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Downes Murray International News

When donor events stick better than peanut butter and syrup

If you’ve ever dropped a peanut butter and syrup sarmie face down on the floor, you’ll know that the famous five-second rule becomes obsolete. The stuff sticks like static to nylon. And this sticking factor is precisely the kind of social glue you want when it comes to hosting donor events.  

Yes, they take time to plan and prepare; and yes, they can involve some expense. But they should definitely be on your fundraising calendar: they’re worth it. Why? As Rachel Muir wrote in an article* for Network for Good, there are at least five good reasons to host them:

  1. Donors see your need first hand.
  2. You get to mingle with donors and ask them great discovery questions.
  3. Donors are immersed in your mission through a unique experience.
  4. They drive donation upgrades and donor retention.
  5. They can bring in new prospects.

It was fundraising expert and author Adrian Sargeant who said, ‘The more immersive the experience, the more likely the impression can result in a donor relationship.’ Donor events are the perfect setting to really involve your donors in your cause and connect with them; and they enable you to share stories, first-hand, of the difference that your organisation is making with their support.

They offer a relaxed setting for you and your Board to get to know your donors free of formalities and pressure.

But – like so much related to fundraising and donor nurturing – the event should not be held without
a plan for follow-through.  Remember to thank donors for attending, include a personalised line or two in your letter or email that references something you remember from your conversation – and tell them if your organisation has any other events in the pipeline.

Even without a large budget, you can arrange a donor cultivation event that inspires your donors and encourages loyalty.

How? Muir offers this advice and also encourages you to consider these questions:

  1. What would appeal to my audience?
  2. How can I make my event as immersive as possible? Literally, an event that takes your donors to the action and gets them to experience your work.
  3. What are you doing that would be meaningful for your donors to see?
  4. What VIP volunteer opportunities can you host that will allow donors to feel a part of your mission in a fun, engaging way?
  5. Who is your audience: major donors,mid-level donors, prospects, media, stakeholders?

Produce every moment of the event from start to finish and have a follow-up plan that moves attendees to give. Think welcome refreshments and a personal welcome from a Board member or your CEO, a staff liaison or knowledgeable volunteer who checks in on them through-out the event – and then a warm thank you and follow-up survey to learn what they thought afterwards.

Whatever event you decide to host, make sure it’s immersive, expertly managed, memorable; and that the insight you provide into your good work sticks with the donor...  like peanut butter and syrup.

Marisol Gutierrez is Communication and Partnership Manager at Downes Murray International.


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