Here’s a public secret: special events are designed to attract new donors. Yes, the funds raised through the event are important to the nonprofit. But that is only one goal. The second goal – acquiring names and contact information of potential donors – is often overlooked.
Think about it this way: you are offered an opportunity to win a free car; all you have to do is share your name and contact information. Why would a car company give away a car in exchange for your contact information? Because there is a strategy in place for engaging everyone who enters the contest. The company is building a pool of prospective buyers for dealerships to follow up with.
The same is true for your organization and its special events. Or it could be – if you are tracking names and contact information. Having a follow-up plan for what happens after an event is just as important as planning for the event itself. And you can’t follow up if you don’t have names.
Participating in a special event can mark the beginning of a relationship between a community member and your institution. The real success lies in converting a person who bought a $50 ticket to an event – or who sponsored a runner at $25 – into a donor who gives annually and who may – when the time is right – make a major gift, or encourage others to do so.
Special events provide a pool of new potential donors: finding out which ones are committed to your institution is the fund development work that lies ahead. It begins with reaching out, engaging them, and asking them to give on a regular basis.
Each event should be planned with a net revenue goal (gross revenue minus expenses), and with a goal of engaging participants in new and deeper ways that bring resources and money to your organization. Attention should be given to both the logistics of a luncheon or 5K run, and to the communications and solicitation activity that will follow. Short-term and long-term fundraising planning need to occur simultaneously. The link between the two is the names and contact information that are collected through the event.
Think about it – many nonprofits buy lists of names of people who may have an interest in their organization. They then invest more money in direct mail and e-marketing to connect with these individuals and encourage donations. With a special event, you have a free list of people who have a direct experience with your organization. Ask board members and volunteers to review your new list of names – see who they know, and who they can engage.
Growing your fundraising requires a growing pool of prospective donors to work with. Don’t be a name dropper.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They provide fundraising counsel to Memphis, the Mid-South and the nation. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call 522-8727.