Thursday, April 10, 2014

Relationships Are the Key to Donor Cultivation

by: Samantha Swaim
It can be easy to get caught up in the weeds of your event. Themes. Centerpieces. Linen colors. Will your guests like the chicken?

But these are not the things that are going to secure fundraising success at your event, and losing valuable time here will distract you from the most important piece. The best thing you can do for your event is exhibit trusted leadership of your organization by cultivating your relationships well.

People give to people.

CommunityAction’s Celebration of Community Spirit was wildly successful again this year because of the relationships they cultivate. When their development director and executive director move through the room, it’s like a family reunion. Everyone in the room genuinely feels like these leaders are their friends—because they are. These leaders let relationships drive their work instead of the other way around. They clearly understand that to create a strong community for the people they serve, they actually have to build a strong community for the organization.

These two women are seen as largely impactful community leaders in Washington County, speaking out, building relationships and investing in their donors and organization partners. They understand that these relationships make their very important work to eliminate poverty and create opportunities, possible.

The work they do all year to cultivate donors and supporters pays off in spades the night of their event because they have created a room that is there to support the work and is ready to give. Their special appeal is by far their biggest level of engagement at the event. Their focus here maximizes their fundraising as the special appeal is the largest opportunity to raise money the night of your event.

There is no raffle or auction package that will do more for you than your appeal. And your special appeal cannot be successful if you haven’t done the work well in advance of your event. You should always be working on this, because these relationships will help your organization year-round if done well.

Be careful where you spend your time on an event. You need linen, but no one will remember what color it was. People will remember feeling like they were a part of something bigger than themselves that inspires them to give more and do more in their community.

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