This week I surprised a few folks when making a presentation on the connection between major gifts and a well run event. I began a presentation with this statement: “I know nothing about running events, but there is one thing I do know if you run an event incorrectly your major donors will head for the high hills.”
Events are the glue that holds your major gift program together. Events create memories for your donors. Memories that will last a life time… memories that can be good or bad.
When was the last time you saw this as you arrived at local charity event?
You pull up to the venue only to find out there is no parking left and you are forced to walk four blocks in the 90 degree heat. As you arrive at the front door you see a line of couples, 10 or 12 deep, waiting to sign in. The registration table manned by a single teenager girl, nearly in tears, with adults expressing their frustration as she cannot slap hand scribbled name stickers on lapels fast enough. You take your seat at a table of strangers, only to find cold chicken platted sometime last week. You then set through a boring two hour program whose only highlight was a photo collage PowerPoint that had to be restarted twice in order to sync the images with the music. The event concludes with confusing remarks by a soft spoke executive director who simply says, “Help us with a gift if you can.” No explanation of how or why?
The sad answer to the question of when you last saw a local charity event like this… all too often.
Events leave powerful, brand impressions about your cause or charity on the minds of those in attendance. Those memorable impressions literally stay with your donors forever. Every time in the future you write to those who attended rest assured they will remember their experience. As they open the fundraising letter or read your newsletter their mind will wander back to that evening. If they had a great night, an evening that touched their hearts, it will absolutely will impact the size of their next gift.
While it may be difficult to measure the impact on post-event fundraising, I have seen a great event lift response to post event mailings by as much as 150%. The amount of money raised after a successful event can easily be doubled after the event provided the donors had a good experience.
Just imagine the impact of this experience:
You pull up to the charity venue and there are nicely dressed young men in neckties, directing you to a parking spot. As you approach the door you are greeted by a smiling young lady who hands you a program and thanks you for coming. She escorts you to the door where a senior staff person greets you and with a big hug, thanks you for coming and tells you that you’ll be seated with your friend, Jane Smith from the budget committee. The event’s program is peppered with great entertainment and compassionate testimonies from those who’ve been helped by the charity. Finally, the local news anchor serving as the evening M.C. steps to the podium. He gives a concise 5 – 7 minute close asking you to take a pledge card and the pen at the center of your table. He lays out a compelling, urgent need and tells you exactly what your check will be used for. As he concludes the young men from the parking lot are now helping the speaker by collecting the pledge cards and checks which have been returned to the 9 x 12 envelop. As you exit the room and move into the lobby those that gave testimonies throughout the program are there smiling, shaking hands and saying, “Thank you for your help… you are making a difference, thank you.”
The post-event mailing you prepared is already in route to the printer. Within the next few days, the major donors who attended your event will open a hand addressed thank you letter with a first class, live stamped reply envelop addressed to your charity. What do you think your donor will do?