5 Tips to Retain Donors With Fundraising Events

Table setting for charitable special event.
•••   Jon Lovette/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Donors are any nonprofit organization’s key to success. Without your supporters, you would not have moral or financial support to further your cause.

Your supporters not only contribute monetarily but also raise awareness for your cause and volunteer at different fundraising events. You might even say your donors are the fuel to your organization’s mission.

However, many charities have more success at finding new donors than retaining the ones they already have. However, it is crucial that keeping and recruiting new donors receive at least equal treatment. In fact, keeping your current donors is less expensive by far than having to recruit new donors year after year.

Fortunately, you can easily interact with new and loyal donors at your upcoming fundraising event. Here are five tips to help you retain donors at your next event:

  1. Conduct a feasibility study before your fundraising event.
  2. Use traditional and innovative communication methods.
  3. Create a fundraising event page.
  4. Host your fundraising event during peak giving times.
  5. Thank your attendees after your fundraising event.

If you are ready to retain donors using your next stellar fundraising event, let’s dive into our top tips.

Bonus. If you are planning to host an auction for your next fundraising event, check out OneCause's Charity Auction Guide for helpful tips and pointers as you plan.

1. Conduct a feasibility study before your fundraising event.

A feasibility study, or assessment of your upcoming event or project, will help your organization identify your current donors, donors who are likely to contribute significantly at your next event, and prospective donors you might be missing.

Your feasibility study has a multitude of benefits for donor relationships at your next event. While conducting your feasibility study, you will be able to promote your upcoming event and get your donors excited. Plus, you will be able to see which donors are the most interested in your fundraising event.

Due to the nature of a feasibility study, you will gather donors’ opinions on your proposed fundraising event so you can use this time to ask for advice, too. Doing so proves to your supporters that you value their feedback and intend to incorporate it to better your fundraising efforts.

When asking for advice, remember to be open to constructive criticism. Your donors might point out things you did not see, so you will want to be open to correcting problems.

A feasibility study even helps your organization understand your presence and reputation in your community. When you know how your supporters view you and your mission, you can strengthen your outreach and retention strategies.

2. Use traditional and innovative communication strategies.

Your event invitations can and should take on many methods of communication. Fundraising today is a multichannel endeavor. It seems that new ways or reaching donors have proliferated, few of the older methods have perished. Consequently, charities must operate on several levels and through numerous avenues.

It is a little like that old saying, “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”

You will want to keep traditional channels for your donors who prefer good, old-fashioned communication, such as:

  • Direct mail
  • Phone
  • Word-of-mouth

These methods may work best for your older donors because it is what they are more familiar with. This kind of communication helps to form more intimate connections which can eventually lead to more fundraising revenue.

However, all charities should be using the newest and, yes, shiniest communication methods. Those are online channels that particularly appeal to young donors, such as Millennials. These outreach platforms can even save your organization some extra dollars because they avoid printing costs.

More tech-savvy channels of communication include:

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Your website

These outreach methods help you to drive traffic to your organization’s website and donation forms so your new and loyal constituents can support your cause.

You can quickly expand your existing donor base thanks to social media. When your supporters like or repost your organization’s content, your posts show up on your donors’ feeds, which means you will be able to reach all of their family, friends, and peers, too. Make sure your tweets about your fundraising event are catchy enough to rake in new constituents.

Also, depending on the fundraising event software provider you invest in, you may even be able to automate your donor communication. You can tweet, post, and send emails inviting guests to attend your upcoming fundraising event.

Using your supporters’ favorite methods of communication shows you value their preferences and makes them feel appreciated within your community which translates to a step in the right direction toward donor retention.

3. Create a fundraising event page.

Depending on your provider, you may be able to create a branded microsite that’s completely separate from your nonprofit website. Most event and auction software allow this personalization.

Creating a microsite for your fundraising event allows you to easily distinguish this event from other fundraising campaigns you may be running simultaneously. You can use your microsite as a central hub for your fundraising event.

Be sure to include the following on your fundraising event page:

  • Nonprofit information. What does your organization support? How will this even further your cause? Is this part of a more extensive campaign or is it a one-off event?
  • Event details. When is your event? Is the event a few hours or a few days long? What type of event is it (i.e., auction event, walkathon, gala)?
  • Ticket information. How much are your fundraising tickets? Are you offering special deals like Early Bird specials or VIP packages?

You can even use your microsite to register event volunteers depending on your provider’s functionalities. Just like the process for purchasing a ticket, your supporters who want to lend an extra hand will select “volunteer” at checkout at no cost and voila, you will be recruiting volunteers in no time. Why recruit volunteers? Well, you need them to help, but volunteers also can be your best donors.

You will also want to make sure your event page is mobile optimized. The donors who love communicating through social media and email, and even some who enjoy direct mail and phone, will most likely be viewing your fundraising event page on their phones.

Your site needs to be legible and most importantly, functional on all devices from phones to tablets to laptops, so your donors can register for your event at any time.

Plus, your fundraising event microsite will provide incredible data and analytics. After your event, you will be able to inspect where your supporters came to your site from (i.e., tweets, emails), the most popular demographic among your constituents, and more that you can use to improve your future fundraising efforts.

Providing supporters with all the information they need and answering their questions before they occur is a step in the right direction for donor retention.

4. Host your fundraising event during peak giving times.

For instance, the holidays season brings a boost to your donors’ charitable moods. The end of the year, specifically November and December, is known as a charitable time and nonprofits typically see a dramatic increase in contributions during this time.

With the year ending, many of your supporters will have a better handle on their financial situation so they know what they can and can’t spend. With this in mind, they will know how much they want to give to your organization so they will make a point to make their contribution.

Hosting your event during the year-end season means you could see an incredible amount of increased donations, so be sure to capitalize on your constituents’ giving moods.

However, also, consider other holidays during the year that can make for wonderful themed events, such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. Perfectly timing your donation asks means catching your donors when they feel festive or charitable, which can easily translate into better donor stewardship.

Be sure to provide your supporters with numerous ways of giving, like online giving, text giving, and of course, in-person donations with cash, check, or card.

5. Thank your attendees after your fundraising event.

The work does not end when your event does. After your fundraising event, you will need to thank your guests for attending and contributing to your work.

Keep in mind that your contributors are the ones who financially keep your organization running, so they are valuable assets in your community and should be treated as such.

Expressing your gratitude to your constituents shows that you value their support and may even encourage them to give in the future.

Your supporters should be thanked both for their attendance and their contributions. Make sure they know how appreciative you are before they receive another donation appeal because feeling like an ATM is the last thing you want your donors to experience.

Your event fundraising software may even be able to help you automate your thank-you messages, so you never miss thanking a donor. It is the perfect recipe for donor retention.

Bonus. Check out OneCause's Steps to Planning a Successful Fundraising Event for extra insights on how to manage your planning process.

Now that you have our top five tips for retaining donors with fundraising events, nothing is holding you back from keeping your donor base flooded and your bank account comfortable.

Fundraising events can never take the place of a vigorous all-channel fundraising effort, but they can be a part of a healthy mix of funding sources.

All that’s left to do is select a fundraising event software vendor and get to fundraising with your events.

Joshua Meyer brings over 14 years of fundraising and marketing experience to his role as Director of Marketing for OneCause. Josh helps nonprofits engage new donors and achieve their fundraising goals.