Fundraising events are an excellent way to bring in generous donations while engaging with your supporters in a fun, energetic environment.
Whether you’re planning a large, formal gala or a community-based school auction, these strategies will assist you in taking your fundraising event from okay to astounding.
By following these key steps, we’re confident you’ll be able to maximize donor engagement, modernize your fundraising techniques, and mobilize your supporter networks—while raising some serious fundraising dollars!
Here’s a rundown of the tips we’ll cover:
- Pair your event with an online campaign
- Make your event mobile-friendly
- Advertise effectively
- Continue donor engagement post-event
- Use software to smooth things out from start to finish
Ready to start planning? Let’s get going!
1. Pair your event with an online campaign
At this point, you may be aware of how expansive online fundraising has become. In particular, crowdfunding has revolutionized the art of personal fundraising, raising an impressive $34 billion worldwide.
Crowdfunding is a simple concept, but it can have major impact on your fundraising potential. Essentially, this fundraising method relies on online networks to publicize individual fundraising campaigns.
Anyone can quickly set up a campaign on a number of crowdfunding platforms, but success depends on how effectively the fundraiser can spread the word about his or her campaign.
Although a little different from one another, both crowdfunding and peer-to-peer campaigns tend to conclude with an event, so consider adding one as a precursor to your next fundraiser.
Not only will you bring in additional fundraising dollars before your event doors even open, but you’ll also have a chance to promote your event online throughout the fundraising process. You can include event advertisements on your crowdfunding campaign page, and the additional shares across social media will give your promotion an extra push.
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind if you decide to pair your fundraiser with a crowdfunding campaign:
- Stay active online. As you (or individuals fundraising on your behalf) get the word out for your fundraiser, remember to keep your donors updated on your progress. Supporter interaction on a regular basis is essential for showing your networks that you’re invested in the cause and excited to keep going.
- Be visual. Photo and video posts are more likely to engage your audience, so be creative with your updates. Remember: you want your social posts to be both compelling and shareable so that you can maximize your online reach.
- Tell your story. The most important part of any crowdfunding campaign is the cause it supports. As you put together your campaign, let supporters know what their money would go toward and why it’s so important. (Tip: the campaign description on your crowdfunding website is a great place to share your story!)
Social sharing is the backbone of crowdfunding, so be thoughtful when creating your online content.
The bottom line: Crowdfunding is a valuable fundraising tool, and it’s easy to incorporate into your next event. By effectively engaging your online networks, you’ll be able to maximize fundraising—before your event even begins!
2. Make your event mobile-friendly
Did you know your supporters are likely bringing their own portable fundraising tools to your event? That’s right! Your donors’ smartphones are an open door for new types of mobile giving, and it’s time you make use of them.
We’ll look at two particular forms of mobile giving that can take your event to the next level:
- Mobile bidding
So, what are these methods and how do you use them?
Text-to-give tools allow individuals to make donations using their smartphones.
Though each platform’s process will vary slightly, essentially, all a user needs to make his or her contribution is a smartphone.
It’s fast, secure, and most importantly, incredibly convenient for everyone involved.
Once your nonprofit has selected a provider and set up a designated phone number, text donations can be received at any point. However, one of the best times to promote these services is at your fundraising event!
Make text-to-give a prominent feature at your event by clearly communicating what a great option this is for attendees. Place signs throughout the venue that explain how this process works and have volunteers on hand to walk donors through the steps.
Text-to-give is an excellent fundraising tool, as it makes fundraising a quick, streamlined process for your donors. Plus, you’ll be able to engage supporters who can’t make it to your event by promoting text-to-give online before, during, and after the fundraiser.
For a more thorough look at how these services work, check out OneCauses’s ultimate guide to text-to-give here!
ii. Mobile bidding
Organizing a silent auction? Mobile bidding has made auctions easier and more engaging than ever.
Mobile bidding is an innovative addition to any silent auction. Guests can browse and bid on items directly through their smartphones. They’ll also be notified when they’ve been outbid, so they’re more likely to continue increasing their bids throughout the night.
Just like text-to-give, mobile bidding is a simple process that’s designed to be easy for donors and streamlines planning for organizations. Even so, make sure you have knowledgeable volunteers available at your event to help if needed. (Tip: many mobile bidding providers offer on-site event support to assist with their services!)
