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!