By Kerri Moore
Fundraising events are the perfect opportunity to build on existing donor relationships, introduce new donors to your nonprofit, and raise funds for your cause.
Since they can be incredibly rewarding, it’s important that your nonprofit knows how to capitalize on the benefits of hosting an event.
To ensure that your nonprofit is tapping into all the fundraising event rewards, you can follow these 5 fantastic best practices:
- Capitalize on crowdfunding.
- Raise more with merchandise.
- Collaborate with your community.
- Spread the word on social media.
- Revolutionize your retention strategy.
These best practices can be applied to a myriad of different fundraising events. No matter what you’re hosting, you can use these tips to create a deeper fundraising experience for your donors.
After all, your donors want to know that their donations are meaningful! Don’t take the opportunity to meet your donors face-to-face for granted.
Let’s break down these best practices to learn more.
1. Capitalize on crowdfunding.
A crowdfunding campaign is the perfect way to raise money before and/or during your event. Though crowdfunding campaigns are usually hosted by individuals, nonprofits and organizations can use them too!
Crowdfunding campaigns rally donors from all parts of your organization together in support of your cause. They work especially well with events because they draw your supporters into the same venue.
The excitement of fundraising as a unit can help donors bond with each other and connect more deeply to your cause.
Crowdfunding campaigns are usually hosted on crowdfunding platforms, where donors can submit donations online.
You can use the page to generate funds leading up to the event, so that supporters have something to celebrate when they arrive. Then, you can make a live appeal during the course of the event and watch the donations pour in as donors strive to reach the fundraising goal (just be sure that the page is mobile friendly!).
These exciting campaigns can increase your event fundraising. To create the most impactful campaign possible, you’ll want to:
- Determine a clear fundraising goal. Solid crowdfunding platforms embed fundraising thermometers on their pages so that supporters can see the progress they’re making. A clear fundraising goal allows supporters to rise to meet the challenge.
- Focus on a specific mission. You want your cause to be tangible. Clearly state how all of the funds will be used to further your cause, being as specific as possible. Tying your event to a single project can help make your campaign more actionable to donors.
- Offer incentives. You can create donation tiers with incentives attached to them. For example, a donor who gives $100 to your campaign may receive a handwritten thank you note from the recipients of your nonprofit’s aid. Incentives can encourage donors to give more than they normally would.
For more campaign strategies, check out these 5 tips to creating an effective crowdfunding pitch.
In short: Use crowdfunding to raise more for your event and engage more donors. Effective crowdfunding campaigns are focused, goal-oriented, and rewarding for donors.
2. Raise more with merchandise.
Selling merchandise at your event can help you supplement your fundraising efforts. However, selling products also offers you an opportunity to further engage and retain your donors.
After all, products are a way for supporters to take home tangible memorabilia of your fundraising event and your nonprofit. Donors are likely to remember your organization whenever they use the merchandise, which can help you retain them after the event.
To ensure that you’re selling the most effective merchandise, your products should be:
- Branded. Include the name and logo of your fundraising event or nonprofit on all of your merchandise.
- Practical. Items that donors can use in their everyday lives are more likely to remind them of your cause. Additionally, donors are more likely to use practical items in a public place, which can provide your nonprofit with free advertising.
- Varied. Offering a few different types of products can help ensure that you’ll have something that’ll appeal to everyone.
- Relevant. Items that match the theme and tone of your event will be most effective.
How do these tips look when applied in practice? Let’s take a look at an example.
Say you’re hosting a fundraising event to raise money for your school. Selling products that interest both students and alumni and that display your school colors, mascot, and name will be recognizable to your attendees. Products like t-shirts, sweatshirts, water bottles, hats, and school supplies can all be relevant and interesting items that connect donors to your cause.
As in the above example, the products are valuable to donors and directly related to the cause. This combination can incentivize donors to make a purchase and increase your revenue.
In short: Merchandise can motivate donors to give to your organization, and the products themselves can promote your nonprofit once the event is over.
3. Collaborate with your community.
One of the main advantages of fundraising events is the chance to engage your community in your fundraising efforts.
Events tend to draw a local crowd. After all, they can be fun occasions even for those with no prior connection to your nonprofit.
One of the best ways to increase attendance and build stronger relationships with your donors is to embrace the community. First, you need a strong understanding of who these valuable contributors are as donors and as people.
ASAC, a nonprofit based in Mexico, was able to do this to great effect. By using WhatsApp, ASAC created a crowdfunding campaign that raised $4,000 to decorate children’s hospital rooms. ASAC created a fundraising strategy based around their donors’ preferences:
“We’re a small organization operated entirely by volunteers, and although we have about 2,000 people on our email list, we’re really like a big family. It made more sense to use WhatsApp to enable personal, one-to-one communications and show that the request to donate was coming from a trusted source.”
