A 5K, fun run, or marathon is one type of event that can help your organization find new donors. Image: Creative Commons, zilupe.
November 19, 2018

Five ways events can help you find new donors

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How can your organization find new donors every year? By leveraging the events that you already hold to intentionally expand your community.

1. Host a joint event with another nonprofit

I know what you’re thinking: Wouldn’t sharing an event with another nonprofit, especially one with a similar mission, make it more difficult for you to find and retain donors?

Not at all! Fundraising isn’t a zero-sum game, and the best indicator of philanthropic giving is… you guessed it, philanthropic giving. Sharing an event with another nonprofit has multiple benefits. You can:

  • Split the cost of the event.
  • Attract a larger crowd than you could on your own.
  • Share a supporter pool.

Events, while being both time- and resource-intensive, are a vital part of any nonprofit’s engagement and fundraising strategies. But if you split the cost and the work of planning and hosting with another nonprofit, you’re doubling your capacity.

For example, think of all the effort it took to pull off your last charity auction. With another nonprofit onboard, you split both the costs of the venue and catering, as well as the task of finding high-level prizes that inspire people to make bigger bids.

Then, when the event is over, you’ll both have collected the contact information of many more new friends than you could have alone. The best part is that you already know that these people are engaged with and supportive of your mission, which is half the battle.

Reach out to other nonprofits in your region with similar or adjacent missions, and see what fun event ideas your teams can brainstorm together.

2. Raise funds peer to peer

Peer-to-peer, or social, fundraising is one of our favorite types of fundraising. It allows your nonprofit to reach a far wider audience than you could on your own through leveraging the power of your supporters’ social networks.

All those shares on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have real-world value for your nonprofit. They increase brand and mission awareness for your nonprofit and expose your fundraiser to people who have a personal incentive to care: your supporters’ friends and family.

If you’ve never hosted a peer-to-peer fundraiser and aren’t sure where to start, check out this ultimate guide from OneCause to get you started.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is great for increasing your ranks of donors because most of the people who donate to the campaign probably don’t know about your nonprofit—they just know that their friends care!

When they fill out the donation page, make sure you make the most of having their contact information by following up with a personalized thank-you letter, more information on the cause, and ways to get involved.

We like to combine peer-to-peer fundraising with fun concluding events like:

  • Dance-a-thons and walk-a-thons
  • 5Ks, 10Ks, or marathons
  • Block parties
  • Silent auction dinners

Then, collect contact information from your event attendees and follow up with them about becoming a donor or a volunteer.

3. Consider awareness-raising events

One of the best things that you can do to attract more donors is to make your nonprofit’s mission and presence in the community more relevant to more people.

For this reason, consider hosting an event outside of your comfort zone to attract people you haven’t interacted with before. Some fun ideas for these types of events could include:

  • A talent show featuring local musicians and comedians.
  • A speed dating night featuring your single donors, some local personalities, and anyone who wants to come to make new friends.
  • A performance like Shakespeare in the Park (consider partnering with a local theater!)

These events provide a two-fold advantage for your nonprofit. First, they increase name awareness in your community. Second, they allow your team the opportunity to mingle with people they don’t know and collect contact information for future cultivation.

Another idea that can both help attract new donors and make the efforts of your current donors go further is to host a volunteer day. Plan a series of tasks that volunteers can do that help your community and your mission, and then promote volunteer grants!

Volunteer grants are when an employer donates money to a nonprofit that one of their employees donates their time to. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of these programs. But promoting them to your volunteers can make their time worth more than it already is.

4. Host a donor thank-you event

A surefire way to increase your donor population is to ask your current donor pool for help.
Next time you host a donor appreciation event, ask your donors and board members to bring friends that they think might be interested in becoming a donor.

This benefits your nonprofit because:

  • The people who are brought to your event already have an emotional connection to your nonprofit, because of their friend.
  • The people who don’t know your organization get to see how well you treat your donors and how gracefully you show your appreciation.
  • Your current donors get to help your nonprofit in a way that doesn’t involve digging deeper into their pockets.

It’s a win-win for everyone, no matter if you host a cocktail party, a picnic in a park, or even a potluck dinner at someone’s house.

5. Conduct prospect research before events

The best way to optimize any event is by conducting prospect research ahead of time. Prospect research is when you access publicly available information about someone to learn more about them and their capacity and willingness to give.

The things you can learn about prospects, or potential donors, include:

  • Wealth markers like real estate or vehicle ownership
  • Philanthropic habits like any previous donations
  • Network associations like employer or alma mater

Knowing these things makes it easier to approach someone at an event. If someone has a history of donating to an environmentally-minded nonprofit, your nonprofit’s Save The Trees drive is probably of great interest to them.

You can also use this research to determine who to add to your invitation lists, to maximize your event’s impact.

The takeaway: Finding new donors may seem intimidating, but it’s not impossible. The donors are out there! You just have to meet them where they are, and encourage them to join your community.

Kelly Velasquez-Hague
Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings more than 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause. As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors and raise more funds for their cause.
Interest Categories: Fundraising, Marketing
Tags: donors, events, Fundraising