5 Details to Turn Event Attendees into Essential Donors
Your nonprofit hosts fundraising events primarily to fund whichever campaign you’re engaged in at the moment. There’s something about the passion of a live event to encourage donations and a renewed sense of community the way an online donation form simply can’t match. But fundraising events also give your nonprofit the chance to organically gather essential data about your attendees, who might or might not be existing donors. When we say essential data, we mean information that allows your nonprofit to send more targeted and, therefore, more effective solicitations for future campaigns. This data is useful for donor retention as well as prospect identification — that is, whether or not your attendees have previously given to your nonprofit doesn’t matter when it comes to gathering data to improve your solicitations. Why are fundraising events so uniquely suited to organically gathering information like this? An event registration form will record basic information such as name, address, contact information, and corporate and educational affiliations. Your prospect development strategy can take it from there. The next time you host a fundraising event, take the opportunity to gather the following:
- Wealth markers and philanthropic indicators
- History of charitable giving
- Connections to corporate philanthropy
- Relationships with existing constituents
- Preferred communication channels
1. Wealth markers and philanthropic indicators
Before and after a fundraising event, it’s always helpful to know which of your attendees has the highest likelihood of becoming an important donor to your nonprofit’s campaign.
Whether this event is an attendee’s first interaction with your nonprofit or they have been a monthly recurring donor for years, look at your event as an occasion to do a routine check of the most common wealth markers and philanthropic indicators.
These two metrics are used by prospect researchers to evaluate how likely an individual is to make a gift to a specific nonprofit or campaign — and how large a gift they could contribute. Understandably, wealth markers and philanthropic indicators are among the most valuable data points about your event attendees you can collect, according to DonorSearch’s research.
Wealth markers help your nonprofit estimate how much an individual might be willing to give. Two of the most common are:
- Political contributions. If an individual has donated significantly to a political campaign, they clearly have a sizable disposable income to donate.
- Real estate ownership. Individuals who can afford to own expensive real estate most likely can also afford major charitable contributions.
Of course, just because an individual has a lot of disposable income doesn’t mean that they will be inclined to use it to support your nonprofit. That’s why it’s important to temper your research into wealth markers with philanthropic indicators, or information that demonstrates how likely an individual is to donate their money instead of using it for another purpose.
Our two common wealth markers also happen to be great philanthropic indicators:
- Political contributions. Research shows that individuals who donate significantly to political campaigns are 14 times more likely to donate to a nonprofit.
- Real estate ownership. Statistically, individuals who own more than $2 million in real estate are 17 times more likely to make a charitable donation.
The great thing about these two wealth markers and philanthropic indicators is that they are free to check online with only the information you get from an online registration form.
All political contributions are legally required to be registered on the FEC website, which is free for anyone to search by donor’s name. And when you ask event registrants to provide their address, you can turn that information around to research the estimated value of their property through home ownership websites like Zillow.
2. History of charitable giving
While political contributions and real estate ownership are great indicators of wealth and philanthropic interest, there’s an even better one: their charitable giving history.
Even if an individual hasn’t given to your nonprofit before, they might have given through another organization.
Use your own records, sector-wide major gift databases like Guidestar’s or the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s, or prospect research services to look for:
- Outright direct mail or online donations.
- Fundraising event attendance.
- Text-to-give donations.
- Participation in crowdfunding or peer-to-peer campaigns.
Keep in mind that you will find records of different gifts in different places, often depending on the size of the gift.
For instance, the average gift amount of a crowdfunding campaign is smaller than the amount of a major gift given during the quiet phase of a capital campaign. Smaller gifts to a crowdfunding campaign are typically listed on the crowdfunding page itself, while larger gifts would need to be researched within your own database or through a subscription service.
But beyond just looking for whether individuals have made philanthropic donations in the past, you should also take hints from the types of campaigns they have participated in and the causes they have supported.
Building a profile of your donors’ philanthropic interests can help you send them information about campaigns they would most likely be interested in. An individual who has participated in a charity walk for breast cancer research might run in your nonprofit’s 5K to raise money for another kind of healthcare philanthropy.
