A common mistake we see at fundraising events is when nonprofits plan a party instead of a fundraiser - which means they're thinking of "guests" instead of "donors". (We wrote about how to tell the difference, here.) The way we see it, you spend too much staff time and energy throwing these parties for them to not have the return you want.
One way to get more out of your fundraising event is to: Invite people you know aren’t coming, but target them differently.
Event fundraising can be difficult because it’s so limited by time and space. If a donor can’t show up on Saturday at 7:00pm, for instance, you can miss out on their donation. However, there are ways to use technology to make sure they can still be engaged - not just in your mission - but in your event.
- Livestream. If you have a major donor who can’t attend your event in person, send them a link to a livestream and ask them to join you online. They can still watch the event, take part in donating during the event, and they feel connected. If a major donor has a babysitter cancel at the last minute so they can't come to your gala, they can still watch at home. With livestream, there are fewer excuses to not participate. In promoting your livestream, you can also get people to watch who weren't even aware of your event. What a great way to introduce them to your nonprofit for the first time. This strategy is particularly helpful for fundraisers with national reach and really great for colleges, alumni associations and other membership networks. (If you’re using Swell, your event website can livestream your event right on the webpage, with a "donate now" link next to it, once the event goes live.)
- Social Media + Social Walls. It’s 2017, which means there is no longer any excuse to not have an event hashtag. Each of your events should have a hashtag and it should be on every piece of marketing collateral you use to promote the event. Social media creates a unique way for people to “watch” your event while it’s happening through their Twitter feed. There is constant conversation around live events on Twitter now more than ever, and if your guests are going to be on their phones anyway, you need to benefit from that. Even better - use a social wall and highlight their activity in real-time on a screen, because we all know there is nothing people like more than feeling famous. Having great social media activity at your event does two things: it gets your guests engaged and encourages them to continue promoting the event for you (for free) to their social networks and, the more activity that comes out of your event, the more the people who aren’t there will see what a great time they’re missing. If everyone on my Instagram is at one event and I’m not, I’ve got serious FOMO and want to make sure I get there next year. (If you’re using Swell, our projection app pulls in real-time social feeds and fundraising totals, along with leaderboards to track fundraising.) For more on a social wall, specifically, read here.
- Peer-to-Peer Fundraising. Not just for walks anymore, peer-to-peer fundraising should be encouraged at every single event you host. Make sure that your event website is mobile optimized for giving and that you have plenty of information at the event on how to give. (If the only way to give at your event is through an envelope sitting on a table, you’re already losing out on potential dollars.) A big reason for nonprofits to get away from the envelope/check scenario at events is that guests should be able to ask others to join them in giving. They can either write a check silently, or, you can give them a tool to donate that utilizes peer-to-peer and has their friends donate, too. With the right technology, you can get new donors and new dollars from people who don't event show up. (With Swell, every guest who gets a ticket through our system is also given a mobile-optimized fundraising page they can share with their friends to get more donations. Leaderboards via the projection app track who’s giving in real-time at the event, turning it into a fun, friendly competition with your nonprofit as the real winner at the end.)
Your best event will happen, however, if you can tie all three of these things together. Win. Win. Win. A final thought is this: your event should be a way to reach new donors, so why are you only focused on the ones who you know will be there year after year?