The Top Requirements for a Successful Fundraising Event

Keep supporters happy, invested, giving + returning to your fundraisers with donor-centric event planning

What do live fundraising event donors really want? A lot of things – some tangible, some intangible, though I believe we can all agree that every philanthropist and do-gooder wants to feel good about the support they’ve shown and feel that they’ve made a positive impact on their favorite organization and the people they serve.

Donor experience is HUGE for so many reasons. And yet it is often overlooked by event committees when planning major events. From retaining donors and lowering attrition, to growing donors’ gift amounts and cultivating them into major donors, the experience attendees have at your fundraiser significantly affects whether they’ll be back next year (and if they’ll bring friends!).

Here’s our list of the Top 10 Things to Get Right at your next special event:

1. Avoid Lines
Donors detest waiting in lines. Any line at any time. This is the number one thing they complain about and the easiest thing to avoid. Consider check-in, the bar(s), all revenue streams, restrooms, bottlenecks in any area of the venue, while funneling into the live program area, check-out, etc. Devise a master plan to implement best practices and completely avoid having any lines at all. We can help! Just ask.

2. Plan Shorter Events
This is especially true if the event falls on a weekday or weeknight, or takes place during a non-traditional time of day like a breakfast, brunch or lunch events (we love these!). Guests are amenable to spending about 90-120 minutes at an abbreviated event and approximately 3 hours at a more traditional evening weekend event. Knowing this and catering to it demonstrates that you care about the wants and needs of your donors while respecting their time. Plus, supporters will leave wanting more rather than wishing the program had ended sooner. Nothing is worse than watching donors leave an event BEFORE they’ve had the opportunity to give!

3. Script Succinct + Sizzling Speeches
This one is self-explanatory. Let no speech be “off the cuff” or exceed 3 minutes. EVER. Pore over each and every word delivered. And be certain that all content is delivered in an easy-to-understand manner, is well-written and delivers precisely (and ONLY) the information you want attendees to hear, learn and remember about your org. Alert all speakers in advance that they will be scripted, edited and must adhere to specific guidelines when onstage. Sober speakers are required. If in doubt about someone’s ability or desire to remain sober until after their piece, select someone else.

4. Program Content Matters – A Lot!
Craft compelling, interesting, cohesive, easy-to-understand and moving program content. Always script speakers and videos for content, timing, effective sequencing and educational value. If it doesn’t provide these things, it doesn’t belong in your live program.

5. Choose Non-Traditional Event Days + Times
Did you know you can save a lot of money by hosting events on off-event days or times like Sun-Wed? Lunches? Brunches? This is a real thing! Get creative. You’ll find a whole lot less competition for your venue, fundraising team, sound people…all vendors, in fact. And many offer fee reductions for choosing non-peak times. The other plus is donors don’t need give up their weekend or planned hobbies to support your cause and they often thank you for it. Considering making the leap? Remember to poll your donor base first to find out their preferences so you can cater to them.

6. Provide Seats for ALL
News flash: standing while fundraising does not work! DO YOU HEAR US NPOs? Don’t call us and excitedly share that your donors will be standing. Donors hate it. We wish it were not a thing. And giving drastically decreases due to attendees talking, being distracted/distracting others and feeling just plain uncomfortable (think of all the ladies in high heels!). Why oh why is this a good idea? It’s not. Don’t even consider it.

7. Skip the Rubber Chicken
Provide good, tasty food (and enough options to satisfy even the pickiest or most limited of eaters), liberal libations and great service. Never make donors work (think buffets) for their meal. This not only slows down your run of show, but also lowers folks’ expectations of your event and subsequently, their gift amounts. The absolute worst? Hangry guests! Famished donors do not give generously so feed them well and keep them happy. We can help introduce strategies to keep costs down and revenue up. Ask us!

8. Amaze with Audio Visual + Tech
Sound when fundraising is king. Spend the money. It is always worth it. Use PPTs, engaging stories + video, appropriate lighting and event software. It matters.

9. Implement Best Practices + Innovative Revenue Strategy
Regurgitating the same program year after year? No innovation, updates, fresh approach. 
No need to reinvent the wheel. We know what works and freely share data with all our partners

Your donors were there. Ask them what they thought about EVERYTHING! Survey donors about anything event related you wonder about. Do they like the venue? The food? The entertainment? The day of the week? The vibe of the event? The sky is the limit here and the information you come away with is invaluable for delivering exactly what donors want. Ask. Then innovate. Shake things up according to the wishes of supporters. Post event, poll them again and plan edits to refine the offerings for subsequent events…

Do these ten simple things. Keep donors satisfied. And in return, your donors will thank you with more generous gifts. Win. Win!

Need a little nudge in the right direction? Give us a call. We can help!