3. Connections to corporate philanthropy
When you’re narrowing down which of your event attendees you should approach after your event, the wealth markers and philanthropic indicators we’ve discussed so far will set you in the right direction.
But you can’t just look at an individual in isolation. Rather, it’s always a good use of your time to ask for event registrants to provide their employer’s names so you can check for an affiliation with corporate philanthropy programs.
There’s a good chance that some of your attendees work for companies that offer:
- Matching gift programs
- Volunteer grant programs
- Community grants
- Employee grant stipends
- Team volunteer grants
- Skills-based volunteering
Corporate philanthropy programs are becoming more widespread every year, so check your attendee list against lists of the most philanthropic companies, like this rundown from 360MatchPro. But look beyond just these programs.
C-level executives, board members, and business owners are in a unique position to influence the direction of their company’s corporate philanthropy program. If approached by a nonprofit whose event they attended, they might be inclined to modify their program to give more to the community.
You don’t just have to look for big partners, either! Corporate philanthropy comes in many forms. While it is easier for multinational corporations to offer corporate matching, smaller local businesses might not have the resources to offer exactly those types of programs.
To make the most of small business philanthropy, look for employees or customers of local businesses in your attendee list. Encourage these attendees to serve as your nonprofit’s advocates by emailing and calling the business owners. They might ask for in-kind donations to your nonprofit or request they sponsor your next event in some capacity.
4. Relationships with existing constituents
So far, we’ve talked about using the information gathered from your event’s registration page to identify which attendees you should reach out to and about which campaigns or proposals. Now, let’s talk about how to actually approach to them.
You’re a wealthy, philanthropically inclined businesswoman. Your inbox is probably full of solicitations from nonprofits of all kinds, including many you’ve never heard of. As much as you might want to support as many causes as possible, you can’t respond to all the solicitations you receive.
How do you decide which will receive your attention?
One of the most effective methods your nonprofit can use to ensure that your solicitations don’t get lost in the pile is to utilize any personal connections you can find.
When your email or voicemail lands in your prospect’s inbox, it has a much better chance of even being read or listened to if it comes from someone your prospect knows instead of the name of a nonprofit they have no personal connection with.
Look for personal connections like:
- Family members or close friends.
- Previous coworkers, supervisors, or board members.
- Alumni of the same universities.
- Members of the same community organizations.
- Residents of the same town or nearby neighborhoods.
- Parents of children in the same school or sports teams.
This strategy isn’t just useful for prospective donors. Lapsed donors would also be more receptive to messages from someone they remember within your nonprofit than an unknown member of your development team or a generic email address.
When asking an individual to reach out to your event attendees on your behalf, it’s always a good idea to provide templates. You’ll want to give them a short script to leave if they reach a voicemail, links to include in an email, and a short blurb about your nonprofit’s mission.
5. Preferred communication channels
You know who’s going to reach out to whom about which campaigns. Now all that’s left is the method of communication itself!
To ensure that your solicitation is received, you might be tempted to send as many messages through as many avenues as possible. After all, in filling out your event registration, your attendees likely provided their phone number, email address, and physical address, at a minimum.
But if you flood your attendees with messages after they attend your event, they’re more likely to become annoyed and tune you out than respond with the solicited support.
Instead, just use the communication channels most likely to elicit a positive response with each individual donor. Make your choice based on:
- Registration analytics: What device did your attendee use to complete your application form? The right event registration software can provide the answer. Desktop registrants might prefer email communication, mobile registrants might be more comfortable with social media or texts.
- Survey responses: What better way to identify your attendees’ preferred method of communication than by simply asking them? When you send out a survey after your event requesting feedback, include a question asking how your attendees would like you to stay in contact with them.
- Demographics: Generalizations can guide you to the most effective communication channel for your attendees based on age. These are just generalizations, though, so rely on the previous two strategies first.
There is no way to guarantee that your attendees will respond to your post-event solicitations. But you can increase your chances by contacting them using the communication channels they will pay more attention to.
The next time you host a fundraising event, work these solicitation techniques into your follow-up plan! You can use the information you’re already collecting from your registration form.
About the Author
Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.