Think of your organization’s go-to people. Those who are eager to jump in at events, share your posts on social media, are easily mobilized to help, and often communicate your mission with others. I would bet that those supporters feel needed, cared for, and valued by your organization. All of those factors lead to deeper investment.

Think of those people again; take a moment to list them in your head or jot them down.

Now ask yourself, “Why do I ignore these people and, instead, focus on getting new supporters?”

How much time at your annual fundraisers is spent explaining your organization to your guests, as if they are meeting you for the first time? This isn’t for naught, considering just how many new people are attending because they were invited by a sponsor, board member, or other connection. However, those new people do not have nearly as much buy-in as the people who are attending your fundraiser for, say, the fifth year in a row.

How much money do your long-time supporters spend on their tickets, transportation, clothing, childcare, and/or hotel reservations for your annual event? The total would be multiple hundreds of dollars, as well as several hours of their time. Now what if they are doing ​all of that​, committing ​that​ much…all to sit and hear information they already know (or worse, the same information they heard the year before)?

One could…and probably should…argue that that is a waste of their time and money, as well as your organization’s time and money.

While we will be talking more in upcoming blogs about how to assess the worth of events, it is worth noting now that having events that don’t properly serve your supporters is such a massive missed opportunity.

Here are a few ideas for focusing in on your supporters and encouraging them to go deeper at your events:

  1. Have a representative from your organization at each table to encourage deeper investment. If your staff list is short, these representatives do not have to be staff members. They can be long-time volunteers, board members, and/or people who are very familiar with your mission and programs. Empower these representatives with knowledge of who they are sitting with by giving them information on guests. Let them know if their table-mates are new, their investment level, strategy of how they can grow, calls to action and more!
  2. Address your guests as though each person is already a supporter. Have your baseline expectation be that each person attending is a donor. This simple strategy adjustment moves past the “you’re new here” feel and dives straight into investment.
  3. Present updates on your programs by using the word “you,” not “us”. Since you’re running on the assumption that each guest is a supporter, give updates saying that ​they​ made these numbers possible. Long lists of numbers and statistics can often make some guests’ eyes glaze over. So change how it is presented. If your organization dispersed ten thousand meals, gave out seven hundred coats, or equipped students with six thousand tutoring hours last year in your programs, say that ​your guests ​did that — not your organization. Not only does this make your event program more engaging, it also creates a sense of ownership with your donors. “You gave these children five hundred backpacks full of school supplies,” instead of “we gave out five hundred backpacks full of school supplies.” It’s simple, but impactful.
  4. Express your capacity for more. No donor wants to give more if they are unsure your organization can ​do​ more. Show them the vision, let them know you can and will do more. Show the successes of your past and how they are influencing your plans for the future. Did an initiative or program you touted last year fail? Explain how it did and how your organization has learned because of it. Tell them your plans for the immediate and extended future — in detail. Share your benchmarks. Once they know you can actually do more, they’ll be prompted to do more themselves.

As you plan for your next big event, strategize on how to encourage attendees to go deeper. Focusing on the new folks will have your organization missing and losing those who are already in your pocket. If your organization has many new supporters, of course pursue stewardship and cultivation. However, do not forget to encourage depth not breadth.

In fact, prioritize it.

Do you need some help managing and engaging with your supporters? Donaide can hep you gain more insight into who your people are and make building relationships with them easier. If you want to learn more, reach out to us.