Get the Right Donors to Your Fundraising Event
When planning your biggest fundraising event of the year, it is imperative you invite the right people and cultivate them before, during and after.
Here’s how to create a culture of giving surrounding your event – one that inspires attendees to not only say they support your mission, but to demonstrate that support.
Plan Donor-Centric Events
Great events don’t just happen. They require thoughtful planning and relationship-building with partners, volunteers, board members and donors. Many orgs spend most of their time considering decorations, design, procurement and theme – all fun and important topics.
But if you don’t have people in the room who care about you and your work, people who have the ability to make a donation, and people who want to donate that night – then all your careful planning won’t pay off.
It may be social, celebratory and fun – but above all, it’s a fundraiser. So be sure to communicate that clearly. Avoid calling it a “celebration” or an “awards ceremony” if it is indeed, first and foremost, a fundraiser.
Drum Up Support
Work closely with your table hosts and key donors, encouraging them to invite guests who are willing and able to bid high and bid often! One of the easiest and fastest ways for your supporters to get others excited about your organization is to share their own stories of involvement. First-hand accounts of how volunteering added meaning and value to their lives are inspiring. Videos, handouts, and social shares ready for your supporters to pass on to others can also be helpful in drumming up support.
Lean on Board Members
Your board of directors should be your hardest-working and most loyal champions. Ask them to fill the room with willing donors by hosting tables. Confirm your board’s commitment to attend, and if they can’t or won’t host a table, suggest they try to sell 8-10 tickets to friends or colleagues instead. Maybe they could bring one or two like-minded couples who may be willing to open their wallets.
Be ready to prepare scripts for board members to use when asking folks to attend.
Another group to solicit is your tried-and-true friends and fans. Think long-time donors, people who attend the event every year but don’t host a table, or simply people you know who would do anything for you! Ask them if they would be open to bringing another couple who can donate like they can. It’s easier than filling an entire table!
Can Your Vendors Be Sponsors or Donors?
Consider your current vendors. Are there people you do business with who might be excellent guests or sponsors? This is a great question to ask board members, committee members and volunteers. You never know where these conversations will lead, but they can often yield surprising results. Most people love to help but you’ll never know unless you ask!
Procuring the Right Auction Items
Keep your attendees in mind, when procuring auction items. Making sure you have the right bidders also means selling the right items. While you’re planning, check in with donors about what they’d love to bid on, or what they think guests might like to bid on. Reach out to donors once you have procured the items and tell them about it! Gage their interest (or lack thereof!) and use it to identify best-selling item trends. Find out exactly what your crowd wants, then give it to them!
Communication is Key
Develop a comprehensive communications plan to get attendees fired up pre-event. For many live auction items, people need to plan in advance for trips and major expenses, and if they know the details, they can decide beforehand when and how much they’re willing to bid.
Spend plenty of time prior to the event communicating your impact and mission. Make it clear to your donors exactly what type of work they are supporting. Fill your event with heartwarming and engaging mission moments to inspire giving that night. Communicate throughout the event that the work you do is only possible because of donor support. Continue weaving your mission into the entire program.
Last but not least, devise a post-event follow-up plan to thank donors and keep them excited about the work you do all year long. This will get them ready for next year! Oftentimes these simple thank-you calls can lead to next year’s event committee volunteers – or better yet – auction package donors. This is also a great way to get board members involved in your fundraising efforts. Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, shared these statistics on board member thank-you calls from her research: Donors who received a thank-you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of receiving the gift gave 39% more the next time they were solicited than the other donors who did not receive a call. And after 14 months, those called were giving 42% more. Well worth your time to offer up the post-event praise!