Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Organizations host events for several different reasons. Some will focus primarily on friend-raising, while other will focus on fundraising. What I have come to realize is that sooner or later most organizations will need to make the transition from an awareness building event (friend-raiser) to an income generating event (fundraiser). Can this be done? Absolutely? However it will require great focus and a shift in attitude to be successful.
Here are 4 strategies that I have used, along with many others, to help guide this process.
1. Begin with a well-designed fundraising appeal.
Very often organizations spend a great deal of time on the logistics and mechanics of an event (which is important) but overlook the fundraising appeal. Here are some ways to change this dynamic:
- Work with leaders and stakeholders to describe what the organization does to benefit the public.
- Develop talking points so donors will understand how supporting this event will benefit the organization.
- Encourage leaders to practice how to ask for financial support from individuals and corporations.
- Help create a specific “ask.” Work with the organization to develop an outcome that will be hard to say no to.
2. Remember that each donor is different so you must have different ways for them to engage them. Be sure to allow time for research and tailor your appeal accordingly.
This tailored approach is often referred to as segmenting your donor base. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Donors come from many locations, have many interests and will engage differently around what resonates with them. Some may gravitate toward an educational initiative, while others would appreciate hands-on service.
- Always consider the donors’ past history of support. This includes the size of their gift, upward trends and time of the year they tend to give.
- Make sure that your organization’s appeal is broad enough to keep donors interested and engaged long-term.
3. Create a dynamic communications plan around the event.
Before the event takes place, there are many touch points you can use to engage your donors. Here are some components to add to your organization’s existing communications plan:
- Online communications and appeals.
- Written appeals in the form of letters, invitations and case studies.
- In-person one-on-one meetings.
- Personal phone calls from organization’s leadership, stakeholders or volunteers making the case for the event and why their support is vital.
4. Help your organization transition from an “attendance-based culture” to a fundraising culture.
- Please remember that this step will require the most time and effort.
- Some organizations pull back when it comes to focusing on money.
- This resistance may be due to their comfort with a narrative they have embraced over time, such as “we had a great turnout and the support that we need will eventually show up.” Does this sound familiar?
- If the answer is yes, and the organization is truly making a difference and changing lives everyday, why not bring them to the next level?
- Coaching leaders and stakeholders to ask for the support they need, will allow the organization to produce even more measurable results.
Of course there are many ways to plan events and we read about them daily. However with an increased need for funding, well-conceived fundraising events are even more important to an organizations mission and programs. There are many resources to guide you through this process. I often refer to the dynamic team at Network for Good for additional insights. The points listed here are grounded in my professional experience and have been openly discussed by many fundraising specialists.
I would love to hear about your experiences. If you have a moment, drop us a line and tell us about your success stories.