Take charge of nonprofit events with this ultimate guide and comprehensive toolkit. You will be showered with creative ideas, OMG-worthy tips, and worksheets that walk you through the process, from planning to party to post-event tasks. We've got all you need to plan spectacular nonprofit events...in one place!
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Table of Contents
Events offer nonprofits an opportunity to engage donors, raise funds, and have a terrific time doing it. We've leaned on a lot of experience to bring our very best advice and tips to you.
When you’re ready to party with a purpose, you’re ready to plan some nonprofit events! Raising (and giving) money is more enjoyable when you gather supporters, board members, and community partners to have a great time while supporting a mission everyone cares about.
At CharityEngine, we’ve been both the nonprofit (remember that story?) and, more recently, the company with software that powers organizations like Wounded Warrior Project and MD Anderson Cancer Center as they engage their donors and raise money. Our enterprise clients aren’t strangers to events, but some of our smaller clients think that events are reserved for the big boys.
We’re here to tell you that any nonprofit – of any size, focused on any mission – can use events to rally supporters, engage and increase donors, and raise funds.
This guide pulls together all the advice we give our clients, whether they’re enterprise-level or just starting to think of how events can be part of their fundraising plan.
In it, you’ll learn:
Different types of nonprofit events
How to create a nonprofit event plan
How to recruit sponsors
The best ways to promote your event
How to manage volunteers
What to do when the party's over
And as a bonus, you can download our comprehensive Nonprofit Event Toolkit. It contains three different editable worksheets you can use as the foundation of your event planning, including:
A Nonprofit Event Plan template that guides you through tasks, a VIP invitation list, sponsorship, and volunteers, and even offers suggested questions to ask on a site visit
A Nonprofit Event Timeline that lists which tasks need to be considered and when
And a Nonprofit Event Sponsorship Packet, which offers a worksheet you can use to build the all-important sponsorship packet
Between this guide and our hands-on toolkit, you'll have the best event guidance available.
Types of Nonprofit Events
Well, this could be an encyclopedia. It’s hard even to put your arms around nonprofit events because if we’re being literal, "events” encompasses everything from a bake sale to save sea turtles to a gala to raise funds for the American Red Cross.
For these purposes, we will focus on the types of events that our clients use often and successfully. This list isn’t, and can’t be, exhaustive because many of our clients run specific events that we can’t lump into a category. But we hope this smorgasbord of ideas offers you a plan or sparks a unique idea your nonprofit can use.
Some of the biggest nonprofits raise an incredible amount of money through galas. They often include silent auctions, and donors pay high ticket prices to come for dinner, drinks, and dancing.
We mention galas not because you need a tutorial on planning a party and not because a gala is a great idea for every nonprofit. We mention them so you can scale this idea to your size.
What do we mean? Throw the kind of party you can afford and sell tickets to it. You can rent out a school gym and serve huge pots of chili. You can ask individual donors to host dinners in their homes. You could ask a local band to play at a park (free publicity for them). In all these events, you will sell tickets, and the proceeds benefit your nonprofit. Gala is just a fancy word for party, and in this case, party is just a fancy word for fundraising.
We’ve learned that there’s nothing—even happy hours—that we can’t take virtual. While it isn’t the best forum for many things, there are actually times when virtual events are perfect.
When are they perfect? When you want to keep costs down, or your audience is widely spread out, or when you want supporters to move at their own pace (think a progressive series of presentations, like a Masterclass), virtual events are the perfect way to engage donors and raise funds.
When planning a virtual event, we recommend the following steps:
Step 1: Start planning your virtual fundraising event.
It’s critical that you start with a goal so you can easily measure success. Is your ultimate goal more money, more donors, more community involvement? For many of our clients, setting dual goals (we will raise this much money, and we will increase our donors by this percent) gives them the most bang for their buck.
Step 2:Decide which type of virtual fundraising event you want to host.
Most virtual events fall into one of two categories: peer-to-peer and simulated attendance events. Peer-to-peer would be something like a social media campaign around an event in which supporters are showering social media with a link to your donation page. A simulated attendance event would be more like an online auction or a series of webinars, like a book club or instructional event.
