Since special events take a lot of time and resources, let’s make them COUNT! The Wall Street Journal reported that “Retention is the new acquisition and customer service is the new marketing.” In other words, the keys to raising more money before, during and after special events, especially at leadership annual giving levels ($1,000+), are holding onto to past leadership event donors and sprinkling those donors with outstanding customer service.
The added benefit of this approach is that your message of high-touch, “WOW” customer service and great stewardship becomes contagious – word gets around your community and more people want to come to your events, learn about your cause, give and get involved. In a brand new book by Jonah Berger, the author tells us that “excitement is an activating emotion” that “increases sharing.” The author points out that only 7% of word of mouth sharing happens online. Most happens face-to-face. The more we “WOW” our special event donors, the more they are going to share our story with others. The result will be raising more money than ever before!
Here are six steps for maximizing every event, raising more leadership annual gifts and setting the stage for more major and planned gifts.
- Fundraising for an annual event begins the minute the event is OVER. Make sure your “thank-you-for-attending-and-giving” note and/or phone call is sent immediately after the gift or pledge is made and then again within 24 to 72 hours after the event is over. Reiterate in the thank you the “promise” of what the leadership annual gift level will accomplish. If the donor sponsored a $25,000 table, for example, tell the donor and all of the folks involved with securing and giving that gift what $25,000 will help you accomplish programmatically. Be sure to include a story and let the donors know they will be hearing from you again once you’ve put the money to use. Thank you doesn’t equal stewardship. It is only the first step. Sharing impact and outcomes later in the year is the heart of great stewardship.
- Build a name-by-name realized and projected table of gifts for each event
- Wow and Engage. For the events you held last Fall, now is a great time to provide stewardship for their gifts and engage the top donors in planning for the upcoming event later this year. For your spring events underway or about to come about, it is not too late to provide stewardship from last year. Start with your table of gifts and list of your best fundraisers. Make appointments and go see them. This is not a phone call. It is an in-person visit. It’s hard to wow someone on the phone. Remember, “Customer service is the new marketing.” Bring pictures, an under two minute video on your tablet or smartphone, a story you can share, a card drawn or signed by a beneficiary, a letter from a program staff member.
- At the event, have impact messaging everywhere. Loop a video. Dot the setting with posters and videos that speak to what the leadership annual giving levels accomplish. Have board members circulate at the event and personally thank donors and fundraisers. Check out our “Hard Working Special Events” podcast for more ideas.
- End where we began. Debrief immediately after the event. Who needs a special phone call in addition to the thank you note? Handwritten thank you notes stand out. Make sure your best donors and your best fundraisers receive a personal, legible, handwritten thank you note that speaks to the “promise” as discussed in item number 1. Plan how you will make your event donors say, “WOW.”
- Exceed expectations
- Do so in a timely manner
- Make it personal
- Add emotion
- Let the donors know they are valued and appreciation
by Karen Osborne