This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.
We have a doozy of a topic this month, friends. We love ‘em, we hate ‘em, we love to hate them: it’s fundraising events and galas.
But they don’t have to make us tear our hair out! There are a few things to do to help us maintain sanity and make sure our event is a success.
Before you do anything else: establish a goal. Do you want to build relationships with your current donors? Do you want to engage new supporters? Something else? This will help shape a lot of your decision making.
Also remember that the event is just a blip in a donor’s experience with your organization – so consider the entire experience (before, during, and after the event) for the guests.
Now: let’s get to the event! Make sure that you are illustrating the impact that your donors have through their participation as a supporter.
- Make sure you have visuals that illustrate impact: ideally, display boards with personal stories or quotes and a photo.
- If your event has a speech component, make sure there aren’t too many talking heads. Including the board chair and executive director is nice, but make sure to have a testimonial of some kind that illustrates impact.
- If you’re doing a video, focus on the story, and keep it short and sweet, but from the heart. It’s always nice to have the person who is featured in the video there in person, if possible.
- If you are going to have clients at your event, make sure they are not used as props. Assign them to a staff member they are comfortable with, who will show them around and introduce them. Do not relegate them to a table in the back or ignore them. Incorporate them into the event in a way that feels celebratory and comfortable, but also natural.
Once you have those elements in place: focus on the guest experience.
- Have great customer service. No matter what is happening behind the scenes, everyone interfacing with attendees should have a smile and an attitude of gratitude.
- Start and end on time. If you’re having a cocktail hour, be transparent with your guests about the fact that there is an hour of networking before the program begins. Whatever schedule you sent out, stick to it, even if it means shortening some speeches. No one wants to feel as though their time isn’t valued.
- Keep an eye on quality – to an extent. There’s a delicate balance of investing money in a quality experience but also not going overboard. Make sure that you show that you are using donor dollars in a responsible way.
Stay tuned for Pt 2 next week!
This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode about this topic, click here.
When you hear the phrase fundraising planning – what do you think? Do you think about Excel spreadsheets that sit on the shelf, or documents with track changes with dates that span over eight months? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. A plan can serve as a roadmap for the direction you want to go, and can be something you refer to when your executive director asks you to do something a little out there (it can help you say no!). At the end of the day, it can – and should – be something that helps you stay sane.
As you start to put together your plan – use last year to benchmark, but don’t set your sights too low & get stuck on what’s happened in the past. Be reasonable but also imaginative. And make sure you have concrete goals. For each group you are looking to raise money from (i.e. individuals, grants, events), think about what you want to accomplish. Are you trying to raise more money? Increase your number of donors? Those goals aren’t necessarily the same, so get clear on what you want to do from the beginning.
So what if you’ve put together your plan and now you have to manage your staff fundraising team? It’s not an easy feat – getting everyone on your team on the same page. There are endless ways to fundraise, and there are always more people to ask for money, so as a team manager it’s your job to decide how to prioritize the work to be done. It’s also super important to balance what has to be done with what could be done – i.e. what is good for long term fundraising.
A couple of tips to do this:
- Team retreats: In addition to your staff fundraising team, it’s good to include others as well, like your executive director, marketing team, or other volunteers working with you. Make sure to use time effectively – balance between strategic thinking and implementation. Make sure to do follow up! There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hours at a retreat and then hearing nothing afterwards.
- Regular check ins: Depending on your team, this could be with the whole team or one-on-one. It’s important to keep your staff working on what’s important, but still have the bigger picture in mind.
It’s all about open communication! But: what if you’re a team of one? Stay tuned for tips next time!
This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneurship with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode about this topic, click here.
Happy New Year! Now that you’ve received a mountain of donations for your cause (hopefully!), it’s time to get down to business and say something important to your donors: thank you.
Before getting down and dirty with your donor recognition, let’s take a moment to remember why it’s important. In the everyday madness of running your organization, it can be easy to take your donors for granted. But saying thank you – and stewarding donors – will pay off in the long run.
