7 Ways to Get More From Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising Events
By Kelly Velasquez-Hague
Fundraising events are an important part of the nonprofit fundraising life cycle. Nonprofits like to host them, and supporters like to attend—so how can you make your fundraising events as special as possible for all parties involved?
To keep your events highly enjoyable for attendees while also maximizing your fundraising potential, we’ve laid out 7 simple tips for you to follow.
- Host an engaging event.
- Use social media to build hype.
- Research your attendees beforehand.
- Include gamification techniques.
- Use technology to update your fundraising events.
- Collect contact information.
- Prioritize the follow-up.
Every nonprofit is different, but everyone can benefit from these easy best practices to keep supporters interested and make sure that your event propels your nonprofit into a successful future.
If you’re ready to make the most of your next fundraising event, let’s dive right in!
1. Host an engaging event.
We know—this tip might seem a little self-evident. But when we say engaging, we don’t mean fun. We mean that your events should motivate your attendees to be engaged in your cause, your goals and your fundraising while at your event.
This can take a few different forms—board game night, fun run, or silent auction—but these are all different ways to ask your attendees to interact with each other, your staff, and your cause.
Think of hosting an event as live theatre, as opposed to watching television at home. You want your attendees to be active participants in your event.
Planning your event carefully is the first step to ensuring its success. Let’s dive deeper into our examples:
- A charity auction is a great way to engage your participants. It creates an atmosphere of friendly competition as attendees try to out-bid each other for their favorite lots, and you can ask corporate sponsors to donate gifts to minimize your overhead cost.
- Using a fun-run as a fundraising event is a good idea for engaging attendees, because it asks them to be physically present and active! It also has the benefit of attracting people who enjoy the activity but don’t know your nonprofit, so you can spread awareness about your cause even further.
- Everyone loves board games, and this is a great event to throw if your constituent base includes a lot of parents! You can add a sense of competition by adding stakes—but instead of winner keeping the pot, losers have to donate to your organization.
Once you have your event planned out, you can start to advertise for it and create an atmosphere of excitement in the weeks leading up to it.
2. Use social media to build hype.
Now that you’ve got your fun, engaging event all planned out, it’s time to draw attention to your plans and get your community excited to attend. How can you spread the good word?
- Use your social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.
- Send out email invitations to your supporter base.
- Send personalized invitations to VIPs.
- Advertise in public spaces.
The easiest way, however, is to make social media work for you. The beauty of this communication platform is that it’s cheap, near-instantaneous, and not limited by geographic region.
When planning your social media posts, use exciting language that creates a sense of urgency, so that potential attendees want to purchase tickets or RSVP early.
Offer early-bird specials on tickets for those who purchase by a certain date, or group rates for families who all want to come.
You can increase urgency by using phrases like “running out fast!” or “get your tickets before they’re gone!” These phrases make people want to be involved with an exclusive event, to see what the hype is.
As you approach your event day, increase your posting rate to remind people about the date, time, and location of the event, as well as any last-minute ticket sales. Post pictures of your team getting the venue ready to personalize the event, as well as tease what it’ll be like.
And with all the excitement that social media creates, don’t forget to keep your website updated with event details and ways to buy tickets or donate to the fundraiser! Your website is still the anchor of your online presence.
3. Research your attendees beforehand.
Once your RSVPs or ticket sales start to roll in, prepare yourself for the event by conducting a little research on the people who are coming to your fundraising event.
Look into both returning supporters and new faces alike while prepping for your fundraising event. An important part of your team’s night is going to be getting to know people who could potentially become major donors.
Use the time in the weeks leading up to your event to get your team as ready as possible by conducting prospect research, in which you look through publicly available information to learn more about your prospects.
- Have they donated to other philanthropic organizations?
- Have they donated to political campaigns?
- Do they have wealth markers such as home or vehicle ownership, or SEC holdings?
- What are their university or employment affiliations?
These data points indicate to your team someone’s affinity for giving, which is a measure of their philanthropic habits, and someone’s capacity for giving, which is their level of wealth.
Capacity doesn’t always indicate affinity, and affinity doesn’t always mean someone is going to donate.
However, if you know going into an event that an attendee has a history of donating to nonprofits with missions adjacent to yours, and that they have enough disposable income to potentially be a major donor, you’ll be at a fundraising advantage.
Data-driven philanthropy through prospect research allows your nonprofit’s team to understand more about what drives a person to give. With this information, your board members or directors can start to build a relationship with a potential major donor.
