You’ve seen fundraising thermometers before. Everyone uses them—when I was a kid, we used them for elementary school fundraisers, church fundraisers, building funds, and other events. Today, nonprofits use them for peer-to-peer fundraising, capital campaigns, and lots of other places.
But it’s when they combine event fundraising with fundraising thermometers that really exciting things happen.
Because they’re such a classic fundraising tool, it’s easy for donors to overlook fundraising thermometers. Let’s be honest—most donors don’t care much about merely helping you reach your goal. What they care about is how filling the thermometer will help make a difference in the world. That’s what makes it such a good fit for event fundraising! At a fundraising event, you have a unique opportunity to combine real-life interactions and digital tools to inspire and engage donors.
1. Build a captive audience
So you’re throwing a fundraising event. You immediately have an advantage you lack when you’re fundraising online; you have a group of individuals who are physically present with you.
Online fundraising audiences are far from “captive.” You have to worry about page load time, site navigation, or donation form layout—all elements that can make or break your donor’s decision to give.
In person, things are a little different. You need to keep your donors engaged, but it’s easier to do so when they’re interacting with you in person. Your captive audience—whether they’re listening to a speaker, interacting with each other at a party, or touring your facility—is actively participating in your event with you. This is priceless!
The purpose of any fundraising event is to raise money (I know this is common sense, but it’s overlooked on a regular basis) so that you can fund your valuable work. Make sure you interact with your audience with this in mind.
2. Tell a compelling story and share a compelling goal
Take advantage of your captive audience by taking a few minutes to share your nonprofit’s story, the purpose of the fundraising event, and what your fundraising goal will achieve.
That last bit is the most important part. Remember, your donors are less concerned with reaching an arbitrary goal than they are in making a real, tangible difference in the world. Frame your fundraising goal in terms of what it will accomplish.
Pretend you’re attending an event for a local charity that houses indigent families. Are you more inspired by the thought of giving money to help the organization reach its fundraising goal of $100,000? Or are you more inspired by the thought of giving money to help build a home for a local mother and her children?
Your fundraising goal won’t inspire your donors. What your fundraising goal helps you achieve does inspire donors. Think about what will appeal most to your audience, then tell your story and make your appeal that way.
3. Incorporate fundraising thermometers and other digital tools
If you’ve done everything right, you’ve got a captive audience that’s inspired by your story and excited about donating to help achieve something amazing. You’ve set a fundraising goal and have set up a thermometer to help donors track your progress. Now you’ve got to make it easy for them to give.
This is where digital tools come in!
First, make sure your fundraising thermometer is visible. Depending on the style of event you’re promoting, this is most easily accomplished using an overhead projector in your event space. Display options are limited only by your imagination, but the key is making the thermometer visible! You’ve told your story well, so your audience now associates reaching the fundraising goal with achieving something amazing. They’ll be inspired to hit that goal because of what it represents, and using a thermometer to track that progress will help build momentum and excitement.
Offer donors different ways to give, but make sure you have a way to make your thermometer reflect their donations. The easiest way to have a few giving options available to donors. Consider offering:
- Mobile-friendly donation forms
- Text giving options (get the most out of this by making your keyword visible and following these best practices!)
- In-person options, such as handheld kiosks or volunteers with mobile point of sale terminals
- In-person options such as check or cash
Making it easy for donors to give is key! Donors are emotionally connected and inspired by your story now, at the event. Don’t make them wait to get home to make a gift.
As donations come in and donors begin to see your progress creep upward, enthusiasm will build. Donors’ enthusiasm can be stoked by speakers, announcements, or additional sharing of stories. Let your donors have fun, make it easy to give, and show them real-time tracking toward the goal—it’s a recipe for heightened donor engagement.
4. Follow up
You might have the most wildly successful event in the history of fundraising, but your job isn’t over yet! You spent a whole event hyping your donors to achieve something amazing. They pulled together and raised the money you need. Now you need to make sure you keep them updated on the state of the project they funded.
Send a few follow-up letters or emails to your donors, and make sure to include:
- A sincere thank-you
- An update on the project they funded
- An impact statement or story from someone who’s benefitting from the project
- Updates on future events
Fundraising thermometers have been around forever—and for good reason. They give donors a way to visualize their progress toward a goal! Give a tried-and-true method an update by turning it into an interactive digital experience at your next fundraising event. It’ll help keep your audience engaged, inspired, and excited about your work.
Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading online giving and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.