5 Fresh Ideas for Donor-Focused Events

Donor Stewardship Event Ideas

Deepen the connection your donors have with the cause through these stewardship activities.

Last year, we asked nonprofits to tell us all about their fundraising events—where they succeeded and what needed improvement. The State of Nonprofit Fundraising Report discovered that across the board, nonprofits struggled to keep donors engaged throughout their events

Engagement and participation from donors, especially your big gift donors, begins with a shared connection with the mission. Lean your donor-focused events into this shared connection with each and every donor to generate fresh excitement for the cause.

Peer-to-Peer Campaigns

Peer-to-peer fundraising events are a great way to harness people’s natural competitiveness and inspire them to give.Add peer-to-peer fundraising to your fundraising toolkit to enlist your existing donors to reach out online to their networks for your cause.

In your typical peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, each participant raises money directly from their own friends, family, and co-workers to go toward the cause at the end of the event.

Though these are typically seen in the form of a walk-a-thon, a peer-to-peer campaign can culminate in any type of competition: growing the biggest vegetable, a catwalk fashion show, even a sailboat race. Find something fun that fits your mission!

Using Join Me, your fundraisers can build a personal webpage that adds their unique message to your organizational one, and invites their contacts to visit their page—and give to your cause.

Leadership Events

We don’t always get to hear from the people at the top about the organization—or how they do the important work they do. But they often have powerful personal experiences and insights into the cause to share with donors. 

Bring people into the room with important leaders at your nonprofit, such as a research head, a school principal or president, or an expert in your cause area to discuss a specific issue or topic. Be sure to engage each donor’s experience and relationship with the mission. Remind them what it means to them, and show how their generosity enables such great things.

These low-cost events can be held frequently, or as part of an ongoing dialogue between donors and nonprofit leaders.

Donor Event Challenges

Challenges do double-duty: they spread the word about your nonprofit’s work, and engage your existing donors and supporters in competition. They’re one of the most organic ways to reach more people and expand your supporter base.

  • Make it social media-friendly. Whatever you choose, it should be easy to post as a photo, video, or written story. 
  • Make it accessible and safe. The success of the ice bucket challenge is that it presented a real challenge to participants (cold! shocking!), while ultimately being safe to take part in.
  • Make it fun. Your challenge should be entertaining or exciting! Ultimately, people will only take part if it’s memorable. Brainstorm with your team how to make it silly, emotional, or Instagrammable.
  • Make it relevant. Some of the best challenges are symbolic of the cause, or lead people to find out more information about your mission. Funny photo challenges, moving personal stories and experiences, or skits are all great places to look for a fun challenge.

The Text-to-Donate Challenge

Text-to-Donate allows anyone to donate to your cause by texting a unique, five-digit number, making it easy to spread through social media networks, and even easier for people to give.

But text-to-give campaigns that hit an entire phone number list can come across like spam, and only a small percentage of recipients will make a gift. 

Set up your Text-to-Donate event like a challenge, that supporters send to their friends and family—and then it’s personal and comes from a trusted source!

Greater Giving’s Text-to-Donate feature sends texters to a secure page to make their donation, so nonprofits don’t have to wait long periods to receive their funds from phone carriers.

The Matching Gift Challenge

#GivingTuesday is always a great opportunity to host a matching gift challenge! Challenge supporters to a double-impact donation that day and make the most of it. Or challenge donors to find out if their employer has a matching gift campaign, and recruit their coworkers to give.

Donors love the idea of a challenge. Find a sponsor or major gift donor to match funds raised for a particular campaign, or on a particular day (such as a cause-related anniversary, milestone, or holiday). Work carefully on messaging so that you don’t have to stop fundraising once you reach your goal. An example might be “X company will match the first $5,000 in new gifts made by xx/xx/xxxx.” 

Public Speaking Engagements

Nonprofits are often experts in their cause area—so provide that expertise to the public! Offering to speak at schools, churches and other community gatherings can reach new supporters who may never have otherwise heard of your mission.

Giving out information for free comes at little cost to your organization, but can earn respect and reciprocity from the people it reaches.

Donor Appreciation Event Tours

We love a “behind-the-scenes” look, so give guests what they want! Take your donors on a tour of your facility, a work site, or other cause-critical location. Tours are highly effective at bringing the mission closer and making it feel more real to donors. Pull on the heartstrings a little, and show them exactly how their gifts enable this very important work.

Tours can also be conducted virtually. Allow donors from everywhere and anywhere to see the inner workings of your nonprofit, and stoke the passion you all share for the cause.

Lean into connections

The enduring truth of the fundraising world is that donors are interested in the cause itself. They want to know clearly how their resources will be used and what difference they will make. When nonprofits take this shared connection between donors and the cause as their starting place, they will see an increase in donations, volunteers, and engagement in events.


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