4 Steps to Converting Event Donors Into Long-Term Donors


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Your event is over and you have a new pool of donors that have been introduced to your organization. How do you turn this group of one-time supporters into long-term advocates and donors?

Download Event 360's new white paper to learn how to build your donor pipeline by identifying, engaging, qualifying and cultivating your event donors.

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4 Steps to Converting Event Donors Into Long-Term Donors

  1. 1. 4 stepsto ConvertingEvent Donors toOrganizationalDonors sm
  2. 2. Summary sm With fundraising event participation increasing, it’s time to utilize those events to bring new donors to the organization. A fundraising event is not an end in and of itself; it holds the potential to significantly expand an organization’s traditional fundraising pipelines. A strategic approach can convert event donors into annual fund, major and planned gift donors. The typical event participant secures aQ Should I be converting my event participants instead of event donors into organizational donors? minimum of three to four donors for an organization 1, but organizations often make the mistake of dismissing this type ofA Spending significant time engaging event participants is philanthropy as merely tangential. While vital. However, there is a tremendous untapped opportunity it is often the case that an event donor’s in event donors who have already demonstrated their motivation to support an organization is support through a monetary donation. secondary to that of supporting the event participant, this is by no means a reason to disregard such individuals. In fact, donor motivations can be changed - from having an affinity to participant to having an affinity to cause and organization. Treat event donors the same way you would treat a friend of a friend. The burden is on you to pursue a deeper relationship and engage them outside of their relationship with the event participant. If you do not take the first step, chances are the relationship will never move beyond their support of the event participant. Q Is there really a difference between an event donor and an organizational donor? A Absolutely! There is a significant difference in the motivation behind supporting a friend/colleague/loved one versus supporting a mission that one is personally passionate about. An event donor is more likely to stop supporting an organization if their link to the event participant is terminated, while an organizational donor is not dependent upon a third party. EVENT DONORS ORGANIZATIONAL DONORS May have little knowledge of your mission Likely to have first-hand knowledge of your mission Motivation to support resulting from Personal connection to the organization a third party 10-12 months of engagement and cultivation Already engaged with your mission; investment may be required to convert requires cultivation only May need to cultivate their passion for your Organizational mission in sync with donor passion cause, then your mission Gift amount not indicative of capacity or Gift amount likely to be an expression of actual inclination due to low typical event capacity/inclination solicitation threshold1
  3. 3. “A fundraising event is not an end in and of itself”
  4. 4. 1 IDENTIFY sm Capture all the information that can possibly be captured from event donor checks, credit card receipts, online giving forms and other related correspondence and code this information in your database. Online giving forms are perhaps the easiest to implement – simply add a drop-down field at the end of the transaction process where the donor can answer a question such as: “Please tell us why you support our organization.” Similarly, data collection for offline gifts is not as complicated as it may seem – whether your organization processes event gifts internally or utilizes an external lockbox facility, start by examining the relevant existing processes andAvoid using only open workflows and adjust them accordingly.ended answers. Theseare a data collection The minimal up-front effort it may take to capture this extra information will paynightmare! Keeping things off. It is best to work closely with your IS/T team to identify the best places to storeconsistent will keep you these invaluable nuggets of data in order to avoid running into data extractionand your staff sane. issues down the line; this will likely require the utilization of a few unused fields in your database. A new event donor file should be pulled from your database on an ongoing basis (weekly at most, monthly at least) for wealth screening, data collection and statistical analysis. Do not wait until after the event is over - regular wealth screenings and data collection on your new event donors allow for real-time segmentation and timely research on individuals who surface in the top percentiles of each segment. Coordinate with your event fundraising team’s efforts to ensure that communications from your organization are in sync and you are not overlapping efforts. Using the particular capacity and inclination characteristics of your organization’s existing major, annual and planned gift prospect pools, each event donor can be assigned as a prospect Q What is wealth screening? A to one of these giving populations and a ranking Wealth screening takes your database and can be applied within each group to be used identifies donors with the best ability and later in the process in driving outreach priority. propensity to give, setting you on track to focus Further segmenting your event donors based your efforts on the best prospects for each on known educational and/or professional solicitation. Prospect research centers such as background, interests, etc. can be very useful as Wealth Engine can help you with this research. you begin to engage these individuals. c apac i ty and i nc li nati o n p r o fi le Major Gifts Annual Gift Planned Gift known e duc at i onal and profe s s i onal backgr o u n d Sample Finance Medicine Entrepreneur Event Donor known i n ter ests Segmentation Fine Arts
