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One Fundraising Event Does Not Mean Success OR Failure

Fundraising is hard enough without the added pressure of a singular event being a make-or-break moment in your nonprofit’s budgetary calendar.

One of the reasons why so many development directors and fundraising professionals are outrageously stressed and pushed to the brink, is that leadership overly emphasizes one or two days of the year to either declare total fiscal success or to mentally relegate the entire budget as a catastrophic failure.

Let me be abundantly clear to board leadership, non-profit executives, and fundraisers alike: there are 365 days in the year and one day’s result, good or bad will not cause an organization to implode.

Special events, at their core, should be about capacity building rather than solely looking at the fiscal result as its success.

Everything you do during a fundraising event should be setting the stage for the future conversations with individuals who participate, donate and support your organization. The ultimate goal is to develop a relationship so deep and meaningful with those that take the time to attend and give talent or treasure to your mission, that major and legacy gifts are on the table down the road

If you think about fundraising events as a starting or entry point to knowing more about your nonprofit mission, vision and values, then your purpose becomes a lot more of a long-term strategy then immediate gratification of fiscal success.

Oh, by the way, that mindset reduces the stress immensely on whether you reach your goal or not.

Additionally, relying solely on special events or fundraisers is a risk that organizations should be very wary of. We all saw the massive pivot that every event had to make when the COVID-19 pandemic first began. The hit to fundraising bottom lines was dramatic. However, it gave pause to fundraising leaders and board of directors to make swift adjustments to not rely solely on one line item of revenue.

The most important thing to remember about your fundraising special event – whether it is a gala, golf tournament or giving day – is that your work BEGINS after it ends.

As bananas as it sounds, what you do after the event is exponentially more important than what happens day of.

So what practical steps can you take to make your nonprofit fundraiser a successful capacity building event? You know we’ve got you!

1. Write Those Thank You Notes

We all know that if you don’t say “thank you” for gifts, you’re probably not going to get another one, or at least, those that give are going to be less likely to be stoked to give their hard earned cash to a seemingly ungrateful organization.

Well, don’t be that nonprofit!

How long does it take to write 2 sentences about how you appreciate a gift or participation at your event? Probably less time than it took to log on to the interwebs, type in a credit card, and click a button. And the long play, from them opening up a card addressed to their home or office that leads to a conversation about how else they can help support your mission, is well worth the 1.8 minutes of handwriting.

2. Recap Meetings with Major Contributors

One of the best ways to engage your supporters without asking them for any additional money (because, remember, you don’t ALWAYS have to ask for money!) is to ask for their perspective on how the event went, what they loved about it, what they would improve for next year, and what they learned that day/evening that they didn’t know before attending.

This is where you get to connect on a much deeper level to ask inquisitive questions to high capacity individuals that could help you raise a significant amount of money in the future.

This is also an opportunity, based on how great their experience was at your event, to invite their rolodex to learn more about your mission and organization. Your increase in capacity begins with your more ardent supporters. And nothing says “I really like your nonprofit” than someone writing a significant check with a glass of wine in their hand, or via computer participating virtually while simultaneously not paying attention to a team meeting Zoom call.

3. Spike Up Donors

Did one of your donors just give significantly more than they did in previous years at your event? What’s that about!?

Well, you better get your rear in gear and find out!

Spike up gifts is one of the best indicators from donors that they are deeply invested in your organization’s success. No one wants to give money to a sinking ship or to a cause that feels “meh” to someone. People DO want to make a difference when the connect giving to making a real and lasting impact. And those that really understand what you do and are moved to donate more than they did they last time they gave, need to be treated with a little more TLC.

Did they recently come into money? Did they get a raise or a promotion at their job? Did they finally trade in that 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie card they have been sitting on until the collectables market was sky high?

You’ll only know if you connect and ask! These are your next generation cheerleaders, who simply indicated they were ready to be more aggressively supportive with a simple increase in giving.

4. The Priority is Your LYBNTY List

Where the hell did your donors and attendees from last year go!?

Time to dust off your investigative skills and get to the bottom of this mystery! We all remember the classic children’s book “The Puppy Who Lost His Way,” right? You don’t want to be that organization who gives up looking for lapsed donors after just an hour. You certainly don’t have to put posters up around town, but don’t sit on the porch waiting for your donors to come back like a goon. You have to remember that you have donors who love you! You have a responsibility to ensure they know how much they mean to you! If your supporters are seemingly lost, you don’t just look for an hour and call it quits, do you? You get your rear end out there and find those freaking donors!

Donor retention is one of the lowest hanging fruit opportunities your organization has – and throwing an event is a great indicator on how you are doing when it comes to communicating how much your base of support understands what impact you are making and what momentum you are building.

And if they don’t show up – well, you might have your answer to the question, are we doing enough!

Events come and go.

Whether it is a regional giving day, or your big gala you spent months planning for, they all add up to one important thing: What you do the day after, can have much more impact than what happens day/night of.

You got this!



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