The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Why Donor Cultivation Events Are Better Than Cinnabon

Did you know that more than two-thirds (67%) of donors surveyed said that attending donor cultivation events was the main reason they made gifts to nonprofits? To me, that statistic reinforces the invaluable role these events play in our work.

I love helping nonprofits plan donor cultivation events because they connect donors to a cause. What’s even better? They offer a fun, relaxed, and social setting for you (and your Board) to get to know your donors free of intimidation and formalities. So, why are these events better than Cinnabon? I’ll give you five reasons:

  1. Donors see your need first hand.
  2. You get to mingle with donors and ask them great discovery questions.
  3. Donors are immersed in your mission through a unique experience.
  4. They drive donation upgrades and donor retention.
  5. They can bring in new prospects.

Want more wisdom on donor cultivation events? Tomorrow, Rachel is presenting a Nonprofit911 webinar on this topic. Click here to register now!

A lot of donor cultivation events follow this recipe: A nonprofit hosts a house party/open house cocktail reception with a welcome from leadership (Executive Director, CEO or Founder), volunteer leadership (Board Chair), and finally, a brief, but meaningful, testimonial from a client  served.

Once you get donors to your fantastic event, don’t forget to track attendance! Network for Good’s donor management system allows you to access your database from your mobile device. This means you can mark donors as attended/no show, and take notes on your conversations with all your donors during the event (or right after).

Would I challenge you to take your events up a notch? You bet I would. Why? According to fundraising expert and author Adrian Sargeant, “the more immersive the experience, the more likely the impression can result in a donor relationship.”

I can already hear you what you’re thinking. “Those kind of events are too expensive.” Or, “those kind of events take too much time to plan.” I’m here to tell you that even on a shoestring budget, you can pull off a donor cultivation event that delights donors and inspires larger and more loyal giving.

How? Consider these two things:

  1. What would appeal to your audience?
  2. How can I make that appealing event as immersive as possible? Literally, an event that takes your donors to the action and gets them to experience your work.

Then, ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. What are you already doing with clients that would be meaningful for your donors to see?
  2. What “VIP” volunteer opportunities can you host that will allow donors to feel a part of your mission in a fun, engaging way?
  3. Who is your audience: major donors, mid-level donors, prospects, board members, media, stakeholders, etc.?
  4. What would appeal the most to your audience?
  5. What is your follow-up plan for everyone who attended?

Now, it’s time to unleash your inner wedding planner. You must produce every moment of this experience from start to finish AND have a killer follow-up plan that moves attendees to give. Think valet parking, a green room where they can mingle with other donors and enjoy refreshments, a welcome from a Board member volunteer, an orientation with a testimonial from a client if possible, a staff liaison who is with them throughout the day, and a warm thank you and follow-up survey to learn what they thought afterwards.

Sign up for tomorrow’s Nonprofit911 Webinar and let Rachel give you even more ideas on creating memorable donor experiences.

If you are a virtual or global organization, don’t lose hope. You can still engage donors in your mission. Maybe you ask a select group of major donors to join an ad hoc committee that reads scholarship applications. Maybe you only have enough underwriting to fund 20 scholarships, but reading those 50 heartbreaking applications inspires those donors to help fund the remaining 30!

Whatever event you decide to host, the secret is leveraging what you are already doing to host a high-touch, tightly-managed event that gets donors involved in that work.

About Rachel Muir CFRE, Vice President, Training

When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later, she had raised more than 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.

A winner of Oprah’s Use your Life Award, Rachel was named “Outstanding Fundraising Executive of the Year” by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and one of Fast Company magazine’s “Fast 50 Champions of Innovation.” Her career spans running successful nonprofit organizations, leading an online fundraising consulting practice, and managing major gift portfolios for some of the country’s largest nonprofit brands.

Sign up to get free webinar invites from Rachel and learn more about her training at www.pursuant.com

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About This Blog

Lisa Bonanno
Vice President of Digital Marketing

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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