Community events are an essential component of fundraising success. They bring your supporters together, spread valuable information about the good work your organization does on a daily basis, and give you the chance to interact with key donors face-to-face. While events tend to come with inevitable coordination challenges, the benefits they bring to your organization make them worth your team’s time!
Whether your event attracts your most dedicated supporters, interested new members of your community, or a combination of both, it’s always helpful to learn as much as you can about these individuals. Attending your event already indicates that they share an interest in your cause. Today we’ll look at some of the questions your organization needs to ask about each of your event attendees, including:
- Why are they attending?
- How did they find you?
- Who are they bringing?
- What do they care about?
- What can they give?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to reach out to each of your attendees more effectively and create the potential for lasting partnerships to form. Let’s get started with one of the most basic yet important questions you can ask of your event attendees: why are they attending?
1. Why are they attending?
Your organization has worked hard to create the perfect community event to celebrate your progress and the supporters who make your work possible. While your event is certainly a lot of fun, it’s likely that your attendees also came because they’re excited to make philanthropic contributions to one of their favorite causes. Understanding all of your supporters’ reasons for attending your event can help you structure your future outreach to different guests.
One easy way to find out why your guests attended your event is to ask them, either when they register online or in an email follow-up after the event. While these responses are useful to your organization, it’s almost certain that they won’t be very in-depth. For more comprehensive reasons as to why your supporters attended your event, consider conducting prospect research.
Prospect research is the process of gathering information on your attendees and other current and potential donors to learn more about their philanthropic habits and motivations. Your team can conduct prospect research on its own, with the help of specialized prospect research software, or hire a prospect research consultant to bring professional expertise to the process. You can visit DonorSearch to learn more about prospect research methods and how you can get started gathering this valuable data.
Prospect research data is divided broadly into two categories: philanthropic indicators and wealth markers. When your organization is trying to determine why your attendees chose to come to your event, you’re going to focus mainly on philanthropic indicators such as:
- Their histories of involvement with your organization. This includes prior donations as well as other forms of involvement, such as volunteering.
- Their involvement with other, similar nonprofits. This can help you determine the specific causes or aspects of your cause that most resonate with particular attendees.
- Their hobbies, interests, and social media activities. Do your attendees regularly post about a cause your organization addresses on social media? Do they follow your organization online? You’ll learn more about your supporters as well as the efficacy of your own social media outreach.
Understanding why your attendees are invested in your cause and your organization provides insight into their reasons for attending your event. In your follow-up messages, you’ll be able to address their specific reasons for attending and direct them toward other ways they can get involved.
Prospect research improves donor communications by allowing you to personalize your approach to different donors according to their concerns, interests, and reasons for supporting you. Want to know how effective your communications have been? Learn how your event attendees found your event and your organization.
2. How did they find you?
When your organization first conducts prospect research, one of the best places to start is your current donor database. You may be missing important information on even your most familiar supporters! However, hosting an event presents a great opportunity to augment your donor database with many new supporters to learn more about. To improve future communications with your supporters, it helps to know how and when they came across your organization.
As with their reasons for attending, you can determine this information in part by asking your attendees and more thoroughly through the process of prospect research. You’ll be able to learn, as well as store in your donor database, information such as:
- The date of their first engagement with your organization. Your communications with long-term supporters who attended your most recent event will be different from your communications with first-time supporters.
- The date and size of their initial gift. The frequencies and sizes of the gifts your supporters have given in the past fall under the prospect research data category of wealth markers. They can help you determine appropriate gifts to ask for in the future.
- The channel through which you reached them. Did a large number of your attendees find you through an email you sent out, a direct mail outreach, or online? This information can help you determine where your event marketing strategy is strongest and where it may need more effort, as well as where the bulk of your attendees get their information.
As social media becomes increasingly important to fundraising efforts including events, ensure that your organization pays attention to the influence of your social media outreach on your attendees. Knowing how many guests decided to attend due to your social media posts, how many registered or donated online after seeing posts encouraging them to do so, and how many follow your accounts is all important as you work to structure your post-event communications.
Whether you’re surveying your attendees, conducting prospect research, or a combination of both, you don’t have to wait until the event has started to learn more about them. Conducting research ahead of time can even help you host a more successful event, as you’ll be more informed when it comes time to choose the type of event to host.
3. Who are they bringing?
One of the earliest decisions your organization will have to make in the event planning process concerns the type of event you’re going to host. While you’ll need to take into account important factors such as the time of year and the goals or mission of your organization, some of the most important considerations you can make relate to your attendees’ preferences. When you choose an event that your attendees are sure to love, you’ll show them that your organization values their needs and interests.
