Successful major gift fundraising demands a strategic cultivation plan and goal for each donor in your portfolio. I love donor cultivation events because they connect donors to your cause and dovetail into the incredible work are already doing with your clients. Yes, that means if you plan them right they are efficient to boot! What’s not to love?
The most obvious donor cultivation event is a house party or open house cocktail reception with a welcome from your leadership (Executive Director, CEO or Founder), your volunteer leadership (Board Chair) and finally, a brief but meaningful testimonial from a client you’ve served.
A more complex but face-to-face with your mission event is what I like to refer to as a “VIP volunteer opportunity”. Essentially, mid and/or major donors are invited to high-level mission interactions (think service experiences) that will leave them feeling emotionally gratified and closer to your mission. Creating an event like this is a multi-step process. Here’s a few questions to get you started:
1) What are you already doing with clients that would be meaningful for your donors to see?
2) What high value “VIP” volunteer opportunities can you create to allow donors to feel a part of your mission in a fun, engaging way?
3) Who is your audience: major donors, midlevel donors, prospects, board members, media, stakeholders, etc?
4) What is your event concept and event plan from start to finish?
5) What is your follow up plan for everyone who attended?
Once you have completed the first three steps it’s time to unleash your inner wedding planner. You must produce every moment of this experience from start to finish AND have a killer follow up plan to move these attendees to the gift. Think valet parking, a green room where they can mingle with other donors and enjoy refreshments, a welcome from a board volunteer, an orientation with a testimonial from a client if possible, being attended by a staff member or board member throughout the experience and a warm thank you and follow up to learn what they thought afterwards.
If you are a virtual or global organization don’t lose hope. You can still engage donors in your mission. Maybe you have a select group of major donors join an ad hoc committee to read scholarship applications. You only have enough underwriting to fund 20 scholarships but reading those 50 heartbreaking applications inspires them to help fund the remaining 30! The secret is in leveraging what you are already doing with your clients by adding a high-touch tightly managed donor element.
Still not convinced? A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Penelope Burke’s session at BBCON (hyperlink http://www.bbconference.com/) She did a recent study on this very topic. Among donors who went to donor cultivation events on a scale of 1-7 with 7 being the most satisfied, donors ranked themselves from 5-7. 88% said what they liked most was meeting leadership and 83% liked meeting other donors. 33% of donors who attended made an unsolicited gift. 35% of solicited donors who made a gift credited the event with why they made the gift!
With donors giving more money to fewer causes, donor cultivation events are an excellent opportunity to make you their preferred charity.