Keep Your Friends Close and Your Donors Closer
By Elizabeth Cohen and Rebekah McKinney
Elizabeth Cohen and Rebekah McKinney
Further, statistics show that donors with personal relationships to staff and board stay involved longer and give more. If thats not enough to convince you, consider the fact that it costs up to seven times as much to bring in a donor as it does to hold onto the ones you have.
But at a time when many donors seem to be suffering from gala exhaustion, how can you persuade them to show up yet again?
Families First found success in using a new kind of content-rich development event to bring existing major donors closer to our organization and to widen its pool of prospects. Its called the Gatherings and focuses on parenting education, consistent with the organizaions mission to provide parenting education workshops to low-income parents who lack access to other parenting resources. The same basic model could be replicated for the benefit of any organization, however.
Each Gathering consists of a mini-workshop, hosted in a donors home, that addresses a salient parenting concern for donors and friends. One Gathering last year focused on how to avoid the pitfalls of parenting in todays media-saturated, device-cluttered environment. Attendees get an hour of content, some time to talk with friends, an overview of the organization and a short, soft ask.
The goals of the Gatherings are to give donors a better understanding of the power of the organizations work, provide lots of opportunities for them to interact with the organization and each other, and give the organization access to new prospects. Because of their success, the Gatherings have become a major component of Families Firsts fundraising strategy, enabling it to drop one of the two large, annual ticketed events.
Why do a series of small events instead of another big gala?
The large, ticketed events that are standbys for many nonprofits are expensive and labor-intensive. Much of the giving that supports these events can only be described as transactional. Your committee members get their friends to buy tickets in exchange for a promise to attend benefits for their causes. This kind of quid pro quo may fill chairs for an evening, but it does not add committed donors to your rolls.
On the other hand, small cultivation events are inexpensive and a much lighter lift for staff and board. Since these are non-ticketed events, its pretty easy for board members (even those who are less experienced with fundraising) to assist with creating lists. Holding a series of events creates opportunities for multiple donor touches over time. Finally, the intimate size of the events allows for conversation, and therefore for opportunities to follow up.
To develop your own version of the Gatherings, identify content you can offer that will pique the interest of donors and prospectsthis is one time when you should be thinking about what you can give to them. Make sure you can tie whatever topics you choose back to your organizations mission. Then use these Dos and Donts to plan your own successful series so you can bring your donorsand some new prospectscloser. Good luck!