A fundraising event with a fun, festive, social atmosphere focused on the positive impact of the donor's gift, increases individual giving and fosters a more successful relationship with major donors than an event with a more formal, business feel.
Community Action decided to transform their annual gala from a formal affair with a keynote speaker focused on corporate giving to a much more socially-focused evening celebrating the impact of their donors and were met with incredible success. People were there to socialize and mingle, and many came with their spouses and partners instead of just with their business associates.
It is common that, in a business formatted event, a vast majority of attendees have their tickets purchased by their company and are seated around the company table, so, in turn, attendees expect their business to write a check at the end of the night. But being there amongst friends and companions, instead of business associates, can make attendees feel more personally responsible for donating and maybe even create a bit of positive peer pressure to be generous with their giving.
This was very clearly reflected in the astounding increase of donations during Community Action’s special appeal.
This social environment appeals more to attendees’ emotions and less to their more logical sides. And appealing to the emotions is an important strategy in getting people to donate. Given too much time and opportunity to rationalize and ponder a donation, a person will quite often decide to give less. You want to create an immediate, emotional reaction in your audience through social interaction, a compelling story, and the desire to gain social approval. You never want to give them too much time to consider and weigh their decisions.
In “Rational Thought Can Override a Generous Intuition,” an article in the March/April 2013 edition of Scientific American Mind, author Michele Solis discusses a recent study of this phenomenon, saying:
“To peer into this aspect of human nature, Rand [David Rand, a psychologist at Harvard University who led this study] and his colleague gave study participants 40 cents, then asked them to decide how much to keep for themselves and how much to donate to a common pool that would later be doubled and split evenly among those who donated. Those who quickly made up their minds donated more than those who took longer, suggesting that quick decisions based on intuition were more generous than slower, deliberate decisions.”
So, keep your fundraising events fun and social, avoiding a more staid, logical business atmosphere in order to encourage your attendees to stick with their initial emotional impulse to donate generously.