Creating a truly special fundraising event allows you and your (usually overworked) team to not need to have as many events. Hopefully, fewer events will be sweet music to your team, donors and event sponsors. In my mind, special fundraising events typically fall into two categories:
Truly special events are either Extraordinary or Celebratory (or both!)
This first category of extraordinary will have a much briefer description here. This is due to my limited experience with such events. Their description alone describes how special they must be to fit in this group.
You are literally creating a memorable experience for you guests. The best ones are literally classified as once in a lifetime moments of one nature or another. I have only been involved in one or two of these, but have heard of others via friends and associates in the nonprofit world.
In a nutshell, go “big” or go “home” in this grouping. If you are going to claim a once in a lifetime experience then be sure your event lives up to such a billing. Obviously, such items as premier sporting events or events laden with celebrities or unique performances or fantasy trips can make the grade.
My warning is to tread carefully here. You are better off not having such an event if the guests feel like the results do not equal the billing. Your chance of retention of those donors is greatly reduced if disappointment is felt in any manner. However, there is no bigger success than creating once in a lifetime memory. We wish you only such success if you pursue this type of an event.
Celebration events showcase numerous facets of your organization
Pause for just a moment and think about all of the heroes involved as your mission is being achieved at your nonprofit. Hopefully, your mind quickly pictures such heroes as these four:
Staff who go the extra mile
I truly believe nearly everyone appreciates and is proud to be part of tastefully planned and executed celebration events. More importantly, when the mission shines through via the manner of the celebration, you create donors genuinely CONNECTED to the mission.
Mission connection equals donor retention
Such a mission connection is one of the most vital factors leading to donor retention. In the case of an event, the donors actually become acutely aware of exactly what their funding is providing if this is executed properly. Think about the outstanding if not nearly priceless benefits of such an event. Among the ones coming to mind are:
Personal interaction by the donors with mission recipients
Personal interaction by the donors with the staff making the mission happen
Personal interaction among the donors
Imagine your most loyal long term donors discussing their joy in your mission with brand new donors
Imagine your board with their vision for the future interacting with both new and existing donors
Volunteers being recognized for their efforts and then verbalizing why they give so much
Long time staff or board members being recognized
Loyal donors being recognized and challenging others to further the mission
Every event of this nature I have been associated with has increased my involvement and desire to help. In my particular case, being close to the mission has always made this type of an event much more meaningful and enjoyable to me. Maybe it is just the frugal portion of me wondering how much of the large amount of funds required (in some cases) to make an extraordinary event shine could be used for the actual mission of the charity, which causes me to reflect as much as enjoy. Obviously, there are numerous types of people with varying mindsets who might enjoy the extraordinary events more.
Most importantly, I have witnessed person after person and family after family stepping up to make monumental investments in the future of the mission for so many nonprofits.
We wish you only the finest of success for whatever event type you pursue. Either type can be a key step in the donor acquisition and retention process for you and your team. If you have some other ideas or comments, please leave them below so others can benefit from your wisdom and experience.
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.