Events are great for raising money for your organization, but are you maximizing the impact of all that hard work? Besides fundraising, events can build awareness about what your organization does, deepen relationships with your donors and educate the attendees about your organization’s impact in the community. At an event, your donors experience your nonprofit firsthand — so, don’t just view it as a way to make money, but also a way to forge personal connections.
Think about it: You get hundreds of people to your event — they may be spouses of donors, businesses associates and/or friends of your donors — and chances are many of them don’t know a lot about your organization. Take advantage of the fact that you have an audience in one place as an opportunity to tell your organization’s story. Here are some ideas about how to increase the impact of your fundraising event — before, during and after your event — to educate people about your mission.
Before the event
During the promotion of your event, take full advantage of all of the touchpoints and opportunities that you have to reach your donors before your event. These include printed invitations, e-mail invites, social-media campaigns, “tell-a-friend” forms on your website and many others. Make the most of these opportunities by clearly stating your organization’s mission and making it easy for people to forward the information to their friends, colleagues and family members. This is the chance to bring new people into your world.
Remember, your event invitation is a marketing piece to promote your organization as well as your event. Every invite is a chance to inform potential donors about your organization, especially for the people who can’t attend your event, which is a certain portion of your mailing list. Let’s say you mail invitations to 1,500 people and 300 people attend. This means 1,200 potential donors see your invitation and marketing message but won’t attend or interact directly with your organization. It may make sense to educate people about your organization’s impact and provide a way for these recipients to donate without attending the event.
Use a QR code to provide a quick link to your event. You may have seen these square pixilated barcodes. They can be scanned by a smartphone and link directly to your website — so there is no need for donors to remember a Web address. These can be effective because they can be generated free and placed on your event invitations, brochures, newsletters and direct mail. They’re easy to generate. Just search for “QR Code” and you’ll find websites that will generate the code for you.
During the event
This is your big opportunity to connect and inform. Look for different ways to engage attendees in various ways throughout the event. Here are several ways to do so.
Make sure they get the message from the moment they walk in. Display large signs for the event at the entrance of the venue, registration check-in and around the tables. This confirms their attendance and provides visuals to reinforce your branding and messaging.
Invite speakers who have benefited from your services. They can provide effective testimonials for your organization. Provide speakers with talking points or themes for your organization to include in their speeches. Help them fully develop the ideas to really illustrate your points.
Don’t just tell them. Show them. Provide projected still images or video to drive home your message and move people emotionally.
Continue to display your message throughout the event. On the tables you can have table tents, pop-up banners or displays, and brochures with information about your organization and how to get involved or donate.
Incorporate technology into your events. There are many creative ways to use technology to accept donations, promote your mission and engage your donors. Eventjournal.com is an online journal that provides a Web presence during and after your event. Also, consider accepting donations at an event, either via a traditional credit card processing terminal or by using a service such as Square to swipe credit cards via smartphone. Organizations are also exploring the text-to-pledge option, allowing attendees to make donations via text message. Something to keep in mind while evaluating any technology is the profile of your target donor, age range and familiarity with using technology.
After the event
After the event, you of course want to thank your donors. Think of this as another opportunity to tell your story and further develop the relationship. It’s best to make contact within 48 hours of the event. Use multiple formats — for example, an e-mail and mailed letter. Take it a step further by sending a follow-up survey asking for feedback on the event. Whether sent via e-mail or an online service such as SurveyMonkey, this shows you care about their opinions, involve them in the feedback process and are committed to improving your organization.
Picture what people say about your event the next day. Are they talking about the food or how excited they are about your mission? Imagine a post-event scenario in which your donors clearly understand your organization and are passionate about telling others about it.
Proper planning can help you turn your event from the only time donors hear from you during the year to the beginning of a beautiful and fruitful relationship that grows during the course of the year.