Most organizations run fundraising events. They vary in size, style, and purpose, but are plentiful across the non-profit industry. Whatever the reason for your own fundraising events, having your board involved can make such a difference to its success. In this three-part series, I am going to use examples of how board members can be involved in the invitation, engagement at the event, and in the follow-up to the event.
The fundraising event invitation
Several weeks ago, I received a phone call from a board member of a local organization that I had supported in the past. She asked if I would consider coming to their flagship fundraising event, which was taking place within a couple of months. I’d previously heard about it, but at the time felt that I was too busy to go. After speaking with her, however, I had changed my mind. Here are the reasons why:
She was warm and engaging
In my conversation with this board member, I felt such warmth in her approach and I truly enjoyed the conversation. There was a sensation that she was genuinely interested in chatting to me, both as a donor to the organization and as another local resident. She put a voice to what was, prior to this conversation, a relatively faceless organization. I began to understand that there were real and passionate people who worked hard and volunteered their time to move this organization forward and make a difference to my community. As a result, I appreciated this organization far more and appreciated the humanity behind what made this organization tick.
I felt flattered that a board member of an organization that I had supported, who also happened to be a respected member of my local community, called me. As a result, I felt valued and appreciated, and that my support was important to both her and the organization itself. I also felt more “inside track” in that I was a true partner in the organization.
Even if every person on their mailing list received a call, I didn’t feel that way. I felt singled out for personal attention, and that felt good. It led me to feel that I would receive the same attention at the event, which was yet another reason to attend.
I felt as though I had received a personal invitation to the event rather than a sales call, which is what so many calls and emails about fundraising events can feel like. She used phrases like “I would love it if you could join me at this event”, rather than “please buy a ticket”, which helped me to believe that she was personally invested, and would be there, rather than giving me the sense that she was fulfilling an obligation or even a sales quota, and that she herself might not even attend at all. After the call, I even felt like I would be letting her down if I didn’t go, and since we had built a rapport, I also thought about how nice it would be to meet her at the event itself.
It was going to be fun!
She talked about the event with such enthusiasm that it was no longer just “another fundraising event”. It had become an occasion and something to look forward to. She really honed in on the benefits of going, what was so special about it, and what had changed from previous years to meet guest needs far better. She also talked about other people who would be going, including local notable figures, which helped to give the event some kudos as well as the range of activities that would take place, and how this can be a fun occasion to bring my own friends to as part of my own social calendar.
Passion and cause
Above all else, she was passionate about the organization. I had the opportunity to learn more about the organization, including why she was passionate about it, and passion is infectious! By the end of the call, because I was able to ask questions, I was much more passionate too. Therefore, I welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the organization at the event. What I discovered was that this organization mattered to her, and I learned more of its importance to the community too.
She followed up
What was particularly important about the board member’s approach was that she really listened to what I felt enthused about and what I didn’t. She asked me about other people I knew who might enjoy it and to what I said they might like as well. What really surprised me, however, was the following day when I got an email from her. In it, she thanked me for my time, referenced things we’d talked about in the call, and said that she looked forward to seeing me at the event. She even included photos from last year’s event so that I could see some of the fun that I might get to experience this year. Even a link to purchase tickets was included so that it would be easy for me to do so.
This was all just one phone call that took about ten minutes, followed by one email. The impact these few moments of attentively invested time on her end made a lasting impression, however. As a result, I had an experience of the organization that was extremely positive, and I know I will be attending the event. Not just that, I also know that I would be bringing friends as I trusted that they also would have a wonderful experience.
Of course, not every call will lead to someone attending an event, and this can seem like a lot of work. However, event invitations coordinated in this way allow for a valuable touchpoint between organizations and their donors. Even if I was unable to make the event, there is no doubt that my trust of and connection with the organization had grown, and I would be accepting their communications much more enthusiastically moving forward.
Furthermore, events are excellent at providing an impetus and deadline for board members to reach out to donors, with a clear reason, and to deepen relationships with them even if they cannot come (some of my best major donor relationships started with a phone call just like this). By making sure that you make a note of these conversations and follow up on them effectively, there is no doubt that involving your board members in your events strategy can result in much stronger donor stewardship that can lead to greater fundraising success. With their engagement and contentment, you’ll achieve a more positive outcome.