We’re all familiar with what can make a special event special. An event can be such a tremendous chance to showcase and celebrate your clients, graduates, and success stories. Relationships are formed and nurtured. Events can provide recognition for your wonderful volunteers and unsung heroes, raise corporate underwriting that pays your costs, and send people away with a strong and positive impression.
We’re also all familiar with being exhausted and stretched thin after an event, right?
Ironically, the days immediately following an event are some of the most critical to maximizing the return on all your work. Absolutely essential to your event process is your follow-up strategy. For all the logistical effort, you are missing a major return on your investment if you don’t harness the favorable awareness of your new (and returning) friends.
Here are some tips to turn your event guests into gold:
1 — Get the new names and contact data entered into your database right away. For contacts who are already your donors, be sure to code or flag the person as having attended the event.
2 – Send thank-you letters out within two weeks. Involve your board in signing these and/or adding handwritten notes to the people they know or just met.
3 – Make sure you have a plan within the month to keep new and ongoing lines of communication active. For many nonprofits, this is your periodic e-newsletter. Remember that you should inform and engage–not reach out solely for the purpose of asking for money. Tell stories and share outcome data.
4 — Search to see if your guests have been donors before-and among those who have written a check before, how long ago? Have any guests have been to your events before? If you have more than one event per year, do the data show that one event is more effective than the other in converting guests into loyal fans?
5 – If you don’t already have a schedule, plan to host an ongoing series of informal, open house/education events at your offices (i.e., over brown bag lunch on the first Friday of the month). Ongoing events mean that you’ve always got the opportunity to convert a new acquaintance into a donor.
6 – Pass around the guest lists to your board to see who they know.
7 – In your analysis of these new contacts, note who represent larger employers or emerging businesses who would be potential long-term sponsor partners.
8 – Do any of these new contacts represent the kind of person (talent, skill, network) your board needs, based on your board grid?
9 -To cement these new friendships, encourage several board members to each host a house party in the next six months. Of your top prospects who could be major donors, set up coffee dates involving you and a board member.
10 – Always integrate your donor touches in a “moves management” timeline. A defined approach ensures that no one is ignored for too long, that you don’t accidentally solicit a person too often, that you can see the trends on who is ready to be upgraded to a larger gift next time, and that you know who might well be receptive to a personal appointment.