To decide on the perfect event for your particular group of supporters, one of the best places to start is your donor database. Do many of your donors have young children? Especially if your organization’s mission is family-friendly or family-oriented, consider a daytime event on a weekend. Athletic and other outdoor activities are often easy to tailor to families.
For a fundraiser directed at adult supporters, consider an evening event like a gala, party, or auction. The best fundraising event ideas are those that engage your supporters in a fun, original activity, so get creative! You can look to your organization’s mission or work for inspiration, connecting the event you choose to the particular ways in which you serve your community.
In addition to their families, you should also consider the following information about your attendees before choosing an event type:
- Age. Whether your donors are mostly concentrated in one age group or represent several generations, make sure you choose an activity in which everyone will be able to participate and have fun.
- Location. Are most of your supporters from a certain section of your community? If possible, host the event there to make attendance convenient for them and connect your organization to that community’s needs.
- Past attendance. Use your donor database and past event records to determine which of your past events were most well-attended. This way, you can build on the successes of your most popular events.
You’ve found guests who share your organization’s mission and they’ve found you via your marketing and outreach efforts. Once your organization has selected the perfect event for these guests and the big day has ended, it’s time to reach out with your follow-up communication. Personalize these messages with the aspects of your work that your attendees care about most.
4. What do they care about?
A successful fundraising event can be a gateway to further support for your organization, but only when you reach out afterward to encourage your attendees to maintain their involvement. After your event is over, address your attendees’ main points of interest in your organization when you reach out to motivate them to stay connected.
Need more information than your attendees’ brief responses can provide? Again, prospect research data can augment the information you’ve already collected and make your organization’s process of measuring donor analytics more effective. After an event, you’ll especially want to consider the following as you develop your outreach methods:
- Their location. Long-term residents of the community in which your organization is active or in which you held your event likely value the positive effect you have on their hometown. A community-centered approach is almost certain to be effective when you next communicate with these supporters.
- Their main causes. For attendees who share an aspect of your mission and have regularly involved themselves with this cause as donors, volunteers, and social media proponents, make this concern central to your messaging when you reach out to them.
- Their connections to your organization. Your most dedicated supporters deserve sincere thanks for their commitment to all of your organization’s work over a long period of time. Ensure that you thank them for their commitment when you communicate with them after the event.
However large or small your organization may be, there’s no doubt that your attendees and supporters are unique, with several different reasons for attending your event and supporting your organization. The potential motivations listed above are only the beginning! To make your post-event communication strategy efficient, it helps to segment your donor database before you start sending out your messages. That way, you can group donors by common interests or qualities and send the appropriate communication to each group.
The opportunity for greater personalization and individualized interaction with your supporters is the main reason why data is so central to donor relations. In addressing their specific interests and reasons for supporting your organization, your follow-up communications are sure to encourage additional giving. When they’re ready to contribute, donor data can also help you determine what size gift you should ask for.
5. What can they give?
Prospect research data makes it possible for your organization to understand your supporters’ reasons for attending your event and making donations. This important information can also inform your approach to different donors regarding gift sizes, leading to more successful asks. Examining your attendees’ wealth markers can improve your asking strategy, increase giving, and lead to lasting partnerships between your organization and your donors.
Wealth markers indicate a given donor’s capacity to give. By measuring them through wealth screening, your organization can better understand the frequencies and sizes of gifts that you can reasonably expect from different donors. Wealth markers include:
- Real estate ownership and stock holdings. Ownership of high-value real estate is the primary indicator of wealth, so if your attendees own valuable property, you can be reasonably sure that they have significant capacity to give. Stock holdings are also an important indicator of wealth.
- Career and business affiliations. An individual’s job provides an indication of income, and corporate affiliations can open up the possibilities of matching gifts and even sponsorship opportunities. For donors at all levels, matching gifts provide an opportunity to double or otherwise increase their gifts to your organization at no additional cost to them. You can explore 360MatchPro’s list of top matching gift companies to see if you recognize any of your existing top donors’ employers.
- Political giving history. Individuals who have contributed to political campaigns in the past often have high capacities to give. You’ll definitely want to reach out to any attendees with histories of political giving.
With an understanding of your attendees’ reasons for supporting you as well as that of their capabilities of doing so, your organization is on its way to continued fundraising success long after your event is over. Want to make sure that you keep these valuable donors? Don’t forget to begin your communication with a thank you for attending your event!
The more information you have on your event attendees, the more effectively you’ll be able to address their concerns and interests before, during, and after the event. The most successful events, which lead to stronger relationships between your organization and your supporters, take donor data into account.
Guest author: Sarah Tedesco
Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.