Discussion Group Recap: From Event Participant to Dedicated Donor

Guest post by Brianne Sanchez, Community Relations Manager at Des Moines University and founding YNPN Des Moines co-chair.

YNPN_7-9-2015_3.jpgCongratulations! Your event was sold-out, the food on point and the fundraising goal for the night was met. Kick off your shoes and savor the moment for a minute. But, let’s be honest, you’re probably already asking yourself ‘How do I get all of those smiling people in the event’s photo gallery* to make the leap from partygoers to dedicated patrons?’

First — you’re not alone! There’s a delicate balance between hosting a buzzed-about event and one with a program so long it becomes a snooze-fest, and all development professionals try to walk it with care.YNPN_7-9-2015_6.jpg

Elaine Appleby of the Charitable Giving Resource Center joined us to provide ideas and examples as part of our July discussion group “From Event Participant to Dedicated Donor.”

The essence of her message was encapsulated in a handout from event360:A fundraising event is not an end in and of itself.

It’s easy to breathlessly move from planning mode of your walk to planning mode of your gala to planning mode of your luncheon, but if you truly want to cultivate attendees, you have to stop seeing them as simply seat-fillers and put in the effort to engage them more deeply. This engagement can take the form of pre and post-event touches. A few thoughts shared by discussion group attendees.

If the Des Moines Playhouse hosts a rollicking Hollywood Halloween event, it might not make sense to stop the fun and drone on about the impact donors dollars have on the mission of the organization. But, could they leverage the Facebook event to not only prime attendees for auction items, but to share a behind-the-scenes video tour, or testimonial from a well-known patron?

The Iowa chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation leverages QTego technology for a text-to-give campaign. Because that technology captures the phone numbers of all of their donors, the staff follows up with around 900 personal thank-you calls.

Many events are centered around celebrating community leaders, and attendees are there to support their friends. The Iowa International Center Passport to Prosperity is one such event. It would be a missed opportunity to let so many potential supporters leave without a sense of the organization’s overall mission, but the message might not sink in from a simple place card. If you know you might have a few open seats at tables of 10, what about inviting some of your super volunteers the the event and having them fill in. You’ll likely get some organic conversation started about what the mission means to them, without putting your ED at the podium for a 20-minute speech. 

Appleby’s handout also included a sample engagement plan for event donors who fall into the major gift cultivation strategy:


Source: Download the entire event360 whitepaper here.

In my small group, we talked about the importance of not bombarding YPs with follow-up mailings, but engaging them to help on planning committees during a time in their life where they might be exploring which causes to invest in more deeply as their paychecks grow!


*p.s. Don’t forget to submit your gala pics to DSM magazine!

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