CharityEngine client Phoenix Boys Choir executed a spectacular fundraising concert, all online! For either type, you will want to market the event well, streamline the signup, and rally your supporters.
Step 3: Set up your virtual fundraising event.
Before you get started, setting expectations is critical for virtual events. Make sure you walk through the participant journey: what actions will they take, and when? Do they have the tools and guidelines they need to manage the tasks? And don’t forget to include a phone number or live chat if someone needs help!
Here is a series of tasks that will help you make sure you’re remembering everything you need for a virtual event:
An event information page on your website
An event landing page for registration
Software tests to make sure the platform works and your staff is familiar with it
These steps take you from signup (oh, and make sure everything translates well to mobile) to prepping your website to sending the invites, testing the software, and thanking your supporters.
Step 4: Promote your event.
Because it’s a virtual event, your promo can be virtual, too. No need to rent out a billboard on the highway! Email will be your best friend but segment your audience, so they get the most appropriate message for their circumstances. Social media is terrific here, too, because you can create a funny hashtag and use it all over social media to gain some traction. And be a blabbermouth. Tell everyone you know!
Need some online fundraising event ideas?
We have a million, but here are five to consider:
A virtual concert
A cooking event
A how-to demonstration (how to knit, how to fly fish, use whatever expertise you have around you)
An online exercise or meditation class
A book club
Even if you don’t pencil in an online event for your next round of fundraising, keep these ideas in your pocket. They don’t cost much, they’re fairly easy to pull off, and they’re effective.
Peer-to-Peer events, or P2P because it’s faster to type, are the bread and butter of fundraising for many of our clients. This model of enlisting supporters to become fundraising ambassadors is the easiest way we know to engage donors and reach far more than you would otherwise.
There are a few different types of P2P campaigns we see:
A run/walk, golf tournament, or another sporting event
A day of giving, which is usually national (GivingTuesday right after Thanksgiving)
A special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary
And there are big benefits!
It’s a low-cost option because you can leverage online tools.
It blankets a broad population with your message and mission, growing your donor base.
Easily repeated, they’re also easily scaled as the effort grows organically.
Most importantly, these campaigns let your most engaged donors actively participate in fundraising.
While P2P campaigns are scalable, flexible, and should be part of any nonprofit toolkit, some pitfalls can be easily avoided if you mitigate them ahead of time. These include a lack of control over your branding and messaging. When you dispatch hundreds of ambassadors, it’s tough to keep almost anything consistent!
We recommend equipping your ambassadors well with branded tools and providing carefully crafted language for promos on social media.
Plan your campaign, including thinking about technology, tools, marketing, and communicating with your fundraisers. And remember that these fundraisers will gather money on your behalf, so be sure you collect the funds regularly.
Technology like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay can make cash transactions less frequent. Not managing cash can make reporting and analytics (and accountability) less straightforward and valuable.
The right technology can alleviate many of these challenges. With P2P-specific software, communication between teams and your organization is automatic and easy. You can even offer anonymous giving opportunities and incorporate goal thermometers. We would even say that a P2P campaign can’t reach its potential without the right technology, so ensure that’s in place before you get started.
Here are our six steps to P2P success:
Choose the right technology.
Equip your fundraisers with a robust toolkit.
Plan a well-organized campaign.
Use social media as the foundation of a strong marketing campaign.
Nurture, engage, and support your fundraisers.
Monitor the performance of the campaign.
If you want to see examples of nonprofits using P2P for big fundraising wins, check out this fundraising tools webinar that John Coogan, formerly with Wounded Warrior Project and now with CharityEngine, and Alexis Langley (she was Alexis Simoneau when the webinar was recorded! 👰) offered on this technique. The webinar includes many real-life examples of successful P2P campaigns.
Auctions, while labor intensive, are popular with nonprofits because they can raise significant funds while engaging and entertaining donors! There are three types of auctions: online, which is less labor-intensive, in-person, or silent. In the next chapter, we will cover creating a fundraising event plan, but there are some tips we offer that are specific to auctions.