Don’t forget to let your donors know this is a mobile-friendly auction beforehand so they bring their devices fully charged to your event. It’s a good idea to have extra devices at your fundraiser, too, for any attendees who may not own (or have brought) a smartphone.
The bottom line: Mobile giving technology makes donating simple and speedy. Text-to-give and mobile bidding are two great options for making your next fundraiser fully mobile and more modern than ever.
3. Advertise effectively
You can’t hold a successful fundraiser without donors. And you can’t get donors there without some form of advertisement.
In order to get the word out to every potential attendee, you’ll need to create a multi-channel marketing strategy that effectively promotes your organization and your event in a variety of ways.
We’ve already talked about a few ways you can engage your online networks. Crowdfunding, peer-to-peer campaigns, and text-to-give all thrive in online environments.
However, social media is just one piece!
Here are a few strategies you can put into place to make the most of your promotional plan:
- Fully brand your event. From your event website to your invitations, your fundraiser should be recognizable at all levels. Create an experience for your donors that reflects a cohesive vision throughout, and we guarantee your guests will remember your fundraiser for a long time (and come to the next)!
- Work closely with sponsors. If you’ve partnered with sponsors in your community, ask them to help promote your event online and in their places of business. You may be able to attract new donors who are excited to learn about a charity that their favorite business supports.
- Don’t forget traditional methods. Social media, websites, and email blasts are all amazing ways to promote your event, but they’re not the only ways. Especially if you’re hoping to appeal to multiple demographics, it’s advisable to vary your approach to marketing. Consider incorporating direct mail, print advertisements, or local news features to truly spread your efforts across as many communication channels as possible.
The bottom line: The best promotion plans incorporate a variety of advertising techniques. As you’re planning your event, consider your audience and tailor your strategies to meet them where they are.
4. Continue donor engagement post-event
Donor acquisition is a vital piece of the fundraising puzzle, but the relationship does not end after your donor clicks “confirm donation.” The best payoff of a successful fundraiser is securing recurring donations from long-term supporters.
We probably don’t have to tell you that donor retention is exceptionally important to your organization. But what you may not know is how exactly to keep those supporters committed to your cause for the long haul.
Obviously, directly after your event, you should promptly thank your donors for their attendance and contributions. Writing simple, personal thank-you notes is a great practice.
But don’t stop there!
Connect with your donors often by following up over the phone or email—and try not to include a donation request in every communication.
Voice your appreciation and, if possible, tell them exactly what their money has done for your organization.
Keep your donors updated on your progress, too. If your fundraising event played a part of a larger fundraising vision (such as a capital campaign), let your donors know where your organization stands a few months down the road. Remind them on an ongoing basis that their donations are important to the continued impact of your organization!
The bottom line: While finding new supporters is an important task, an active approach to donor retention is equally (if not more) essential. A truly successful fundraiser doesn’t stop when the doors close; instead, it leads to continued, meaningful donor relationships.
5. Use software to smooth things out from start to finish
Planning and executing the perfect fundraising event is no easy task. From initial plans to follow-up interactions, your committee will undoubtedly have your hands full.
The best way to alleviate the toughest aspects of event planning is by taking advantage of software that can assist in planning, executing, and analyzing the success of your event.
We’ve already discussed technology like mobile bidding, text-to-give, and crowdfunding sites. But did you know there are products that can streamline all facets of your event planning and execution?
Event planning software eases the event-planning process. While you focus on engaging your guests, your software takes care of virtually everything else.
Depending on which software you choose, you may be working with a variety of features. Some of the tools you may have access to include online ticketing and RSVP management, donor bid and transaction history, table and seating assignments, and auction item management.
One of the most important features of event planning software is its ability to to help you track event data.
As you move forward and strategize for your next fundraiser, you’ll need to be able to analyze your performance in an actionable way. Software can help organize this kind of data so that you can quickly access it in one place. Not to mention, this software includes reporting and analytics features that can give you insights into your events, drawn from your data.
If you need help finding an event planning software for your next fundraiser, we recommend taking a look at OneCause’s fundraising software options.
The bottom line: The right software can make any event more manageable, no matter how big or small. Consider investing in event planning software that won’t only make your event easier, but better all around.
There’s no right or wrong way to plan a fundraiser, but by abiding by a few best practices and adding in exciting new approaches, you can put together an A+ plan for creating a memorable, profitable experience.
As you plan your next fundraising event, consider adding one (or all!) of these strategies to the mix. We can’t wait to see what you come up with.