Thursday, September 19, 2013

Improved Format Suits Audience Just Fine

Columbia Land Trust held another wildly successful event last weekend at Montgomery Park. A great portion of that success can be traced to the momentum they were able to capitalize on due to the event’s actual format, one that they started to play with three years ago.

CLT’s dedicated audience is comprised of people passionate about the mission of the organization. This means they have the ‘right’ people in the room for fundraising. That also means many of them know each other and the event is a great touch base for them to see each other and catch up. Sometimes, this can be challenging when you need the audience to be focused on fundraising during the program.

Columbia Land Trust got in front of this to hit both targets by reformatting their event to maximize the potential for both fundraising AND socializing. They started with a standing cocktail hour and select silent auction. This allowed for friends to greet each other, and also participate in raising money through silent auction items carefully calibrated to the outdoor, wine-loving nature of the crowd.

The audience was then moved into theatre style seating for a tight program that included a great talk by their Executive Director, a live auction of items hand-picked to match the tastes of the audience, and a compelling special appeal story followed by an ask and a collection.  

Once the money was raised, the music came on upstairs and the audience moved into the party. Seated, family-style catering and a festive music-filled room opened up to allow all the friendly connections to continue. No other fundraising was asked of the crowd, just fun, food, and friends. It was a win-win, CLT hit all of their fundraising goals due to the passionate and generous support, and then everyone got to celebrate and raise a glass to the success.

The format of a fundraising event is one of the largest tools you have to create momentum. Think about your audience, think about your goals, and find a way to bring all of them together.

Congratulations to Columbia Land Trust on another great event!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Curate Your Event for the Audience You Want to Attend


Well curated events where the audience, the program and the goals for the event are in line, help pave the way to success

When we start talking with non-profits about what they hope to achieve with their fundraising events they often reply, “We need big money from our big donors AND we need a bunch of new supporters, too.” Sometimes these two can go hand-in-hand, but only if very special care is taken to curate the attendance.

Throwing the dice and waiting to see about who will be attending your event is not the way to do either the friend-raising or the fundraising. We regularly encourage our non-profits to get very clear about their goals and let those guide the event development.

The purpose of acquisition events is to bring new people (who may become potential donors down the road) into your organization and introduce them to the great work you do. Major donor events are all about taking the folks who are already significant donors to your organization and getting all of them together to continue, and maybe even increase, their support.

When you are trying to do both kinds of event at the same time, can you see how the intersection is at odds with fundraising? You’re trying to take two different audiences on different journeys at the same time. For people new to your organization, there is a certain amount of cultivation and education needed to move them into being a major donor. This is the same work you have invested in your major donors, and continue to invest if you’re doing it well.

Curate your events to suit the audience you are seeking to attend them. No event can be everything to everyone. And while doing one big event for everyone seems advantageous in terms of workload, it often runs counter to the event’s maximum potential. Make your acquisition events specific to the crowd you’re targeting and more about education than fundraising. Don’t assume this audience knows who you are and what you do. Tell them your story and build the compelling case for their involvement and future financial support. Often these are smaller, very targeted events like meet and greets at your offices or a happy hour where you bring targeted staff members to talk about their work.

For the big fundraising, invite your major donors to an event that shows them what you’ve been up to, and what you hope to continue to do with their help. To celebrate the hard work you all do together. These can be large or small events depending on your fundraising goals, but if your primary focus for an event is fundraising, you must make sure you have put together a very specific room of donors. Sending out an invite and waiting to see who comes leaves too much to chance. Get strategic. Develop a targeted invite list, reach out personally and engage donors with a specific solicitation to be a sponsor, a table host or a guest.

Most often, supporters are friends of an organization before they become donors. That’s the cultivation process. Think about your events and where their purpose falls on this spectrum to help shape your event.