Mine your committee’s ideas for auction items from your supporters, and don’t limit the ideas to beach houses or sports tickets. Can someone make a killer cheesecake? Do you have a party planner, professional organizer, college-resume helper, or great gardener in your pool? Auction experiences and skills as much as you auction ski trips.
Use auction software to register attendees, catalog items, take bids, and adjust inventory when something is sold. Ticketing and registration—even seat assignments, if it’s a live auction—should be easy-peasy if you use the right software.
And speaking of this, make sure you offer mobile bidding. Whether your event is virtual, silent, or in person, mobile bidding (and an ample mobile-bidding window of time) can amplify your success.
Here’s a to-do list for planning a nonprofit auction:
Plan which of the three types of auctions you want to have.
Choose a date and time.
Set goals that can be measured when the event is over.
Set a budget and choose a venue that fits that budget.
Promote your event! Set up an automated email sequence and prepare some attention-grabbing social media posts.
Set up a website page, so all the information is readily available.
Think of the extras...linens, food, bars, auctioneers, music.
Collect your items! This can take a while, so allow plenty of time. And for heaven’s sake, ensure your board members are helping to secure donations and buying tickets!
Set up your online registration and ticketing.
Host the auction, using software to keep everything in order and streamlined.
Follow up with everyone...those who donated items, those who purchased them, and volunteers.
Then think about donor retention. How can you keep attendees coming back? Here are five tips:
Use auction software to make registration easy, enable mobile bidding, and let your software notify your guests. They can even set escalation amounts, using their phones to place a maximum bid. And, of course, the system can let them know if they’ve won an item!
Engage with your guests. Segment attendees into smaller groups, such as giving levels, for personalized and guided outreach after the event.
Procure great items so attendees keep coming back. This is another spot auction software will lighten your workload by managing your procurement process right in your CRM. The software will:
Generate item donation solicitation letters
Track the procurement status
Log item locations
Bundle multiple items into packages
Auto-assign package numbers
Set starting bids and raises
Group items by category
Follow up with your attendees. Let them know how successful the auction was and what the proceeds will support. Inform them of future events, thank them for their support, and be sure to ask them if they want to get more involved in your mission.
Auctions can seem intimidating, and they probably can be if they are large enough. If they're anchoring a big effort, like a capital campaign, it can seem like a lot of work. But getting things for free and selling them to help a nonprofit mission is pure genius, so don’t overlook this idea!
Obviously, this is a massive and general bucket, but it’s to lodge the idea in your brain that anything can be an event. We’ve talked about different ideas already, but there’s no limit to what your imagination can create.
When you’re short on fundraising ideas, here are some creative ways to get people together:
A dance-a-thon in which people gather pledges based on how long they’re able to continue dancing
A craft sale in which your donors create (or bake!) and sell goods
A golf or putt putt tournament in which you sell tickets for participation
A cupcake-decorating contest
A community scavenger hunt
An expert class or guided tour
A local event, such as a play (partner with the theater to get a portion of ticket sales donated)
A local pizza place (same thing)
Tickets to an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast or hot-dog lunch
A photo contest
A dog walk, in which people get pledges to see how long they can walk their dogs
No matter what you choose, create a hashtag and publicize the event on social media. One of the most effective tools for getting the word out, social media for nonprofits is a powerful tool. Join the chorus and get your event in front of people!
For example, if you are a veteran’s organization, you can think of fundraisers that memorialize those lost or injured in combat. You can sell engraved bricks for a walkway, plaques to be affixed to benches, or trees that will be planted at your headquarters. Veterans often like walks and runs; it gets friends together, and there can be a special group of wounded veterans that participate together.
If you serve children, art-based fundraisers are wonderful ways the community can come together with those you serve. Ask children to draw pictures or design ornaments you can raffle. Plan a virtual concert or age-appropriate show and sell tickets.
If you’re a food bank, raffle a tour of your facility or dinner with your dynamic board. Partner with a supermarket, whether that means collecting unsold food or asking if you can designate an empty shopping cart to collect food donations.