  5. 5. sm ENGAGE 2You already know that a fundamental element of successful event fundraisingis ongoing participant engagement: don’t stop communicating to your eventparticipants just because the event is over! The same applies to your event donors.Given the somewhat tenuous relationship event donors have with your organization,extending the same engagement practices as you would to your participants is criticalto building long-term relationships. In fact, proactive engagement is even morecritical since these donors are likely to know much less about your organization - aperfect opportunity for you to educate them about your mission and demonstrategood stewardship of their investment.Recognizing the difference between event donors and existing organizationaldonors, a unique engagement strategy must be executed for the former. To use an 8-10 is just a guideline.analogy, if your event participants, annual fund, major and planned gift donors What’s more importantwere your family, they would be your brothers and sisters; event donors would be than quantity is theyour cousins from Paris. The latter are related to you, but somewhat more distant, quality of theand requiring a nuanced communication style. communication. Show the donor thatWithin this unique engagement strategy it is important that communications are you want to get to knowtailored to reflect the event and participant that the donor supported. 2 A series of them. You’re NOT makingeight to ten communications should be sent, each referencing the fundraising an ask, you’re setting the stage for the ask.progress of the individual supported as well as the success of the event itself. Themessage should also connect the mission of the event - raising funds - with themission of the larger organization. When possible, the message should also reflectthe way the donor was introduced to the organization. The communications shouldinclude a pre-defined mix of media and content, letters, emails, phone calls,postcards, etc. and should contain both quantitative and qualitative educationalinformation about the impact of the event on your organization. Keep in mind thatthe purpose of the communications is purely for the sake of drawing the eventdonor’s interest further into the organization and priming for cultivation; this is notthe time for solicitation.Sample Engagement Plan for Event Donorswho fall into Major Gift cultivation strategy 30 w ks 3 w ks En gagem en t L etter #3 I nt roduc t i on Le t t e r 27 w ks 6 w ks P h on e c a l l # 2 with fo l low-u p n ote Hand-wri t t e n not e wi t h re le va n t i n s ert 24 w ks 9 w ks Em ail u pdate #2 E mai l updat e 21 w ks 12 w ksH a nd -w r itte n n ote with rel evan t in sert Phone c all wi t h follow- up note 18 w ks 15 w ks En gagem en t L etter #2 Postc ard updat e re : t he e ve nt 4
  6. 6. smUnique content should be developed for each communication, primarily driven bythe giving segment that the event donor has been assigned to in the identificationstage. Event donors that are segmented into your major gift cultivation strategy mightreceive content that is written in a more sophisticated fashion, hand-written notesand information that is more personalized than annual fund pieces, while plannedgift prospect communications might contain words and images that would appealto this age constituency. Within each segment, consider further segmenting andtailoring the content to speak to prospects’ known educational and/or professionalbackground, interests, etc.It may become necessary toaddress and assuage eventparticipant concerns about your Q Will event donors stop supporting events and participants if they start supporting my Annual Fund? Aorganization engaging “their” Not if you engage your event donors in the right way andsupporters. Should this occur, connect them to your mission. According to researchengage your participants in your compiled by True Sense, a direct marketing firm, donors whopost-event cultivation strategy are subsequently engaged by an organization’s annual fundand utilize their knowledge and who respond to annual fund solicitations, end up beingof their donors to help you stronger organizational supporters overall.identify and properly engagetheir donors in your mission. Your event participants have done a lot for yourorganization, continue to engage them in your efforts and use their passion foryour work to craft stronger messages to their donors. Also, reiterate that a donor isimplicitly opting in to receive communications from your organization by makinga gift to your organization (unless the donor specifies otherwise when making thegift). At the time that an event gift is made, organizations may wish to proactivelyask event donors to opt out (or opt in) to future communications.By the time the event is over, these donors are already well into the engagementcycle. You haven’t asked them for a gift yet, but they are more educated about yourorganization, what you do and how their donation to your event is making an impacton the world. Qualify & Cultivate 3 A number of people will begin to respond toQ This is a great strategy, but how do I get the rest of my non-event staff on board? your engagement strategy, self-identifying as prospects. While cultivation should commence immediately for these individuals, a qualificationA Training, education and leadership. With any strategy should be deployed for the remaining new strategies and tactics, you want to get your people, beginning with those individuals who colleagues’ and your leadership’s support from the scored in the highest data modeling percentiles. beginning. Engage them by making them part of the Each possible prospect should be assigned process from the start and using all your available to a major, annual or planned gift officer tools to demonstrate the positive outcomes of responsible for making personal contact and engaging event donors. qualifying each individual within 4-6 weeks. 5
