraising event? Try one of the following avenues:

  • Shine a light on involved individuals. Consider asking a member of the community your nonprofit supports to speak and share their connection to the cause. Someone with an emotional connection to your organization can inspire others to donate and stay involved on a long-term basis.
  • Explain the purpose behind the event. Share why this event matters for your cause and what it will do—specifically—to effect change in your community. Have board members, your event-planning chair, or a lead volunteer tell guests what their ticket sales, bids, and donations will go toward.
  • Don’t just talk—listen! Your nonprofit’s story is important, but so are the stories of your guests. Make sure that your staff are accessible to lend an ear to supporters throughout the night. Ask guests why they care about your cause and what they’d like to see your organization do in the future.

In order to keep the event on track, remember not to spend too much time talking onstage. We suggest peppering your storytelling opportunities throughout the event, such as when you welcome your guests, when you make your live appeal, and when you prepare to wind down the event.

Most importantly, don’t neglect to take advantage of the face time you can have with guests. When donors can remember individuals’ faces and stories, your nonprofit is much more likely to be at the front of their minds long after event doors close.

3. Utilize event technology that enables recurring giving.

Did you know there’s a way to ensure donor retention from the very first time a supporter makes a donation? It’s true!

When you include a recurring gift option on your donation forms, you’re securing not just one gift now, but multiple gifts in the future as well, with no additional effort on your part or the donor’s.

You might already be aware of how impactful recurring gift options are, but what you might not know is that they can also play a major part in retaining donors through your fundraising event!

Guests won’t be pulling out laptops and completing online donation forms at the venue, so in order to get the most out of their donations, make sure you implement recurring giving into all the mobile giving channels at your event.

Prominently display your recurring gift option, but don’t overwhelm the mobile user with too much additional text or required fields. That way, they’ll be able to quickly make a donation, set up future gifts, and then get back to the fundraising event fun!

4. Promote ways to get involved after the event.

While you definitely want to use your event to persuade guests to make additional financial contributions to your fundraising campaign, donating regularly isn’t the only way to stay involved with a nonprofit.

In fact, when you retain donors, you should focus on finding ways to involve them with every aspect of your nonprofit.

Your fundraising event is a great place to promote additional engagement opportunities. For example, consider promoting any (or all!) of the following:

  • Volunteer opportunities. Let your guests know how they can get hands-on with your cause at upcoming community service events or other volunteer opportunities. Consider asking regular volunteers to share their experiences to make the appeal even more inviting.
  • Membership programs. If your organization has a membership program in place, talk to event-goers about how they can get involved with it—and why they should! Share how your program can add extra value to the supporter experience, including specific benefits and opportunities.
  • Upcoming events or projects. We’re not saying you should immediately start planning your next fundraising event immediately following this one, but if you do have upcoming projects to promote, there’s no better time than the present. Let guests know what your organization is planning now so they have time to plan and get excited.

Don’t forget—while any of these promotions work well announced from the stage, one-on-one interactions can go a long way to advertise engagement opportunities too.

You don’t want to spend all night listing participation opportunities, but if guests are invested in the cause, it’s highly likely a chance to insert one of these topics into conversation will come up naturally.

5. Make your follow-up communications count.

After the event ends, there’s no question that you’ll need to follow up with guests to thank them for their attendance and contributions.

While the thank-you note is pretty fundamental, some nonprofits forget that it’s also a major player when it comes to donor retention.

That’s why simply sending a generic acknowledgement email is not enough to cover all of your event-follow up bases. On the contrary, we recommend these strategies to make the most of your post-event communications:

  • Be specific. In addition to thanking guests for their attendance, you should also thank them for any other gifts they made throughout the night. Specificity will show them that you care about their individual contribution, no matter how big or small.
  • Make your note personal. Instead of falling into the “Dear respected donor” salutation trap, always address your recipient by their first name. It’s great to add a handwritten note to the end, if you can, to remind guests you appreciate them individually.
  • Ask for feedback. Follow-up communications shouldn’t be a one-way street. Send a survey to gauge your guests’ experience at your event. Not only will their responses give you a comprehensive view of the event’s success, they’ll also give you a jumping off point for areas to improve upon in the future.

Your event fundraising software should sync up with your donor management software to help you store guests’ information in your database. Then, make use of your fundraising CRM’s marketing tools to help you send emails to specific individuals or custom lists.

Don’t have any nonprofit marketing software on your side yet? Check out Double the Donation’s list of top providers to find the right fit to help you interact with your donors!

Take advantage of the opportunity you have with the emails, letters, and phone calls that immediately follow your fundraising event; these communications could be the first step to a long-term donor relationship!

Your fundraising event is a golden opportunity to engage new or existing supporters and put them on the path to becoming lifelong donors.

When you plan your event with retention in mind, you’ll be amazed at all of the ways your fundraisers can inspire supporters and boost involvement long after the event ends!

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