One of our animal welfare clients, Rescue Village, offers Putts for Paws and Tails at Twilight as fundraisers. Of course, you can always plan a community dog wash or let donors sponsor pets if you don’t want to plan a gala. And our favorite idea? Enlist an online photo shop and sell a pet calendar featuring your most irresistible residents.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can use events to round out your fundraising plans. As long as they’re carefully thought-out and bring people together for a cause, the sky’s the limit.
How to Create a Nonprofit Event Plan
This might be the most important chapter of this e-book, because no matter what kind of event you’re considering, creating an event plan is critical. Your event plan is your blueprint, and the other documents we suggest you consider round out all aspects of event planning.
If you are deliberate about creating a plan and diligent about recording how the event shapes up, you’ll have a map for next year’s event. There’s a saying: Measure twice, cut once. In terms of your event plan, it means take the time to do it right the first go-round and you will save yourself time in the future...and your event will keep getting better and better!
Before you put pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard, zoom out and look at how events figure into your overall fundraising plan. When you’re a smaller nonprofit, events are a great way to spread awareness about your mission and grow your list of supporters for future outreach. But if in-person events are 50% or more of your fundraising efforts, you’re putting way too many eggs in that basket. Events can be a little unpredictable (2020, anyone?), so we would recommend dialing that back a little and ensuring events are a part of, but not all of, your efforts.
We caution larger nonprofits to be strategic with events. They’re labor-intensive and can cost a nonprofit a lot in staff hours, which should be calculated into your profit when the event is over. If you’re in the red after an event, it wasn’t a success, even if it was a lot of fun.
A word of caution from our experience: Many non-profits will engage volunteer teams for event planning. As a member of the staff or volunteer leadership, it is so important to eliminate obstacles to your team's success. At the end of the day, everyone's goal is to raise funds for your mission. Try not to micro-manage your volunteers or get lost in the details that aren't going to help you raise more funds.
One other pre-plan decision: what’s your ticket pricing model? Here’s a quick way to think of it:
Lower your ticket price if you want a large number of attendees. When you’re looking for sponsors, this might appeal to businesses that want their name in front of many people.
Raise your ticket price if you’re targeting higher net-worth donors for a more exclusive event. Sponsors looking to get in front of that demographic might find this to be a valuable opportunity.
Let’s take a look at what goes into an event plan. Our downloadable toolkit includes a comprehensive template to get started. It will prompt you to think through, and document:
Tasks with owner, dates, status, and notes
VIP invitation list, with room to note if a personal note is needed
Sponsor list, to keep track of who is sponsoring and at what level, and to have their logos in one spot for promotional materials
Staffing schedule that lists tasks, time blocks, assignments, and volunteers with contact information
Common site visit questions and room to note the venue, questions, and responses
And activities, such as a silent auction, scavenger hunt, or wine raffle
The specifics of what you want to track might differ, but a cloud-based spreadsheet that all team members can access is a tool critical for success.
That event plan isn’t the end of it, though. There are a few other foundational documents that will help you with your event.
A sponsorship packet is really a marketing document. This information is designed to inform businesses of your mission and make event sponsorship irresistible!
When you take the time to create a sponsorship package, it can be quickly duplicated and distributed. Everyone gets the same document with the same terms, and everything remains transparent. You can certainly customize the packet for each business, but the guts of it shouldn’t change.
P.S. Having a document you can email someone saves a ton of time you’d spend on the phone or driving around town.
What goes in a sponsorship packet? Our event toolkit contains a Nonprofit Event Sponsorship Packet with a template that makes it easy. Just make a copy and build your packet right in the document using the prompts.
Here is a pretty standard list of what you want to include:
Mission: You almost certainly have a mission statement that puts into words your nonprofit’s purpose. Tweak that if it’s not compelling, and then use it to introduce your sponsorship packet.
Event details: Explain what you’re planning. When is it? What time? Where? What format? Use language that demonstrates how this event will involve or help the community.
Audience: Businesses use sponsorships as marketing themselves to show how invested they are in the community and nonprofit causes. But they have target demographics to which they want to appeal, so if your event expects college-educated professionals in their thirties or Boomers with time and income to spare, demographics can be a big selling point.
Fundraising goal: It’s also wise to explain what these donations will fund. Remember, this is a marketing document, so you want to clearly state why you need the sponsorship (sponsorships raise significantly more money than individual donors) and how their support can help your mission.