  7. 7. Cultivation Tip: A set of criteria, created with your development department, should be established and used to qualify event donors as legitimate prospects for the pre-identifiedIt’s Not pool (e.g. Major Gifts), someone that should be transferred to another pool (e.g. Annual Fund instead of Major Gifts), or an event donor that should be disqualifiedJust for completely. Once qualification has occurred, cultivation can begin. Whereas the engagementDonors! phase focused on educating the event donor while deliberately excluding any type of solicitation, the cultivation stage is focused on personalizing their experience and providing a subtle call to action. To this end, communications should now elicit an emotional response and take on a sense of urgency while continuing to You may know very little weave in the name of the event and the participant that the event donor initially about the mysteries supported, tying these into a new opportunity to make an additional impact beyond of your organizational the event. The purpose of cultivation is, after all, getting to know these individuals donors’ motivations beyond their initial transaction, obtaining their trust, and making the case for why they should support your organization over another. to support your organization. However, A critical part of any cultivation phase is actually meeting the potential donor in you possess at least person, giving your organization a human face and reinforcing a personal level one valuable piece of of attention and connection. This becomes an even more important reality when working with event donors due to the distance between them and your organization. information about every Consider hosting on-site cultivation events for each giving segment, tailoring event donor’s motivation: the content of each event to the audience you are inviting. Inspiring speakers an event participant and organizational leadership should be a part of each event, as well as existing asked them to do so! organizational donors who were once strictly event donors. Consider inviting Leverage this information event participants to the cultivation event as well, acting as ambassadors to the by cultivating your event organization. participants. Steward your event participants as you would your most well-connected trustees; they are there to open doors for you and may be willing to help secure long-term relationships with your event donors. Give your participants recognition for their assistance and find meaningful ways to reward them for helping you to develop relationships. The qualification and cultivation phase should continue until you feel that the prospect is ready to be solicited. The ultimate goal is to make repeated personal contact and, in doing so, match your event donors’ philanthropic passions with your mission. sm
  8. 8. sm CONVERT 4 The event donor has been introduced to your organization, you have signaled a clear interest in furthering the relationship by planting the seeds of engagement and you have cultivated the relationship. Now comes the moment of truth: will the event donor convert and, if so, will the conversion take place as you had planned and built your goals around? The only way to find out is to ask! If appropriate, consider involving the event participant who introduced the prospect to your organization. As with all charitable gift solicitation, listening to your prospect is the best way to know when they are ready to make the conversion from event donor to organizational donor. Making a solicitation that will result in the conversion from event to organizational donor requires the same level of segmented, customized communication that occurred earlier on in the process. For example, an event donor that was earlier identified as an Annual Fund prospect could be asked to continue their support by joining your organization’s monthly giving society, using language that complements the event they initially supported, e.g. a walkathon supporter can be asked to “go the extra mile” by joining your monthly giving program. CONCLUSION By identifying, engaging, qualifying, cultivating and converting event donors, an organization fully leverages its event participants’ networks to build new donor pipelines. Doing so will likely require an investment in education and training in order to shift the current culture of fundraising staff and event participants. A long-term commitmentQ How is post-event engagement of donors currently being practiced in the market? from leadership as well as a blend of best fundraisingA We talked to one major organization that piloted a major event donor cultivation effort that generated positive results. practices must come together The amount of resources required to implement in order to successfully launch a pilot conversion strategy for your organization pales in comparison to the potential return on a conversion program, investment if even a small number of incremental the financial impact of which will only be new major, planned and annual gifts are secured as realized in the years (not months) following its a result of the conversion effort. implementation.1 http://www.event360.com/assets/files/jointheracerwr2010.pdf2 http://nten.peachnewmedia.com/streaming/interface-v7.php?topic=23423&band=1&stream=1&id=&semid=7328&provider=341&custid=71112&static=1This white paper was produced by Event 360, in collaboration with Troy A. Finn, Assistant Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Development at Columbia University Medical Center. 7
  9. 9. We’re donating 5% of our time each week to help organizations achieve their missions. office hours sm Email us at fundraising@event360.com to set up your one-hour pro bono consulting session with Jeff Shuck or one of our other fundraising consultants.Facebook.com/EventFundraising @event360 www.event360.com/blog