The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

Fundraising Events in the New “Normal” Economy: Communication is King

In the “new normal” economy, fundraisers have to work smarter to earn their share of a more modest pie. Even with the Dow soaring to new heights, donors remain sober in their giving. Nonprofits must abandon “the usual” to realize even usual results.

Karen Perry-Weinstat Karen Perry-Weinstat

We live in an era of communication. It bombards us. Look around on the street or in a restaurant. Nearly everyone is at one point looking at a smartphone to text, email, web browse or use apps. To cut through the clutter, fundraisers need to play the game to grab potential event participants’ attention.

Following these five tips will help you to market events and raise money in any economic climate:

1. Use today’s media

Paper invitations are still necessary for most traditional events, but supplement and reinforce with digital media. Event websites and online registration are necessities. Online ad journals and digital slide presentations present opportunities to offer more. SMS/texting has grown in popularity. Email marketing and social media campaigns continue the messaging and build excitement for the event. Integrate digital media with traditional materials like save-the-date postcards, event brochures and program books for better donor engagement.

2. Build your lists

Many nonprofits consider their databases insufficient to support marketing via email or texts. Well, there’s no time like the present to build these lists. Make email addresses and cell phone numbers mandatory fields on web-based forms. Be sure your website includes a field where viewers can “subscribe” to your email list. Have volunteers or interns call supporters to ask for emails. Give a door prize at the event only to those who provide their information. Capture data from all online donations.

3. Plan and execute a timeline

Make a list of all the media types you plan to use: letters, emails, website, invitation, etc. Schedule each on a calendar so your target audience receives a steady stream of communications throughout the event cycle. Toggle back and forth between printed and electronic media. Increase the urgency of the message as the event date approaches. When you plan a steady, multi-media, multi-message campaign for your event, donors will respond to what appeals to them most.

4. Ask for more

Some organizations do and others don’t. Many event attendees are invited guests or represent their company and haven’t made donations of their own. If your story moves them, they may gladly give more or give for the first time. Table “asks” can be done with a simple envelope. They can be even more effective with a live text-to-pledge appeal from the podium. Post event emails can also direct participants to donate online. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

5. Follow up!

Often a missing step. Send notice that photos/videos are posted online. Report on the results of event. Thank participants beyond a simple letter sent for tax purposes. Provide additional stories of how the funds will be used. All electronic communications should have embedded links to give more. Post-event follow ups keep event guests engaged and move stewardship efforts from a one-time-only model to developing donors into part of the organization’s “family.”

The preceding is a guest post by Karen Perry-Weinstat, founder of Event Journal, Inc., a full-service marketing company for nonprofit fundraising events founded in 2002. She developed the first digital e-journal system that has replaced most dated paper journals and program books. Event Journal offers nonprofits a combination of its unique digital e-journal, event websites, coordinating marketing materials and full-service support and delivery for fundraising events including dinner galas, golf outings, benefits and more.

Topics: Communications