Sponsorship levels: Once you’ve stated your fundraising goal, tie your sponsorship levels to a percentage of the overall goal. And tier the levels so that in promotions, the business with the largest sponsorship gets the most publicity.
Sponsorship benefits: What’s in it for them? Signage at the event, listing on the invitation and t-shirts, the opportunity to add some branded items to the swag bag? A table for ten in a premier spot? Find whatever is appealing and won’t cost you money.
Deadline: Don’t give them a long time to decide, because then they’ll take a long time to decide. Get your sponsors wrapped up early so you can keep going with the planning.
Finally, contact information: Make it really, really easy for them to get in touch with you. Phone, cell phone, email, and address for the carrier pigeon. (That’s a joke.)
Okay, now you’re in good shape. What else? How about thinking through a list of board requirements? Yes, let’s put them to work. How can your board members help you? There are lots of ways. They’re likely unique to your board and your nonprofit, but here are some considerations:
Secure donations of wine, food, music, photography
Procure major gifts
Use your board! Their dedication to your nonprofit, community connections, and personal networks can spell success for your event.
One other plan to consider is a marketing plan. Put some thought into the best way you can publicize the event.
Here are some questions to answer:
What are your goals? You’ll market the event differently depending on the answer.
What is the specific information people need to know? The theme, the date and time, how to register or buy tickets, how to volunteer, what the dress code is, what the registration deadline is...these are all critical pieces of information.
Who is your audience? This answer will define the best ways to reach them.
If you segment your audience, you will customize your outreach. For example, your emails might have different content if you’re talking to millennials or Boomers. Even social media can be segmented because TikTok appeals to a group that might not be looking at Facebook.
What outreach channels will you use? Phone, email, social media, blast text?
A chapter of your plan should confirm the governance, or who will be responsible for what. There are a lot of duties in marketing an event. Who will manage emails and email automation from your CRM? Who will handle social media? Who will create a list of top donors and call them? Who will liaise with the board? Who will create an ad?
How will you recognize sponsors? Who is responsible for ensuring sponsorship deliverables? And who is responsible for sharing the proof of performance and “thank yous” after the event?
Your website! Will you use a homepage takeover? You’ll need an event page that is updated as sponsors join and the event takes shape. Who will update it? Who will create the event page and the registration page?
What’s your marketing timeline?
What does success look like? Let’s separate marketing from the overall event goals. How many tickets do you hope to sell? Measure smart metrics, and you’ll be able to track your success year over year.
What’s the post-event follow-up? Sometimes it’s a survey to get feedback. It’s always a big thank-you note.
How about your volunteers? How will you communicate with them before, during, and after the event?
Here's another we like to call taking advantage of the “FOMO Factor” – or Fear of Missing Out. If you want people to show up, you need to show them what they will miss if they don't attend.
Do you have any big names in the community or celebrities attending? Have them share a video testimonial about how excited they are to attend. If you're promoting an annual event, share photos of how much fun everyone had in past events. Use images to illustrate what a great time everyone had! Share photos of the decor, the band, the auction items, vendors (food), and get people thrilled to buy their tickets because they won't want to miss out. After the event, plaster photos all over your website and social media promoting the following year's date (or an invitation to join next year).
We could keep going, but you get the picture. Anything that markets your event should be determined, documented, and measured.
Our Nonprofit Event Toolkit has a terrific timeline you can copy and fill in with your own information.
How to Recruit Sponsors
Sponsors are the building blocks of an event. They get publicity and perks, like a fantastic table at your event, and you get chunks of your fundraising goal met.
You can find sponsors anywhere. They can be neighborhood or community leaders, corporate leaders, or even schools.
Remember your sponsorship packet? That’s going to be your calling card, but let’s back up a bit.
Start looking for sponsors anywhere from a year to six months before your event. You want to be able to bridge fiscal years and ensure there’s time for an approval process. A large company will allocate charitable donations in the budget, but once that money has been spent, there isn’t another line item until the next budget.
Starting your planning well in advance means there’s time to make the sponsorship match the corporate budget.