4. Include gamification techniques.
Gamification techniques are a way to increase the engagement level of your donors while they’re at your event. Gamification techniques turn fundraising events into friendly competitions by measuring success in ways like:
- Posting a leaderboard of top donors or volunteers.
- Using a fundraising thermometer to measure proximity to your goal.
- Giving badges or prizes based on success.
Depending on the type of event you throw, you can include gamification techniques for anything, like most bids through the night of a charity auction, or most hands of poker won (or lost!) at a game night.
For more information on how gamification can drive nonprofit proceeds, check out this informative article on the benefits of gamification from OneCause!
No matter what type of event you throw, gamification features can be included to add an extra level of excitement to your already engaging event.
Gamification is also a fun way to increase your volunteers’ and team’s levels of engagement during the event, by turning the less-pleasant parts of running an event into a game.
Set up internal prizes for things like:
- Who solved the most registration problems?
- Who collected the most contact information?
- Who introduced themselves to the most new attendees?
- Who secured the most donations?
Whether your gamification efforts are for the good of your own team or your event attendees, everyone will appreciate that their work or support is recognized.
5. Use technology to update your fundraising events.
No matter what type of event you’re hosting, there is a suite of software solutions to help streamline its planning and management.
Implementing technology into your event is a fun and easy way to make sure your event goes off without a hitch. Software solutions can help your nonprofit manage everything from food preferences and allergies to seating charts, as well as make running activities easier.
Ways that you can incorporate technology into your event include:
- Incorporate mobile bidding software into your charity auction, and allow people to see what’s up for grabs as well as keep track of bidding right from their phones.
- Investing in text-to-give software, and encouraging donors to support your fundraising goals through the night via their smartphones.
- Set up a tablet for attendees to research their employers’ policies and matching gifts eligibility before making their donation. Read more on taking advantage of corporate philanthropy with this matching gift guide from 360MatchPro.
No matter if you’re using new auction software or an automated check-in process, make sure to test-run the program before rolling it at your event to prevent any issues!
And aside from using software solutions to make your event easier, include ways for attendees to use their own technology, like their smartphones, in order to increase attendee engagement as well as raising awareness for your nonprofit on social media.
Decide on a fun and catchy hashtag, and then encourage your patrons to use it to raise awareness for the event and your cause.
You could even include an area at your venue as a designated photo-op point, and encourage your supporters to take pictures and post them with the hashtag. They get a fun update for their Instagram, and you get free publicity!
6. Collect contact information.
The impact of your event on your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy doesn’t end when the event is over!
Any fundraising event is bound to pull in new faces, whether they came with a supporteror solo.
Your job is to make sure they feel welcome, and that they can become a part of the community after the event is over.
Collecting contact information is a valuable way to ensure that newcomers are noticed, and that you can connect with them when the event is over.
So what information should you collect when meeting a new attendee or potential donor?
- Email address
- Home or cell phone number
- Preferred method of communication
You could also ask more detailed questions like:
- How did they hear about their event?
- Did they come with a friend, and if so, who?
- What interests them most about your organization or cause?
Whatever you learn about the newcomers at your event, make sure that their information gets reported into your CRM. Creating a profile for them in your donor database is the first step to building a long-term relationship.
7. Prioritize the follow-up.
Like we said earlier—an event doesn’t end when the guests go home! Your fundraising event should influence the lives of your nonprofit’s supporters long after the venue is empty.
Target your attendees with personalized communications after the event to ensure that they feel appreciated and that they want to continue to be involved with your nonprofit.
What type of follow-up should you send your event attendees?
- A “thank you for your participation in our event” message.
- A message detailing more ways to get involved.
- A second thank you including a donation receipt, if they haven’t already received one.
You can also segment your follow-up messages by levels of involvement. Those new attendees you met at the event? Send them informational material about your nonprofit and the cause you serve, as well as other ways to get involved, like volunteer days or corporate matching gifts programs.
Following up with supporters is the best way to maintain strong and healthy relationships with your community, so let your appreciation for their attendance be felt.
In addition to the messages sent directly to attendees, post about the event on your website and social media. If you have permission, post pictures of your event and how much fun the attendees had.
Demonstrating that your event was a success and that the attendees had a great time is a perfect way to start slowly advertising for your next event. People who missed out this time are sure to want to attend the next one when they see how much fun it was!
Fundraising events can be a fun and engaging way to raise funds for your cause as well as strengthen relationships between your nonprofit and your community. With our 7 best tips, your next fundraising event is sure to be a smash hit.
Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings over 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause. As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors raise more funds for their cause.