Want to get greater donations from your event attendees? Here are a few tips to leverage relationships in order to land those larger checks.
If you’re hosting a non-profit gala or some other event where donations are a central part of the agenda, your success largely hinges on your ability to get attendees to open their wallets. This can feel like a big undertaking on top of all of the event planning and management you’re in charge of.
So how can you increase donations to the point that you look like a rock star? Try these five tips.
5 Tips for Raising Big Money at Your Next Event
- Know it’s about more than an event. An event is a handful of hours. If you want to be uber successful for your client, build a campaign around it with the event acting as pinnacle.
- Boost your mobile site and technology use. Donations are emotional actions. You want people to be able to pay the moment they are grabbed to do so. Most of us have our phones within arm’s reach at all times, even when we don’t have our wallets.
- Use video storytelling. Video evokes emotion. Emotion causes people to loosen the purse strings.
- Know your donors. Just as marketers research their audience to find more effective ways to reach them, researching your donors can help you connect and speak their language.
- Get some skin in the game. Getting them on the team is just as good as getting a check. People who are involved in something, support it.
You’ll notice that most of these suggestions are not flip-the-switch kinds of solutions. They require taking the time to help donors get to know, like, and trust you and the organization. Most people are not in need of charities to give to or organizations to belong to. Saving your request for the two-hour event places you at a deficit. Instead, get them involved ahead of time and stay in contact afterward.
Now let’s take a look at those tips again:
1. Know It’s About More Than an Event
It’s difficult in a 2-3 hour event to get a sizeable donation. It can be done, but it’s hard. You have to get everyone in the door, entertain them, feed them, and then bring up the idea that even though they paid to attend, you also want them to open their again and give a little more. On the other hand, if you don’t do this, and only charge for the plate, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table. (Yes, bad puns are free.)
In order to raise more money for your event, you have to look at it as so much more than a couple of hours one evening. Look at your donation campaign as building a community of cause-concerned people with the event as the coming together of this group, not the end of the donation. Stay in touch with them before and after. Remember, they’ve given to you once. Chances are they’ll give again but you need to show them value.
Showing Value Outside of the Event
In the time leading up to the event, showcase the individuals who are being assisted by their donation or seat purchase. Talk about the projects that are made possible. Make donors feel a part of a caring community. Think of this time as a prelude to the event. You want them to get to know you and your organization. They’ll be more likely to give larger donations if they feel a connection with you and what you’re doing.
Use social media and pictures to involve them. Share testimonials from people who are benefitting from the donations. St. Jude Children’s Hospital does this well by sharing art from their patients. Find a way to deepen the connection between your organization and potential donors.
The more you expose donors to your message leading up to the event, the greater loyalty, interest, and emotions you’ll build. Doing those things will mean higher donations because they will have gotten a better understanding of who you are and what you do.
After the event is over, share what their donations are enabling you to do. Have the people affected by their generosity share what it means to them. Give them status reports and share the pictures. Don’t immediately ask for more money. Make them feel good about what they gave by showing the good it is doing. Tell the story of what you’re accomplishing and who is benefitting.
Now that you have them feeling really good about their support, ask them to share your efforts with their friends socially. People love to share and they love to talk about the good they are doing. Don’t ask for money at this point. Ask for support. Ask people to like your social media pages and make it easy for them to do so.
Yes, you want your event to raise money but think long-term, not short. They’ve supported you once. Make them feel good about that and they’ll support you again.
2. Boost Your Mobile Site and Technology Use
One of the keys to successful fundraising is making an emotional connection with people. But all of that is wasted if at the moment they feel closest to you and your work, they have no way of supporting it. That’s where technology comes in.
Mobile is crucial to capturing those moments and turning them into dollars. For instance, think about what part of the day you’re carrying your wallet or your checkbook. It’s probably a decent amount of time.
Now think about how many waking hours a day that your phone is within arm’s reach? Probably a much larger number than you expect. We feel panicked when our phones aren’t right next to us. That’s what makes them an ideal portal for increased donations.
With a strong mobile donation site, one that makes giving frictionless, you can ensure you will receive decent donations. Mobile allows you to create buttons with suggested donations, one that makes it easy to select a one-time donation or a monthly one. If you create a user-friendly mobile site, you can expect donations will be higher than one that is cumbersome to navigate.