Make a list of the well-known companies in your area. Even if you live in a small town, you have stores or restaurants that would love the publicity and would be happy to support you. If they can’t sponsor a donation, they might sponsor gift cards that go in swag bags.
Ask members of your board to identify corporate sponsors or high-net-worth individuals or friends.
Look at marketing materials for similar fundraising events and reach out to the companies who sponsored those events.
Reach out to companies who have donated to your organization (no matter the size of the gift)!
Are there community groups that would like to see their name on event promo materials?
Once you have a list of potential sponsors, go to the “Sponsor List” tab in the event plan worksheet or in your CRM with a sponsor tag. Keep a current list of whom you’ve asked, when you’ve heard back, and what the sponsorship level is. This is also a handy spot to keep their website URL and logo, which you’ll need when creating the invitation and promo materials.
Your sponsorship packet comes into play here. If you have an extensive list of possible sponsors, use the “Internal POC” column to enter the name of the team or board member responsible for outreach and follow-up.
And remember, when looking for sponsors, think about corporate sponsors, community sponsors, in-kind sponsors, and individual sponsors. All types of supporters can help your event be a smashing success!
The smartest way to plan your promotional outreach is by segmenting your donors. In grouping by age, geographic location, etc., you can personalize your message, your calls to action, and even which auction items to highlight to entice donors to purchase tickets. Tickets to a Taylor Swift concert might appeal to some donors, while a ballet at the Kennedy Center might appeal to others (and if you procure those items for your auction, both will be a hit)!
Here are five ways you can market your event that won’t cost you a penny:
Do a homepage takeover on your website. That can be as easy as using your CRM or CMS to place a lightbox highlighting the event over your normal homepage. Ensure there’s a clear way for users to bypass the advertisement, but having a visible registration button greet website viewers will help your ticket sales.
Talk about your event to everyone you see. Mention it at the grocery store, put it on the neighborhood listserv, ask your board members to tell all their friends.
Use email automation to enroll your donors in a series of emails about the event. They can start with a save-the-date and follow up through registration and even day-of reminders. End with a thank-you email that contains a post-event survey.
Leaning on technology once again, promote your event via mass text. You can send a link that takes supporters right to the donation page of your website. Text messages have a 98% open rate, compared to a 20% open rate for emails.
Use social media for promotion and engagement. You can start by creating a video you post on all the channels, then continue with event details and teasing great guests, auction items, or delicious food. Create a hashtag and ask your followers to share photos using it, and ask them (and board members) to post about the event on their social networks.
You can look into Google Ad Grants for free online advertising or ask your corporate sponsors if you can piggyback your advertising on their promotions. Ask anyone you see to help spread the word, and your efforts will show in ticket sales.
How to Manage Volunteers
Volunteer management deserves its own chapter because when it comes to nonprofit events, volunteers actually do make the world go ‘round.
Why? They’re donating hours of time and effort, which are critical. But they’re also demonstrating a deep commitment to your nonprofit. This may turn into donations or a board seat. Even if it doesn’t, these are loyal supporters that you’ll be able to count on in the future.
So let’s assume you’ve got your nonprofit event all planned. You know the venue, you’ve figured out the logistics, and you want to focus on your volunteers. Smart!
Tip 1: Focus on your volunteer recruitment process. Come up with a plan that will help you recruit the volunteers that make the most sense for your organization. Then create a list of data points you’ll collect about the volunteers:
The type of tasks that will interest them
Any relevant skills or qualifications
Certifications and licenses that could come in handy
And their availability
By building a recruitment process that collects the information you need to match the right volunteers to the right roles, you’ll save time and provide the volunteers with a great experience.
Tip 2: Spend time marketing volunteer opportunities. There are three simple steps we recommend:
Create a clear recruitment message to explain why someone should volunteer.
Build well-written role descriptions to slot the right volunteers into the right places.Create marketing materials with direct links to your sign-up form and distribute them through social media, neighborhood communications, or other networks.
Tip 3: Locate volunteer funding. This basically means free money! There are government grants, some of which are designated for volunteer programs within nonprofits. You must apply for the grants and provide evidence of the work your nonprofit does. A robust CRM can streamline the grant process and provide the evidence you need.
