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5 tips to make events donor centric and stewardship focused

March 09, 2022
This image shows two women sitting at a table, discussing tips for making events donor centric and stewardship focused.

It’s common for nonprofit board members and staff to have questions about special events. They may ask, “How does this event advance our organization’s purpose?” or, “Where are the major donors, new donors, and volunteers?”

Many of these inquiries arise because your board and staff care deeply about establishing meaningful connections between your nonprofit organization and donors (as well as potential donors). It’s crucial that nonprofit-donor interactions highlight the supporters’ contributions toward your cause-focused programs.

To take your event planning to the next level, try implementing these five tips to organize events that prioritize donor stewardship.

1. Give corporate sponsors more opportunities to get involved.

Offer your corporate sponsors a variety of ways to participate in your event and demonstrate their passion for the community. For businesses that support your nonprofit through monetary or in-kind contributions, your event will provide increased brand visibility and recognition beyond their traditional advertising strategies.

Encourage further involvement by inviting employees of the corporation to attend as event volunteers. Another idea for boosting event engagement could be asking businesses to sponsor and place team members at tables for a gala or water tents for an outdoor function.

2. Secure creative event partners.

To create a positive and memorable experience for your donors, consider co-promoting your event by featuring local artists or dancers for entertainment. Also, take the opportunity to incorporate your nonprofit’s purpose into the event’s location, decoration, and activities.

For example, you could feature seven local chefs at seven different food sites at the event or create table centerpieces made by your beneficiaries. Choose a venue that reflects your nonprofit organization’s purpose and impact, such as a hospital main lobby after hours or a school auditorium.

Creative partners can not only help reduce costs, but also provide unique contributions to your event. Their special skills or resources can strengthen your organization’s relationships with both your donors and the local community, as well as allow supporters to contribute beyond typical cash donations.

3. Choose the right events for the right types of donors.

Different events appeal to different interests and backgrounds. Therefore, it’s important to think about the various personas in your donor database as you begin planning your special events for the year. 

If you’re organizing an auction, be sure to invite people who can afford and are interested in high-end benefit items. If the event is a race, attract people with competitive energy who can complete the course. They should be able to draw in supporters to follow their training and race progress, further promoting your organization’s purpose. 

For supporter-led events such as peer-to-peer fundraising events, peer fundraisers must feel comfortable sharing their reasons for getting involved in your cause to encourage others to join them. Regardless of the type of fundraiser, remember to keep your nonprofit organization’s purpose at the front and center of why people should support the event.

4. Leverage (and value) your board and volunteers.

Your board members and volunteers can be instrumental in helping your organization achieve its event goals. Encourage the board to participate and give feedback during event planning to keep them invested in your nonprofit’s purpose. 

By empowering your board to share their personal stories related to your cause and connect with their circles of influence, you can boost event participation and success. Consider incorporating some friendly fundraising or guest attendance competition between board members for some added fun. 

When recruiting volunteers for your event team, focus on finding candidates who are friendly and eager to answer questions. Provide them with t-shirts or other apparel so they are easily identifiable on the event day as volunteers.

Show that you value your board members and volunteers to promote continued involvement and leadership succession in your nonprofit organization. Rather than prioritizing the tasks you need them to accomplish, concentrate on what motivates them to contribute and how to ensure a positive experience for everyone involved.

5. Plan for success.

The most effective way to maximize success at your next event is to plan it out in detail. Every aspect of your fundraiser from event sign-ups and ticket purchases to paying for auction items reflects on your organization’s brand. 

As you prepare for an event, focus on donor experience. Emphasize the extent of your event’s impact by using consistent wording in invitations, volunteer training notes, and event communications such as your gala program. Acknowledge the impact of your supporters’ involvement through receipts or reservation confirmations.

Optimize your event marketing strategy by promptly sharing important details and updates. Don’t be afraid of over-communicating. With high-quality messages and cohesive branding, your supporters will be enthusiastic to hear about your next event. Include plans for cultivating volunteers, sponsors, attendees, and major donors after the event as well. You can even encourage board members to follow up with a few people they met during the function.

Gather feedback, collect attendance data, and show gratitude to your supporters. With new insights for improvement, you can prepare for greater success next year.

Implementing effective donor stewardship methods

Donor-centric events lead to effective stewardship. Utilize these tips to bring new and existing donors closer to your organization’s purpose and to show gratitude for major supporters of your cause. Remember to thank supporters early and often: when they’re buying a ticket, upon arriving at the event, as they depart, and after the event is over. When you’ve reached your goal, remind your supporters that their contributions made it possible.

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