You can apply this same strategy to your event. By understanding and engaging with your community, you can create a powerful campaign that reaches donors on their terms.
To enact a community-based event strategy, you can follow these tips:
- Connect your cause to the community. Building your campaign around a community need can help you relate to your attendees. For example, a nonprofit dedicated to feeding the hungry can use event funds to provide meals to a local homeless shelter. Connecting the cause to the community can encourage supporters to attend your event and donate; they are, after all, supporting people close to them!
- Invite key members of the community. Personally inviting well-known community members to support your event and make a public donation can generate widespread support for your cause. Key community members can include political figures, such as the mayor and town council, local celebrities, or other prominent figures. Anyone who’s recognizable and impactful can serve this role.
- Partner with local businesses. Local businesses can offer matching gifts, in-kind donations, or other kinds of financial support. Since events are great advertising for local businesses, many business owners may be eager to jump on board. Reaching out to these companies can help you offset event costs, all while supporting your community as a whole.
By following these tips, you can connect with your community more deeply. Doing so can ensure that your nonprofit’s story doesn’t fall on deaf ears.
In short: Creating a community-based fundraising event can help you reach your donors and build lasting, supportive relationships with local businesses and figures.
4. Spread the word on social media.
Social media can be vital to pulling off a successful fundraising event. After all, one of the most compelling reasons that people attend events is because they know other people who will be there.
Social media allows people to share the events they’re attending to their personal networks, thus encouraging others to attend as well.
Furthermore, social media is a great channel to advertise your crowdfunding campaign and engage your donors. Even those who can’t attend your event can have the opportunity to support your cause by giving to your campaign.
Of course, spreading the word on social media will require some strategizing on your part.
For example, you can:
- Create a hashtag. A hashtag is a means of consolidating your posts on different social media platforms. Hashtags are used on the most popular platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Not only do they help supporters find your event posts, but supporters can then use the hashtag when they post about your event.
- Include social sharing buttons. Integrate social sharing buttons onto your crowdfunding page so that supporters can easily spread the word with the click of a button. Encouraging supporters to share information about your event can generate excitement leading up to the event day.
- Post live updates. During your event, post live updates to social media so that your remote supporters can stay engaged. Showcasing the success of your event as it occurs can influence your followers to attend future events to join in on the fun.
In short: Social media is a powerful tool that allows you reach a wide variety of donors and capitalize on social sharing, which can increase attendance at current and future events.
For more information on integrating social media with your fundraising event, you can check out these nonprofit web design tips so that your buttons and social media feeds are natural extensions of your fundraising.
5. Revolutionize your retention strategies.
One of the most important practices for fundraising events is to create a solid follow-up strategy. Since you may be engaging new donors for the first time, it’s important that you focus on retaining your attendees.
You can better retain your attendees by sending them follow-up communications that don’t ask for donations. These communications are about inviting your donors into your organization and showing them how their gifts are being used for good. Donors want to see that your organization is invested in them.
To do so, you should invest in the right fundraising software. Nonprofit CRMs should allow you to easily record data from your attendees into your donor database. With this data, you can send donors follow-up materials in the correct channels.
If your nonprofit is newer or lacking in software, you’ll still want to collect your attendees’ contact information so that you can reach them after the event (luckily, most crowdfunding platforms have this feature built in!).
Once you know where to send your follow-ups, you’ll want to start by thanking attendees for their participation. Specifically, thank donors for their gifts.
Then, you’ll want to provide updates on the impact of the fundraising event.
What did your fundraising event accomplish?
How did it further your mission?
How much did you raise?
You can send both your thank you and your update in a single follow-up material, but you’ll want to have it sent within 3 days after your event.
Immediately engaging donors after your event shows that you value them and their contributions. Additionally, specific updates can show your donors that they’ve actively helped people in need by attending your event.
When donors feel valued at your organization, and when they see the impact of their gifts, they’ll be more likely to stay involved and give again.
In short: Following up with donors after your event can help you retain them. Specifically, thanking and updating donors can show them how they’ve impacted your cause.
No matter what your fundraising event is, you can use these best practices to raise funds and retain your attendees, building stronger relationships with your donors and the community.
Kerri Moore is the Director of Marketing at Booster, Created by CustomInk. She and her team help create content aimed at maximizing organizers’ fundraising potential and furthering their mission to raise awareness for the cause or passion that means the most to them.