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Creating a Positive Donor Event Experience

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In recent years, experts have cautioned nonprofits against relying too heavily on fundraising events. As it turns out, the cost to raise a dollar through an event is much higher than other methods. Despite this scrutiny, our nonprofit clients still find success with event fundraising. While there are certainly more cost-effective ways to raise money, it is important to acknowledge the big picture: donors still value fundraising events, though their expectations are changing. In this article, we will address how nonprofits can address their donors’ expectations and create a positive event experience.

Why Does Creating a Positive Experience Matter?

According to The Community Brands’ 2018 Donor Experience Study (Study), there is a strong correlation between event experiences and donations. 63% of donors said they are more likely to give to an organization after having a positive experience at an event.

Before nonprofits can create a positive experience, they need to understand why donors attend fundraising events. The Study asked donors to rate the most important aspects of a fundraising event. They are listed below, in order of importance.

The 10 most important aspects of fundraising events for donors:

  1. Make a difference with the cause I support.
  2. Teach me more about how the organization operates.
  3. Not only serve a good cause but be interesting and teach me something.
  4. Feature personal stories of those affected by the organization.
  5. Give me the opportunity to meet and interact with those impacted by the organization.
  6. Keep me involved beforehand by sending texts, emails, reminders, and engaging content related to the event.
  7. Keep me involved afterward by sending pictures, statements on the event’s impact, or other news.
  8. Not only serve a good cause but have fun.
  9. Give me the opportunity to socialize with other donors and volunteers.
  10. Give me the chance to interact with employees from the nonprofit.

The major takeaway from these findings is that donors attend fundraising events to make a difference in the cause they support and learn more about the organization and its efforts. While socializing and fun should always be part of the experience, it should never be the primary objective.

If your nonprofit hosts fundraising events, these findings should warrant your attention. Below are three ways for nonprofits to improve their donors’ event experience.

1. Leverage Technology

As technology evolves, donor expectations and our interactions with them will change too. To remain competitive, nonprofits must learn how to interact with donors in a virtual environment. When incorporating technology into the event experience, keep in mind it must be easy to use and inexpensive to set up. Leveraging technology is a great way to free up your donors’ time at the event. Ways to leverage technology as part of your fundraising event include the ability to:

  • Register online
  • Check in using a mobile device
  • View auction items prior to the event
  • Text donations
  • Participate in mobile bidding at a silent auction
  • Automate reminders or post-event follow-ups

Technology plays a key role in creating a positive event experience for your donors, however it is not the only factor. Leveraging technology is important, but keep in mind there are other factors where nonprofits can step up their efforts.

2. Personalize Communication

When communicating with your donors, a one-size-fits-all approach will not suffice. Today’s donors are accustomed to personalization. From Netflix to Amazon and everything in between, organizations today offer highly personalized suggestions based on behaviors. Donors will expect the same level of customization in the communications they receive from the organizations they support. According to the Study, more than twice as many donors say they prefer personalized content over generic content, and all donors are most interested in personalized impact reports.

Nonprofits should be tracking key data such as a donor’s age, income, program interest, and past event attendance. These valuable insights will help create highly personalized interactions between you and your donor.

3. Follow Up Post-Event

The post-event follow-up is one of the most neglected opportunities of a fundraising event. According to the Study, donors are most interested in receiving an impact report on how their donation is being used, or a follow-up story spotlighting individuals who benefit from their contribution, rather than a generic thank-you email. Other follow-ups donors wouldn’t mind receiving include handwritten thank you letters, text confirmations for donations, annual reports, and recommendations for future volunteer and event opportunities.

There are many ways to improve your post-event communication strategy. Whichever you choose, keep in mind the goal is to keep the momentum going between now and the next opportunity.

Creating a positive event experience for your donors can be challenging for nonprofits with limited resources, but not impossible. The professionals in our office can provide helpful guidance in these matters. Contact us today at kneeld@mercadien.com or 609-689-9700.

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