Qualifying for grants requires additional sources of income. This takes the form of individual donors, other grant sources, and fundraising events. Fundraising events are not only a great source of sustainable revenue, they are also fantastic opportunities to encourage supporter engagement. This level of engagement makes supporters feel included and helps to reinforce what your organization does, and how their support truly helps your organization achieve its goals. Fundraising events come in many forms: galas, street fairs, silent auctions, and more. Planning the event is crucial, and the supporter engagement must be planned intelligently to ensure strong engagement before, during, and after the event.
Current modes of donor engagement are relying more heavily upon digital strategies and technologies. In this chapter I will discuss the various tech options you can utilize to engage your donors in a digital capacity for your upcoming fundraising event. Strategies include:
- Event website
- Platform integration
- Social media campaigns
- Digital features
- Gamification contests
- Sponsor networks
Nonprofit events are a staple for effective fundraising and are even more critical to developing relationships with current and future donors. Fundraising events also provide opportunities for donors at all levels to be cultivated and engaged, potentially growing their future involvement and contributions.
A broad base of support is key to a financially secure nonprofit organization. Retention and development of individual donors is essential to future growth of the organization and major gifts. Embracing digital donor engagement for each fundraising event will prove to increase contributions, volunteers, and community-wide support.
Create an Event Website
Every nonprofit has a website, or should. This is how you engage your donors and future donors with what you do, who you are, and why you matter to your community. Many nonprofits incorporate a page for their fundraiser and think that is sufficient online engagement. For smaller contributions that are ongoing throughout the year, this is appropriate.
For a major fundraising event, such as a gala, auction, ceremony, or festival really requires much more significant promotion independent from your organization’s primary website. Informing your donor base and subscriber lists through email newsletters and social media pages are one level. If you really want to promote your event like the standalone event that it is, give it a website. Show your donors how significant this event is by making it its own independent reality.
“Any event that requires considerable investment of time or resources to plan warrants its own site or page, especially if that event is part of a larger campaign.” – Carl Deising
The standalone page or website can be utilized to gather real time registrations for attendance, collect donations or sell tickets, and provide all of the information that donors and attendees need in order to fully participate in the event you are promoting. This helps your organization have a realistic awareness of what needs to happen in order to accommodate the attendees, thus making smarter planning decisions and appropriate budget management.
Platform integration is a critical component to any organization thriving in the current digital age. Organizations that are seeking to shift away from traditional marketing strategies to utilize the digital marketing opportunities that are readily available need to be savvy with platform integration skills.
This is common business practice in the for-profit sector and can benefit nonprofits ten-fold by avoiding the additional staff and volunteer hours normally required to collect user data and assimilate it into your email campaigns, donor database, email management tools, and event planning software. All of these can be beautifully embedded into your website, and especially integrated within your fundraising event campaign website or page. Letting the digital tools do the heavy lifting, leaves your team to be more effective in focusing on new or developing donor engagement opportunities.
Ensure any integration on your event website collects data and generates reports directly into your donor management platform. This will assist you in tracking engagement and how successful your strategy has been. This will help you to better streamline future fundraising events with all data collected. It also prevents repetitive registrations into your email campaigns, thus preventing over-emailing donors you want to keep happy.
Social Media Campaigns
Social media is commonly utilized to update donors of your organization’s current efforts and events. Utilizing numerous social media platforms is important. Be sure to ensure your are running effective promotional campaigns through the use of unique hashtags, user generated content, behind the scenes looks, and follow a posting schedule.
- Unique hashtags are what set your organization’s campaign apart from other media campaigns that could infiltrate your donor’s online experience. Ensure that this unique hashtag is used throughout your entire campaign and all promotional posts. Do ask your followers to share the posts, and to include their own pictures of the event with the unique hashtag.
- User generated content includes donors who have taken selfies at your events, asking followers to engage in the designing of an event wearable attire (like t-shirts), or requesting stories about those your organization has served.
- Develop a posting schedule using your marketing software to increase the highest engagement with your social media posts. Using your marketing software, determine which days and times see the highest engagement with your social media posts. Build a post schedule that maximizes the visibility of your event promotions.
- Behind the scenes looks include stories and pictures that involve your followers in the event planning process. Videos and live streaming can also be very effective to engage your online followers and donors.
Large scale events are highly served by deeply engaging social media campaigns, especially those with significant themes. These are also a great way to really engage donors for your end of year giving campaigns.
If your fundraising event page includes integrations with your various platforms to ensure a smooth process for your volunteers and staff, ensure that these features also increase donor engagement as well. It is important to include user-friendly forms and donation tools as well as instructions for text-to-giving steps.
Include a photo gallery of your auction catalog, including a way for those who are physically unable to attend your event to be able to participate in your auction online in real time. Ensure that your event registration includes customized fields for attendees to select seating, food choices, or other unique individual aspects that not only ensure your patrons enjoy the event, but your planning is streamlined and accurate.
Providing useful features on your event site or page is an essential step in boosting engagement. To entice potential new attendees for your event, include photos or videos of previous events hosted by your organization.
It is important to not only consider what tools make your team’s efforts streamlined and effective, it is also important to consider what tools your attendees and donors will find useful. Your event website’s features should offer value for everyone involved.
Utilizing social media and peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns should also include games, contests, and interactive graphics to encourage deeper engagement with your fundraising event. This can significantly improve your entire annual fundraising cycle by strengthening relationships with your donors. Simple examples include the traditional fundraising thermometer.
Community focused fundraising events are very amenable to gamification techniques. Festivals, walkathons, sporting events, and game tournaments are all strong candidates for such a strategy. Include things such as leaderboards, campaign trackers, bonus challenges, award ceremonies, and prizes to create a collective involvement, engagement and excitement about your fundraising event.
If you have collaborative partnerships with other nonprofits in your community or you wish to engage in event sponsorship, it is wise to involve them in your event planning. Include the donors, vendors, in-kind donors, corporate sponsors, local governments, and grant making foundations to bring a larger collective effort that empowers your fundraising event strategy and relieves some of the daunting pressure to perform by spreading the responsibility to those who are best suited to contribute to niche aspects of your fundraising event.
Be sure to leverage their support by providing them with promotion and increased visibility for their contributions and support. Genuine gratitude for their contribution as well as mutual support for what they offer the community is a way to develop strong future support and partnerships. For-profit organizations benefit by demonstrating that they care for their community and your organization’s efforts may be the perfect way for them to demonstrate that willingness to be involved.
The mutual promotion through their network and yours increases their potential revenue growth and the potential donor growth for your nonprofit organization as well. Encourage attendance by additional members of your sponsor’s community through discounted tickets or other promotional materials as gifts. This also serves to increase corporate matching gift program engagement. Be sure to inform them of this opportunity.
The evolution of technology and the way in which it impacts nonprofit functionality is something that needs to be engaged as completely as possible. This provides higher donor engagement, improved functionality for your team, streamlined planning and relationship development, accurate accounting of registrants, and ways in which followers can be involved in the planning of the event, participation in the event, and promotion of the event. Most importantly it serves to keep your donors engaged and interested in continuing their support of your mission.