Donor retention (getting a donor to give more than one year in a row) is vastly more cost effective than donor acquisition (recruiting a brand new donor from the general community). And the best way to retain a donor is to say thank you and illustrate the impact their donation made.
Now let’s get down to it. Before we talk about how you can say thank you immediately, remember that involving your board and other volunteers is critical. As a donor, receiving a call or note from someone who’s not getting paid by the organization is very powerful. Plus, you can’t do everything yourself!
Here’s a few ways you can say thank you to your donors immediately.
- Consider doing a thank-a-thon. Depending on your group, you can do a lunchtime event with pizza or an early evening event with wine and cheese, and invite board members, volunteers, and program staff to make calls.
- Prepare a script that your volunteers can go off of. Keep it short and sweet – name, affiliation with the organization, thank you for the donation, and perhaps a short comment about why it made a difference. Personalizing it is even better. Don’t forget to smile, too!
- In the donor lists for your volunteers to call, and include: name, phone, donation amount or range, and year they’ve been donating since.
- Save major donors to get calls from the board chair, executive director or other management staff.
- Send acknowledgment letters immediately (or as soon as possible, within a week), for tax purposes & immediate communication from the organization.
- Prepare some inexpensive notecards – you can ask volunteers to handwrite some and return to you to send out.
Don’t forget to record all of this activity in your donor database!
Here’s a few ways you can create a culture of gratitude throughout the year.
- Pay attention to your customer service. Make sure everyone in your organization is saying thank you to anyone who is a donor. If you’re sending an email, say thank you in the beginning and at the end of the message.
- Try to recognize small moments like birthdays or donor anniversaries – donors are often only receiving solicitations from nonprofits, so it’s nice for them to receive other types of communications, even if they are informal.
- Consider doing a mid-year stewardship mailing. Mid-year is a great time, keeping them updated on what’s going on and priming them for an end of year ask. Make the mailing directly related to your mission, and have fun with it!
These tips may seem obvious, but you might be surprised how many nonprofits don’t take the chance to say thank you beyond the standard acknowledgment letter. A little gratitude goes a long way, so make it a goal to implement even just one of these tips this year. You’ll see your donor retention rates improve!
And thank you!
Some exciting news for 2018! I am going to be a monthly contributor to the podcast I’ve been on a couple of times, Social Entrepreneurship with Nathan A. Webster (if you want to check out my posts about the two other episodes I was on, check out I’m On a Podcast! and Fundraising Tips for the Last Two Months of the Year). I’ll be focusing on different topics related to fundraising. My episode comes out the third Monday of each month, so look forward to the first one this coming Monday!
I’ll also do a blog post that complements each episode, so as long as you’re subscribed to my blog, you’ll get notifications every time there’s a new episode. You can also subscribe to the podcast through your preferred podcast listening method – just search Social Entrepreneurship with Nathan A. Webster.
If you or someone you know might be interested in sponsoring the podcast, let me know here!
And thanks to Nathan for having me! I’m exciting to share fundraising tips with his audience!
I’m very excited to share that I was recently interviewed as a guest on a podcast about social entrepreneurship! Check out the recording here. I had a great time chatting with Nathan about fundraising, the nonprofit sector, and other career hacks on his show, Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster.
Being on the podcast was a wonderful experience because it allowed me to reflect on some of the key moments of my life that have led me to where I am today. I got to share about how my mom shaped my approach to helping others. I talked about my experience interning at San Diego Grantmakers when I was in college, which opened my eyes to the path of fundraising for nonprofits. And I got to share the importance of one on one networking for long term success – that’s been such a huge part of my journey!
In addition to chatting about my path, it was fun to share tips I’ve learned along the way (resources I tap into and how I achieve my goals), my tendency according to Gretchen Rubin (I’m an obliger!), and even my love of The Real Housewives.
Take a listen and please share with anyone you think might benefit from what we chat about!