You’ll also want to market this site. Many people come home and out of convenience use their phone over a computer. Make sure you’re capturing that crowd, which is growing larger every day. If you market it at your event, you will find that people will take out their phones and make an additional pledge to you that they might not ordinarily have done because it’s as easy as a few quick swipes.
Gamification and motivation theory finds that in public situations we are apt to give more. Gamification inspires action for several reasons and your attendees may have their own. But primarily, we like the:
- Recognition leaderboards provide
- Challenge of besting someone else to rise above them
- Appreciation of doing well
- Idea of completing tasks that are publicly rewarded
Gamification can help increase interest because it’s fun to play, motivating, and rewarding. It adds energy to your event and takes giving (a somewhat passive activity of handing over money) into an active one of can we beat the number from last year?
Apps can combine the ease of mobile and the fun of gamification to help you increase your event donations. But adoption does require marketing. Since most of us already use tons of apps, you need to give your audience a good reason to use yours and it has to be something that is valuable to them.
You can even provide donors with their own donor pages or profiles that they can share with others. Your donors may not want to give more, but if they believe strongly in your cause, you can help them help you by sharing with their social networks, as mentioned earlier.
3. Use Video Storytelling
One of the most important things you’ll do in an event designed to secure large donations is make connections. You can do this through creating an experience and evoking emotion. Video storytelling does this easily.
What elicits emotions in most people:
- A powerful storyline
- Evocative images
Video includes all of this. Plus, most people love to watch them. They’re also easily shared with friends and family, and the video will likely evoke the same feelings in those who watch it as those who attended the actual event. Creating a powerful video allows your event and cause to live long after the last plate has been cleared from the table.
You can use video storytelling in many effective ways but it’s not the only form of storytelling and ‘humanization’ you should use. Whenever possible put a name and a face to your cause. Don’t ask for money for money’s sake. Tell ‘Jack’s’ story and then ask people to help ‘Jack’.
Personalize their donation. Why do so many of us have a hard time saying no to giving money to family and friends? We know logically it’s not a good idea. But we know them and we like them. Do the same for your organization. Help your potential donors and attendees get to know you and they’ll have a difficult time saying no as well. Speaking of getting to know someone…
4. Know Your Donors
There are two ways to get to know your donors. There’s the in-person connection that they feel because it’s an exchange between the two of you, and the slightly creepy, technology-driven way. Both are effective in different ways.
No one wants to feel like a walking wallet. When you make every interaction with a donor or potential donors about money, it feels desperate and dirty. You don’t want your event attendees feeling like they’ve been pickpocketed by attending your event. You want them to come out feeling good about the work they’re helping with and the lives they’re changing.
In addition to sharing the parts of your organization that have emotional appeal, talk to your attendees about:
- Why this cause means so much to them. Some people have extremely personal reasons for giving their support. Allowing them to talk about those reasons not only gives you a good understanding of their background but it helps them reconnect with their reason why.
- Correlations and connections between what they love and how they can do more of it. This is not about asking for money. For instance, let’s say your donor admits they’re doing it for the kids and shares a personal story of how they overcame a childhood illness. Ask them if they’d like to accompany you to the hospital and share their story of triumph with kids who are struggling.
- Their experiences. Practice the art of conversation. You are an event planner assisting in fundraising. Not a thief grabbing wallets.
The other way to strengthen your relationships and connections with your donors is through the Internet. Connect with those on your donor list and be a good social media friend to them. Follow them. Share appropriate content. Comment on their shares and ask questions. Take an interest in them on social media the same way you would in person.
Other ways to stay connected include email, newsletters, and push notifications. Just make sure you allow them to opt in for these things. You never want to just assume they enjoy hearing from you. Let them select their preferred method of communication.
5. Get Some Skin in the Game
As mentioned previously, if your attendee professes a passion for what you do, don’t miss an opportunity to get them involved. After all, people who participate in something, generally help support it. Their minds feel the need to justify their actions so they tend to think favorably of your operations. Interest and favor often equate to larger checks.
Getting people to attend a fundraising event can be challenging but not if you have a connection with them and they value your organization. In order to get them there, your efforts can’t all be about the wallet. Give them an experience they’ll remember by treating them like someone you’d like to get to know better.
Additional Reading on How to Bring in Larger Donations at Your Event
18 Ways to Get More People to Your Fundraising Event
10 Steps to Secure More Donations for Your Next Event
6 Secrets to Raise More Money at Your Next Fundraising Events
Not Just Fun and Games: Why Event Professionals Should Care About Gamification