The Donor Retention Project – Week 3:
Stewardship Events For Donors
Week 3 of The Donor Retention Project is a conversation with Shannon Doolittle about events. Not fundraising events, but stewardship events for donors – after all, this is about donor retention and not donor acquisition. While she focuses on the steps to a successful event – I wanted to pick up some other ideas that surfaced when she sat down to talk with Marc A. Pittman.
The essential difference between a fundraising event and a stewardship event
A fundraising event is trying to get the most people in the room possible. A stewardship event should be limited to the number of people the director of development and/or executive director can sit with for a three to five minute conversation. I thought that was a clear way to distinguish the type of event as well as remember the purpose of the stewardship event – to personally connect, or reconnect, with everyone in that room. And show them that you appreciate their support. Gratitude is the best way to fundraise and retain donors.
The truth is that many organizations find events so onerous that they avoid them or focus so much time on them that everything else is completely neglected.
Instead, consider Ms. Doolittle’s advice for these smaller events: Less is more. It should be low cost, low maintenance, easy, unfussy food and alcohol. No one is showing up to this free event in hopes of a filet mignon.
That begs the question – what will encourage people to show up? Especially those people who have given but do not have strong connections to your agency? With all the time you save when you keep it simple, think about how to make an entertaining and creative connection to the mission for everyone in the room. She mentioned building gingerbread houses for a homeless shelter. That is a great idea and can help encourage a whole family to become more invested in the mission (which helps retain donors). The possibilities are endless.
I know that some people fear that they are not creative enough but thanks to social media – you don’t have to be. Sites like Pinterest can help you in amazing ways. You can search for “home + crafts” and come up with twenty other ways to make the connection for your donors in a way with which you are comfortable that will strike a chord in your community. And that is true of almost any other type of organization.
Are you an environmental agency? Pick one topic that you want people to consider (air quality, water pollution, etc.) and then search how you can explain it to kids. Something will surface as the ideal way to connect to your donors. Are you a religious institution? Choose a holiday and create an event around that? I think you get the idea.
And once you do get the idea, schedule an event. You will want to create a few throughout the year to improve donor retention. As much work as it is to do these events, it is as much as four times easier to retain a donor than to find a new donor. Then, the stewardship process will not be seen as so much work.
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