Using Fundraising Events Strategically

In today’s blog, IFC Canada Director, Mena Gainpaulsingh answers some really useful questions on the importance of having a strategy for fundraising events…

Why is it important to use events strategically rather than just focusing on raising as much money as possible on the day?

What organisations sometimes overlook is how their events can be used as effective donor cultivation opportunities. So often your event is the only place where you can get face to face with some of your donors and learn about them and their motivations. Even with large galas, by putting the right strategies in place, you can begin to build a deeper connection with some of your guests with a view to continuing this relationship after the event is over.

It all starts with strategy! What are some techniques that have worked for you in the past?

I always advise having a strong “home team” at the event, which may include Board members, staff, volunteers, beneficiaries and even other donors, whose job it is to thank, interact and engage with guests, not only to make them feel valued, but to discover who are your most passionate supporters and what makes them tick. But for this to work, you need enough of them there to ensure lots of one to one conversations can take place around the room, that they know and fully understand their role and that they are willing to take part in a debrief immediately following the event so that you can discover what your team has learned.

Sometimes for larger events, such as performances and shows, I have also organised smaller, private pre-event receptions for a select group of people to get “up close and personal” with them, learn about their motivations and how they might like to get further involved.

I love the focus on relationships, even at larger events. What are people NOT doing now that they could do to use events more strategically?

They are not seeing the events as cultivation opportunities, as ways to get to know who their potential donors might be, but more as “one and done” activities where the funding is only in the ticket sales, silent auction or sponsorship.

Follow up meetings to build relationships with sponsors is important. How does this translate to the world of individual giving?

Following up with your event attendees can be excellent in helping to build that connection with your cause. In fundraising we often talk about segmenting donors but seldom apply this practice to events but it can be a very useful strategy with event attendees.

Segmentation can be complicated! Can you give some tips on how to do this as it applies to events?

Once the event is finished, I make it a priority to go through my invitation list and start to segment according to how engaged I believe they are with the organisation, and then begin to follow up appropriately, prioritising those that seem most keen to know more and have the most potential to support you in a more significant way.

My priority actions might include:

  • Determining who we might want to have a follow up, face to face meeting with
  • Who we might invite on a project visit
  • Who we might invite to a future, possibly more exclusive, event or activity
  • Who we might simply send a thank you to

I might even include event invitees in this list for segmentation. Sometimes I have been surprised to find that some of the people who couldn’t make it were actually more engaged than those who came, so it’s important not to leave those out when developing your follow up strategy.

Originally published by the Sponsorship Collective.