When nonprofit development directors think of donor events, they often envision charity balls, dinner galas, annual golf outings, or other large-scale programs. While these events can be great ways of raising funds for your nonprofit, they aren’t the only events you should be thinking about. Too often overlooked are the day to day events—the school programs, panel discussions, and other activities—that make up a nonprofit’s annual calendar. By thinking about how to incorporate development into the events your organization is already doing programmatically, you’ll discover new ways to raise funds and cultivate donor relationships without spending significant amounts of extra time or resources.

In this article, we’ll explore what you can do before, during, and after an event to incorporate development into your organization’s regular programming.  

Before the Event

1. Send personalized invitations. Think through your donor database and the type of event your organization is planning. Here’s where donor research and knowing the people who are supporting your work is important. By knowing a particular topic or event would be of interest to one of your donors and personally inviting them to attend, you’re finding a unique way to acknowledge their support.

2. Review the RSVPs. Take a look at who is attending the event and who you should make a point of saying hello to. If major donors or donor prospects are attending, reach out to them ahead of time to say how much you are looking forward to having them at the event.

At the Event

3. Recognize your donors. Depending on the size and scope of the event, you might consider adding a small, private reception for select donors. This will give you an opportunity to spend time with them and thank them personally for their support and it will give them an opportunity to meet with event speakers, other donors, and staff of your organization. If a reception isn’t appropriate, consider other ways to recognize your donors for their support such as VIP seating, listing in the event program, or simply finding them before or after the event to thank them for coming.

4. Remind the audience of who you are. At the start of the event, give a brief pitch for your organization, recite its mission, and remind the audience that you are a nonprofit organization that depends on the generosity of donors to accomplish its work. Connect the event they are participating in to your larger mission and your need for charitable support.

5. Provide opportunities to give. Have donation cards and envelopes available for event attendees to complete or take with them as they leave. Consider using Stripe to take credit card donations. Whatever opportunities you make available, be sure to announce them in your opening and/or closing remarks.

After the Event

6. Thank all attendees. Send a thank you letter or email to all of the attendees and personalize the follow-up going to your donors and donor prospects. Reiterate your organization’s mission and how events such as the one the attendees came to work to accomplish that mission. 

7. Invite attendees to become a part of your organization. Review the list of attendees and add any new names to your future solicitation, update, and event mailings. By coming to your event, attendees have identified themselves as people interested in your work. Continuing to communicate with them can develop their interest in your nonprofit and transition them from attendees to supporters of your work.

By following these simple steps, your nonprofit can incorporate development into its regular slate of event programming throughout the year, enhancing the work you are already doing to identify new donor prospects and cultivate relationships with your existing donors.

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It’s my personal and professional goal is to help purpose-driven organizations achieve their fundraising goals, craft clear and compelling communications, and achieve greater influence. Please let me know if and how I can be of help to you. Feel free to shoot me an email at kvandermeulen@americanphilanthropic.com or check out fundraising services online at AmericanPhilanthropic.com. We also have ongoing events throughout the year.


This piece was originally published at Philanthropy Daily on January 12, 2017. It has been re-published more recently since then.