Breaking out of well-established routines to find better ways of doing our jobs often takes the kind of upset that rarely comes to us through our own endeavors.
Our actions tend to live in a comfortable, predictable place that, if it’s working for us, we’re reluctant to change.
After the unprecedented events of 2020, event organizers have been given the opportunity to take a fresh look at typical fundraising models employed over the years to explore what worked and what didn’t. Based on the results of their research, they are creating new, innovative methods to present their nonprofits to the public and elevate their fundraising goals to new heights.
A New Philosophy in Fundraising
In previous common fundraising models, the focus on a transactional relationship with donors took precedence. Updated strategies turns that focus toward a transformative relationship that leads donors through an engagement journey designed to build a stronger bond between them and the nonprofit. When successful, it’s a method that hits the mark in making the donor feel they are an integral element to the success of the mission, rather than a casual participant.
With a transformative relationship, the connection continues to deepen as the journey progresses. For donors who occasionally offer a contribution, the transformational approach can lead to a commitment to regular donations that could grow overtime and the possibility the nonprofit’s message will be shared with other like-minded friends and family. In some instances, it can eventually lead to a casual donor becoming a volunteer, an ambassador, or even a team member.
A transformational fundraising model provides an avenue for your donor community to grow alongside your organization, with a stronger commitment based on an emotional attachment that is invested in the mission’s success.
Designing Events from the Donor’s Perspective
To create this new transformative style of fundraising, event planners are taking a fresh look through the eyes of the donors. Understanding the nonprofit’s relationship with the donor from the donor’s perspective provides invaluable insight into how to design an event that leaves the donor with a desire to further immerse themselves in the nonprofit’s work, whether it’s through future donations, or a deeper involvement with the work.
We’ve collected a few areas event planners are making adjustments.
A Variety of Types of Events
The size, type, and mode of access to attend a fundraiser has permanently changed for events going forward. The move to virtual fundraising that was a necessity last year often proved to be just as successful as the traditional gala and has opened the door to including both in-person and virtual fundraising and fundraisers are reconsidering how their events can become available to their entire their donor community, both online and off.
The grand, in-person annual gala continues to be a centerpiece of the annual fundraising strategy. This popular and important style of event brings the nonprofit’s supporters into the same room to unite the entire donor community. This provides organizers with an opportunity to recognize the achievements of their work and deliver a strong mission statement.
Scheduling both large and small events throughout the year is another option that some nonprofits are adopting. Planning several small events, like intimate dinners for the top donors, can be a very effective way to bring focus to specific initiatives or projects that need funding and motivate your top communicators to garner support outside the normal channels.
Creating a series of events has become a popular way to bring contributors together for regular updates on a pet project or support an on-going need. This can be very effective if fundraising is more effectively executed with strategies aimed at specific demographics. Each event could be tailored to the type of donor that is invited, with activities, food and beverage, and message made to be more or less extravagant than the other events in the series.
Virtual events took over the nonprofit world in 2020 and event planners found they could successfully recreate a large in-person gala online with a few adjustments to fit the format change. They were very cost-effective alternatives that added money to their coffers by lowering production expenses across the board, while still bringing in an amount that rivaled traditional in-person galas.
Fundraising online also gave donor engagement a boost. New donors were able to join the event online conveniently from their homes and become part of the nonprofit’s donor community. By promoting virtual events heavily online and working with relevant influencers, nonprofits can go beyond their local communities and find potential new donors who would be interested in supporting their work. Continuing to offer fundraising events to people online will allow nonprofits to grow a second arm of their donor community that has no geographic boundaries.
Hybrid events have grabbed the attention of event planners this year. By combining a traditional in-person event with a virtual event, organizers have the ability to reach increased fundraising and donor recruitment goals. Pulling off a cohesive hybrid event means creating a theme, style, and tone that will fit two different programs and making adjustments where needed to address the unique qualities of each format, such as the length of the event, a scaled down silent auction and games, and adding an emcee and set production that can pop during a live-streamed televised production.
Getting back to a new normal
The doors have been thrown open for event planners to experiment with new ideas and tactics to fundraiser and expand their network of donors. By keeping the perspective of their supporters at the forefront of planning, event organizers are exploring new ways to improve upon the time tested methods and find even more ways to boost their fundraising efforts in 2021.