By Josh Gold
In part 1 of this series, we introduced the question: How can we maximize the success of fundraising events? In part 2, we explored how some extra effort in the invitation process can lead to increased donations.
A fundraising event is more than just a good party. It’s a planned interaction between you and your supporters – one with a very specific goal in mind. While everyone in attendance has already made some kind of contribution, that was before they spent any time right there in the room with you. That was before you had a chance to remind them properly how much they care about your work.
You’ve created an opportunity, an environment that allows you to renew your relationship with your allies and advocates. As you choreograph the evening, every choice you make will either see increased generosity from your guests in response… or it won’t.
With a little strategy and the right application of tools such as video, you can strengthen that bond more than you knew – and see immediate results.
1. Be specific
You probably have a grand vision for your organization, a philosophy and mission that underlie all your smaller undertakings.
In many ways, that’s not really what your gala is about.
You want to be able to promise your supporters concrete actions and tangible results. The smaller, more easily digested facts are actually what make the big picture feel real and important. When your guests can see with their own eyes the direct impact they’ve had with their past contributions, they will know in their bones that their cause was well-chosen.
One campaign, one project, one rallying cry – that’s how you give them a reason to give. And you sell that by being consistent at every level. Tie your evening’s cause to a theme. Have fun with it. Be clever and memorable. Let every subtle detail bring attendees back to the concept, from the food to the décor and especially in the video. In fact, start even earlier, working the concept into your invitations and landing page.
Meet with your team regularly throughout the planning stages to ensure that everyone has stayed on message. You guests will be impressed with your wittiness and higher standards, while never forgetting for a moment what the purpose of the evening is.
Your video presentation will be where you get the most explicit about this narrative. You dim the lights wait for a hush to fall over the room. Now you have everyone’s undivided attention. Why? So that you can recount what you’ve accomplished – and lay out the goals you’re aiming for next. With all eyes on you, it’s time to deliver exactly the right tone and story, with perfectly complementary images and scoring, to get those laughs or tears flowing. Video gives you the power to make your guests really feel something.
And then? You call on them to act.
2. Don’t forget to ask
Don’t assume that your guests plan to donate unprompted. They’re at the event to enjoy themselves and to celebrate your organization; nothing about that means that they’ve written you a mental check in advance.
Ask them explicitly. You won’t find a better time. This evening, which revolves around everything they do for you, is the most opportune moment there will ever be to make your pitch.
We’ve already mentioned that your video should include a Call To Action. Video is an emotional medium that makes your work vivid and personal for viewers. There’s nothing more natural than reaching out to them after they’ve finished watching, channeling their reactions into useful actions.
And you can keep driving that point home. Make a speech about where the money is going. Verbally announce a target goal, set up a screen displaying real-time donations and center the event on watching those numbers tick up and up. This is fun, motivating, and challenging in a very positive sense.
If you don’t make giving the point, no one else will.
3. Make giving easy
None of this giving will matter if you aren’t prepared to receive. Make sure guests have every ability to act on their generous impulses. Once the moment passes and the evening ends, much of its power will dissipate, even just by the time everyone gets home.
Leave simple pledge cards at every table. Even better, set up text to donate and a station with a credit card reader! Let people donate on the spot while emotions are high.
4. Keep it short and tight
This last bit of advice applies to both the video and the event as a whole: You don’t want to see people checking their watches.
You aren’t trying to lecture or educate your audience. You’re trying to keep them excited, energized and interested. If you have too many speeches, or if any of them run too long, you’re working against your best interests.
This is another area where video can work wonders. Not only can an idea or presentation be shortened by turning it into a video, it becomes infinitely more attention-grabbing as well. People love watching videos!
While it’s important that your event be elegant and enjoyable, it would be a shame to stop the planning there. There’s too much to be gained.
And now, for the final part: following up after the event.