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5 ways to secure more nonprofit fundraising event RSVPs

March 22, 2022
Event participants running at a nonprofit marathon.

As your nonprofit organization prepares to transform your next fundraising event plan into reality, the key to success lies within the quantity and quality of guests who RSVP to attend.

In political campaigns, “flake rate” refers to the number of volunteers who agree to canvas, phonebank, or attend a rally, but don’t show up. Your nonprofit can easily overcome this “flake rate” and boost your attendance numbers by receiving a high volume of RSVPs.

In order to secure these RSVPs, you’ll have to create an event promotion strategy that grabs the attention of potential attendees and encourages them to register. Use these strategies to maximize your number of fundraising event RSVPs:

1. Leverage existing relationships.

Board members and longtime donors are ideal hosts for an event, as they’re likely to be highly connected to people in the community. Encourage your hosts to promote your event to their friends and colleagues so they can learn more about your organization and consider donating to support your purpose.

Make the most of your donor management system by mapping relationships and tracking donors who have invited guests to your event to continue expanding your organization’s reach. 

2. Invite and update across multiple channels.

Potential attendees may prefer to hear about your upcoming event through email, while others may be more easily approached by direct mail. To accommodate varying communication preferences, diversify the ways in which you promote your fundraising event.

When you invite guests, send both traditional and digital invitations compelling them to RSVP. Then, once you’ve sent out the invitations, use social media and email updates to cultivate additional excitement and interest. Sharing details such as behind-the-scenes planning and special guests can persuade even more of your invitees to attend.

3. Facilitate the RSVP process.

Your supporters  are more likely to respond to an event invitation if you add ease and convenience to the RSVP process. On your mailed event cards, include a link or QR code so that attendees have the option of RSVPing online.

You might also consider investing in event management software, such as Bonterra Donor Engagement’s (formerly Network for Good) Guided Fundraising solution, to streamline the RSVP and tracking process for your organization and event guests. You can even include an option to donate along with RSVPing to inspire further engagement. 

Once you have your fundraising event RSVPs, don’t forget to reach out a few days before the event to remind them to attend.

4. Send personalized invitations to recurring donors.

Beyond promoting your next fundraising event, sending thoughtful and personalized communications to your current donors is essential for a successful donor retention strategy

Strengthen your nonprofit-supporter relationships and encourage more fundraising event RSVPs with these following ideas:

  • Addressing each donor by name. Including donors’ preferred names will make your invitation seem much more authentic to each recipient.
  • Referencing past participation. Use the profiles in your donor database to segment your supporters based on their previous contributions and interactions with your organization to incorporate more meaningful details to your invitations.
  • Devote extra time for each invitation. Show your appreciation and respect for your loyal donors’ support by sending them a handwritten letter or having a board member invite them via phone call.

Your recurring donors have already shown that they’re dedicated to your organization’s purpose. Personalize your communications to keep them engaged and eager to RSVP to all of your upcoming fundraising events.

5. Follow up with past attendees.

Two or three weeks before your RSVP deadline, review guest lists from last year’s fundraising event. How many are planning to return this year? For those who have yet to RSVP, be sure to follow up with each of them personally. As with recurring donors, it’s important to take the time to nurture your past supporter relationships.

If your past attendees won’t be able to attend this time, suggest that they make a gift instead, to support your event preparations and fund your upcoming initiatives.

Securing event RSVPs for long-term success

Nonprofit fundraising events are not only opportunities to raise funds for your operations and programs, but they are also a way to build deeper relationships with supporters. Remember, adding a little extra personalization goes a long way to securing fundraising event RSVPs and setting your organization up for success—not just for this event, but for future fundraising events to come.

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