Consider the Guest Experience at your Annual Fundraiser

Each year, the vow to impress your guests at the annual fundraiser challenges event planners to look at new and inventive ways to meet their expectations and acquire more funding than ever before.

We tend to concentrate our attention on tangible items to make the event more special—exciting prizes, unique venues, memorable food and drinks—but there are more subtle tactics that can make a big impact on your guests’ experience.

When you’re looking for new ideas to improve on your planning consider these alternative tactics for a better fundraising event.

1. Weeknight v. Weekend Events

A scheduling move from a weekend date to a weeknight event could be the change you need to bring in more contributors. People are busier than ever and may find it hard to fit in with their weekend family obligations. Consider after work cocktail hours or events that can include the entire family to attract people for a weeknight event.

2. Micro-Auctions

Bigger isn’t only better when it comes to creating a buzz-worthy event. There is a move toward going smaller in regard to the event size and, instead, hosting several events throughout the year to meet the annual fundraising goal. You can choose to connect them by continuing a theme or presenting them as a series, or you can mix it up with a variety of themes that can appeal to different groups of donors.

3. Experiential Auction Items

One of the biggest trends in silent auction prizes is providing an experience, rather than tangible items. With so many options in activity themes, this idea can provide great prizes for all types of donors. Offer a choice of local and regional activities, as well as going big with gifts that can be a part of a larger vacation so people of all levels of financial mean can take part in the auction.

4. Online Fundraising

Take your fundraising to the virtual world by hosting an online event. #GivingTuesday is a great way to get started. This event follows the Thanksgiving (in the U.S) weekend. Coming on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it gives people the chance to get into the spirit of giving during the holidays after spending two days shopping for gifts for their families and friends. It is conducted largely online through social networks, with live activities held prior to, during, and after the event to draw attention to your fundraising efforts.

5. More Emphasis on Fund-a-Needs

Scale down your focus to promote a specific program or project through a Fund-a-Need event. This shines a light on the work being done, the progress made, and what the results you are currently seeing, as well as what you expect at the conclusion. Fund-a-Need events can be a part of your larger fundraising events or could be an event on its own. It can also become part of an event hosted by another organization that shares the same topic, such as a pet adoption event combined with a nonprofit event that supports animal shelters.

  For more ideas on how to get your fundraising guests excited at every event check out the Greater Giving webinar “Power Up Your Auction Revenue Through Create and Strategic Refinement” with Talena Barker, CEO of Mission Limelight. Her experience can help you take a fresh, creative look at your silent auctions.

6. Emphasis on Recurring Donations

Take a moment during your regular event to promote making recurring contributions. It’s the appropriate time to make a call for this type of donating activity, as everyone who is attending has already committed to your mission. It also gives you the opportunity to provide an comprehensive view of your organization and the ongoing need to support it.

7. Experimenting with the Venue’s Layout

When reviewing your event’s success from the previous year don’t overlook the potential a change in the venue’s layout may offer in setting up even more opportunities to give. Follow the traffic flow paths to find places where additional games or raffle tickets can be offered. Another option could be adding donations boxes to signs and cocktail tables.

8. Enhanced Sponsors Relations

Rethinking how you work with your sponsors may open up new ways to increase their contributions. You could invite them to a hosted networking cocktail hour prior to the main event or have a VIP section at your silent auction where you can create a setting for mingling. Promote it as an opportunity for them to meet other like-minded contributors in the business world.  Another idea is to let company VIPs present the silent auction prizes to the winners.

9. Making Every Guest Feel Like a VIP

Of course, making all your guests feel as though their presence is an integral part of the evening is priority number one at a fundraising event. Go over and above what they expect and they will make your mission a priority when deciding where to contribute. Create a memorable event with fabulous food, engaging entertainment, surprises throughout the evening, and swag bags filled with, not just the information you want to convey, but also items they’ll be excited to receive.

10. Donor Needs Will be Highest Priority

Above all else, make sure your donors fell the gratitude you have for their contributions. Without them your nonprofit’s mission will wither and die. Thank them formally at the event, as they walk out the door, and with personal message of thanks sent after the event’s conclusion. Always let them know how their contributions are being used and, if possible, have the recipients of their donations also send a thank you.

Your events could become an attendance priority for donors with only a few tweaks made to your planning. Give a few a try, experiment, and revise where you think it can be improved.

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