In the last post in this series, I discussed how to prepare your board for fundraising events. In this week’s post, I will share how you can involve your board members in the follow up with your event participants, and how that can make a significant difference in your fundraising program.
When done right, events offer a great opportunity to connect with your donors face-to-face. The amount of time and attention that you can get from guests at the event, however, will depend upon the nature of your event and how many distractions there are. Events offer a snapshot in time, where you can find out more about your donors’ interests, their level of engagement and often, develop some idea of how you can move the relationship forward (in the last post I shared some of the questions you might want to ask your guests and what you should seek to find out).
Of course, while events offer great value on the night in terms of raising funds and stewarding donors, the real opportunities for fundraising can often come from the follow-up. The amount of effort required to follow up with all your guests can be pretty intensive. This is where your Board should come in.
But how can you make sure that they are as willing, and effective, in helping you to follow up with guests so that their actions help you reach your fundraising goals? Here are a few suggestions:
Help them to Understand Why the Follow-Up is so Important
When people understand why you want to do something and the impact it will have, it can make all the difference in their willingness to help.
Much of your donor relationship building will happen after the event when there is more time and fewer event-related distractions, but a couple of staff members will not be able to reach out to everyone easily. Demonstrate to your board that being able to thank everyone in a timely way will require their help.
This is an opportunity to cement further the relationships that they may have already started to build at the event and make your organization stand out. Since your donors will know that they are not being forgotten, they have the opportunity to get further involved if they choose to.
Get Their Commitment to be Involved in the Follow-Up
When I say “commitment,” that’s exactly what I mean. A vague agreement from your board members to be there, or involved, sometimes is not enough.
The key to getting their true engagement is first making it clear to your board what this engagement means and directly asking if you have their commitment to doing it. Also, by letting them know well in advance what will be expected of them, whether it is writing thank you notes, making some calls or agreeing to meet with one or two guests one-on-one following, and by making it clear how much you are relying on them, it will be much harder for them to pull out and not play their part.
Have a debrief immediately following the event
I’ve talked about this before, but it is so important that you have a debrief immediately following your event (on the same night/day) when memories are fresh. It is also important that every one of you board members who is at the event attend the debrief.
Sending notes by email the following day just doesn’t work the same way. People will have already started to forget important details, but also how they felt about their interactions, which can be almost as important as what guests say. It also means that you can spend the next day prioritizing your follow up with guests, and get moving with your donor cultivation right away.
Determine your guest follow up strategy in advance
Time is of the essence in fundraising, particularly following an event. You want to make sure that you follow up with people when their heightened feelings about the event are still strong, and before they move on to the next thing on the agenda.
Depending on the size of your event, event follow-ups can be pretty intense, and there can be a lot to do, with tying up loose ends to thanking everyone involved. In order to manage this effectively, plan your strategy for follow up with guests well in advance. This might mean preparing and segmenting your lists in advance so that you can approach everyone differently, scheduling your follow up with each board member in advance so that you have no problems reaching them, writing thank you notes (or at least some of the content for them), or drafting phone scripts.
By planning your follow-up well before the event, your board members will be clear on what is expected of them, you will make sure that your own calendar is clear and if you need additional resources to help you, you can secure that too. As a result, your guest follow-up will be efficient and much more effective.
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Check in with your board members regularly
Particularly if any of your board members aren’t used to doing this sort of thing, they will most likely need your support with the follow up activity, so I always advise scheduling weekly check-ins for a period of time following the event with each board member, so that you can see how they are getting on with connecting with guests, and if they need any help from you. This way you can keep the program on track, make sure your board member remains enthused with regard to their role, and that you make the most of the momentum with donors that the event may have created. In addition, if things aren’t working in relation to a guest and the board member, you can always reallocate guests to other people where there might be a better fit.
Again, schedule these check-ins in advance of the event. People’s calendars fill up quickly, so if you wait until after the event, you might not be able to get hold of them when you want to. By scheduling in advance, you will also be sending a message to your Board member of how important this follow up is, and how much you are relying on them.
Hopefully, by reading through these points, you can clearly see how important it is to involve your board in your fundraising events. Properly executed fundraising events offer so much potential upside that it is vital that you take advantage of them. Having your board understand why it is so crucial is generally the first step in ensuring they take an active role. Take the time to make sure you can get their commitment to follow-up with clients, engage throughout the event, and put in an effort to go the extra mile.