Tip 4: Let the software do the heavy lifting. Retire your spreadsheets! Invest in a CRM that can manage everything from shift scheduling to communications to volunteer follow-up. Technology can ensure notifications are shared with volunteers, and a good system will allow instant chat between volunteers and supervisors. Here’s how you can use technology to manage volunteers:
Set up a volunteer recruitment event.
Use your CRM to promote the event with emails and texts.
Use your CRM to segment them into groups with a group leader.
After the event, check who signed up versus who showed up.
Use reporting to retrieve actionable information, such as total hours worked by an individual, total hours worked by a group, total volunteer hours for the project, or whatever you ask the system to output.
Use this data to populate dashboards that show you how your volunteer system did. This will also give you solid metrics to compare next year’s numbers.
Tip 5: Don’t let this be goodbye! Follow up with your volunteers. We can’t stress enough that they are nonprofit gold. Here are three thoughtful ways you can make sure your volunteers feel appreciated:
Send a thank-you message after every shift, not just one blanket thank-you at the end.
Send volunteers a monthly impact email, showing them all the good your nonprofit has accomplished.
Hold volunteer social gatherings to strengthen their team.
Volunteer management isn’t hard if you separate it from the other event duties and focus on how you can find and nurture the best volunteers...and bring them back.
A Post-Event Checklist
After you’ve swept up the confetti, literally or figuratively, are you done? Not quite. A nonprofit event is exhausting, time-consuming, EXHAUSTING, and worth every second of angst. So yes, you deserve a rest, but just run through this quick checklist to ensure you’re wrapping this whole thing up with a bow.
Send a thank-you email to all volunteers and donors the night of the event.
Follow up the next day with a phone call to some...only you know who they are!
If there are auction items to deliver, make sure they are delivered.
Close the loop once you know the results of your fundraising. Communicate clearly to all participants that they made an impact.
Consider a brief survey to understand what attendees and volunteers thought of the event.
If you have great pictures, send an online album, post them on social media, and broadcast them!
Publicly (your website, social media), thank the heaviest-hitting volunteers and supporters. Highlight anyone who won a fun auction item. People love public recognition!
Write a blog post or longer email recapping the event. This can intrigue people who missed it and remind those who attended how much fun it was.
Start your stewardship. You have a plethora of people committed to your cause...how are you going to keep them committed?
Before we let you go, let’s take a moment to talk about what you can do when you feel like donor engagement is getting wobbly. Perhaps you just finished a massive event, and everyone is tired. Perhaps there’s a recession. Perhaps there’s a pandemic. Almost anything can cause a little bit of donor fatigue! What can you do to combat that? We’ve got a few tips:
Verify contact information, which cleans up your email list and allows you to engage with donors without asking for donations. There are plenty of cute or clever ways to reach out and remind donors you’re still around.
Connect with donors in the way they want to hear from you. Do they prefer a handwritten letter, an email, a text, or a phone call? Keep track of this information in your CRM, and you’ll instantly have segmented lists.
When it seems as though a donor has seriously moved away from you, pick up the phone and chat with them. Listen to what they say. Perhaps you can connect them with another nonprofit, or maybe they were somehow offended and need an apology. Don’t ever ghost your donors; most of the time, they will be happy to talk about what’s happening.
Use technology to keep track of donor details. Personalization is your key to reversing donor fatigue—it builds relationships.
Finally, don’t overdo it. If, after three outreaches, you’re not getting a response, then stop trying to contact them. You can try again in six months, but don’t bug them, or you’ll likely lose them permanently.
Remember, managing the donor journey is important for the success of your nonprofit. Re-engaging lapsed donors offers a wonderful opportunity to slow down and focus on building relationships.
Do you feel armed with what you need to run a spectacular event? Put in the time to plan well, and you’ll find that events are key to putting FUN into fundraising!
Don't forget the toolkit!
Download the free Nonprofit Event Toolkit!
These companion worksheets walk you through every step of planning and executing an event. Just copy or download the toolkit and use it over and over, customizing the sheets so they fit your nonprofit perfectly.