The vast majority of nonprofits hold at least one event of some nature every year. For some, events are even more numerous.
No matter what kind of events or how often you’re running them, the goal for any organization is to transform the attendee into a life-long supporter of the cause (if they aren’t already one). Since events are not the only way to accomplish this transformation, why would any fundraiser expend hundreds – sometimes thousands – of hours and dollars to stage one or more events each year?
In my mind, there are only four good reasons to choose an event as the means of engaging donors. If these reasons don’t apply to your current events, it might be time to discard them.
1. Difficulty in Finding New Donors Through Other Channels
At the heart or headwaters of any event discussion by the board or senior leadership of any nonprofit is the desire to better enable the fundraising process.
Since fundraising is built upon finding new donors and building relationships that lead to larger and larger financial commitments, having a source for bringing in not only new donors is essential.
Events, particularly the better events that attendees enjoy and are eager to be part of, are often able to attract brand new prospective donors that would not be found by other methods. When conducted properly there can be a steady flow of these prospects to begin the communication process with. If care is taken and best practices are followed in the early stages of the relationship, close relationships will develop!
2. Difficult in Driving Awareness for Your Cause
This underlying reason is the most important differentiating aspect of truly spectacular and transformational event versus an average event.
If your event brings a clear understanding and a full awareness of your cause then you have taken the first step toward a lifelong relationship with a financial supporter. This awareness draws your mission into the heart and soul of the donor.
Once you have achieved this type of connection, the lifetime value of that donor will never do anything but rise.
Keep in mind however, that this is not easy!
Creating an event that can drive deep awareness requires extra effort because it has to be unique and different from other events. You cannot merely copy another event you have been part of. You need to compare the vast difference of a birthday cake made from scratch versus one made from mix purchased at the supermarket where you just add water. Every single person who takes a bite of each can easily tell which one was created with loving care from scratch!
3. Difficulty in Engaging Donors
Events provide an orchestrated method to bring together prospects, donors, board members, staff and volunteers in a specified setting with a timeline that can be planned down to the minute if not second. When done properly, all of the above factors can and should lead the highest levels of engagement possible!
The best events leave nothing to chance in this arena of engagement. Think of the impact you cab have on every attendee’s feeling of being engaged by the following aspects of planning:
Who is sitting next who?
Who is playing with whom?
Who provides testimonials?
What videos are shown and when?
Who is the master of ceremonies?
What mood or message does the event location send?
What feelings do the decorations stimulate?
What emotions does the food and beverages create?
The order of activities drives what actions?
What feelings of philanthropy or closeness to the cause do the invitation, registration and follow-up processes stimulate?
Proper events provide an incredible opportunity for engagement, which perhaps could not have ever happened in any other manner!
4. Aid in Identifying High-Value Supporters
Events, especially exceptional ones like we have been alluding to above provide a very unique and special chance for current high value donors to personally invite their friends.
No other type of invitation is as effective as a personal invite from an existing friend!
The success rate of not only identifying other high value supporters, but having the opportunity to drive awareness of your cause and to fully engage them is often reason enough for any event.
The key is making sure your event is of the caliber where it attracts all or most of your existing high value supporters on it’s own as well as sparking the urge to invite their friends. Sub-par events won’t cause either action to happen!
The four underlying key reasons for even considering having a special event outlined above should assist in your planning. Those very same reasons should also be beneficial in weeding out the events not capable of achieving all four reasons.
Have we forgotten any reasons you think are important? Let me know in the comments below!
Best of luck in making your future events capable of delivering all of the benefits outlined above. Most of all, may they lead to higher and higher levels of fundraising success!
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.