Make Your Next Fundraising Event A Success
This year’s fundraising gala season may be in the rearview, but it’s actually past time to start planning for next year. Here are 7 steps to help nonprofit marketers keep planning efforts on track to make next year’s major fundraising event a success.
- Now: Evaluate How Things Went
While this year’s gala is still fresh in your mind, gather your thoughts and evaluate what worked and what didn’t.
- Think about what you’ll do differently next year to meet fundraising goals. List any new to-do items or timeline milestones to add to the planning agenda.
- Evaluate the efficiency of event marketing and promotions. Are there opportunities to streamline processes for next year? For example, working with a vendor that provides in-house creative, print and mailing services can save time, reduce costs and remove stress related to meeting in-home dates.
- Did guests have a smooth, enjoyable experience? Nothing steals the spotlight from your mission like mix-ups, over seating, awkward check-in processes or disappointing food and service.
- Consider whether the event capitalized on the opportunity to showcase your organization’s accomplishments and educate attendees on how their donations help the cause. Storytelling is a powerful way to engage attendees, and some of the most successful fundraising galas effectively weave in stories throughout the evening.
- All Year: Reach Out to Event Sponsors; Nurture Donor Relationships
- Cultivate sponsor relationships through direct outreach, including over the phone and in person.
- Seek out new sponsors. Contact local businesses and other entities with a strong community presence (e.g., sports teams) and promote the benefits of sponsoring your event.
- Draft sponsorship levels and consider whether you’ll increase the amounts next year. Research what other similar nonprofits are doing.
- Align year-round fundraising efforts with strategies to nurture donor relationships. Donors who feel valued and seen as individuals are all the more likely to RSVP “Yes” to your yearly gala.
- At Least Six Months in Advance: Plan Your Publicity Campaign
Traditional print marketing, including direct mail, flyers, signage and ads, is still effective for fundraising gala promotion. However, cross-channel promotion has become essential for maximum impact.
- While a direct-mail invitation is expected for formal events, organizations also must plan for digital promotion that includes easy ways to register, such as emails linking to online registration forms, mobile registration options, and landing pages with quick-to-fill out forms.
- Make sure all creative is cohesive and instantly recognizable as part of your event’s promotion (it should stay within your nonprofit’s brand as well).
- Social media is valuable for sharing news about various aspects of your event and encouraging constituents to share posts. Keep posts short, fun and not overloaded with detail.
- Use a little mystery to build interest. For example, tease a reveal that will happen at the event: a contest winner, a special guest appearance (e.g., local celebrity, athlete).
- As Soon as Location and Date Are Determined: Send a Save-the-Date
A well-designed Save-the-Date email is a good way to start the buzz and get entered on calendars. Make it easy for recipients by including an “add to calendar” link.
- About 6 Weeks Before the Event: Mail Formal Invitations
- Direct mail invitations should include a formal reply card and envelope. They can also drive recipients to landing pages with online registration.
- Follow up with personal phone calls if staffing levels allow.
- Weeks and Days Leading Up to Event: Reminders and Teasers
This is where email and social media play a major role. The goal is to build interest and keep invitees informed – without overwhelming them with too much information.
- The author of a Constant Contact blog post recommends sending a reminder email with event details about a week before the event, and a last-chance registration email one to two days prior.
- Continue to generate interest with social media posts.
- After the Event: Conduct Follow Up
This is an important part of ongoing planning, points out the author of a recent post to Nonprofit Hub.
- Ask for feedback after the event (email and social media posts are effective methods) and use it to make adjustments to build success year after year.
- In addition to getting feedback from attendees and sponsors, consider a follow-up campaign to invitees who declined or didn’t respond. This could take the form of a simple “Sorry you couldn’t make it” note along with an ask to give them the opportunity to donate despite not being able to attend.
Could You Use an Experienced Partner to Handle Details?
Focusing on fundraising efforts deserves your time and resources. What if you could remove some internal operational functions from your plate? For 25 years, nonprofit organizations have turned to Strata Company for end-to-end fundraising support. Our clients benefit from a unique approach that joins data, award-winning creative, the latest technologies and a commitment to personalized service. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.
About Katrina Denk
Possessing over 10 years of experience leading strategic and tactical marketing efforts of some of the area’s most respected businesses, Marketing Director Katrina Denk brings a wide breadth of knowledge to every initiative she oversees. Whether it’s a product launch or a multi-touch email campaign, she understands all the ins and outs of the marketing mix. In her free time, Katrina is an enthusiastic world traveler and animal lover.