6 Steps to Convert Fundraising Event Attendees into Regular Donors

This guest post was contributed by Sandy Rees at Get Fully Funded.

The right fundraising event can be an amazing source of money, awareness, and volunteers, and even new supporters for your nonprofit.

But too often, event participants don’t give any other time during the year.

They buy their event ticket, maybe spend money on silent auction or other activities, but that’s it.

It seems like a shame that people attend your event, have a great time, then don’t engage with you any further.

Why is that? And how do you get them to give after the event is over? 

Why People Attend Events

If your event specifically asks people to give, then you probably won’t have much trouble turning them into donors (that’s the whole point of your event, after all). 

But if your fundraising event is more of a “fun” event – where people come to have a good time – it’s harder to convert these folks from being event attendees into donors for your cause.

“Fun” events can be everything from galas to 5Ks to golf tournaments and many more events you can think up. And you can have a highly profitable fundraising event, generating 6 figures or more even when it’s a “fun” event if you do it right. Just imagine – raising a TON of money at your event and getting attendees to give again in the future, too!

Before we strategize how to get these attendees to give after the event, we need to understand WHY they attend in the first place.

First, they attend your fundraising event because they get something out of it. People don’t sign up for your golf tournament because they love your mission. They play in your tournament so they can get out of work for the day, be outside on the golf course, and maybe drink a beer or two. In exchange for attending your event, people get to have fun, hang out with friends, and maybe meet some new people.

Second, they attend your fundraising event because a friend invited them. People will do some crazy things for their friends, including attending a fundraising event for an organization they’ve never heard of before.

There might be other reasons people attend your event like: 

  • Your event is the “must attend” event in town.
  • A celebrity they like will be there.
  • They’re shopping for good deals in your silent auction.

The problem here is that all those reasons have to do with the event itself. In other words, once the event is over, all the things they cared about disappear and there’s nothing left to connect them to your cause.

The most important thing to remember is that when someone buys a ticket to your event, they’re not a donor. They’re an attendee, which is a lot like a customer. It’s a transaction and the attendee gets something in return for their money.

So, if people are attending your event for non-altruistic reasons, is it even possible to find new donors at your fundraising event?

Possibly.

6 Steps to Converting Fundraising Event Attendees into Donors

Before you get too excited about converting all your event attendees into donors, you need to understand that the conversion percentage might be low. 

You may not be able to convert very many event attendees into ongoing donors.

But if you need to grow your donor base, then making the effort to convert fundraising event attendees into supporters is worthwhile. 

Here are 6 steps you can take to attempt to convert fundraising event attendees into ongoing donors for your nonprofit. 

  1. Plan conversion activities into your event. Don’t wait until the event is over to start thinking about how you’ll convert people into supporters. Make registration smooth and easy. Make sure people are having a good time during the event. Form a team of volunteers and Board members to personally introduce themselves to attendees and ask if they’re having fun. If you have 100 attendees and a team of 10, everyone is assigned 10 attendees to talk to. If people walk away from your event with a smile on their face, that’s a good start to getting them to interact again with your nonprofit.
  2. Write the thank-you for attending letter before the event so you can send it out IMMEDIATELY after the event (within 24 hours if possible). If you wait until after the event to write the letter, chances are good that this will get put off too long. Thanking people is part of the relationship-building process and you’ll need to help people feel like part of the team before they will be interested in giving. Besides, people are usually very curious how much was raised during the event, so tell them that in the thank-you letter.
  3. Be purposeful about the attendees’ experience at the event. People’s experience at your event has a HUGE impact on whether they’ll take the next step with you. If your event was organized, if they had a good time, if you made a good impression, then maybe they’ll give. If not, they probably won’t. First impressions are critical so if it’s their first time, you MUST give them a good experience. And you know what? Go ahead and treat EVERYONE as if it’s their first time!
  4. Within a week after your event, call every attendee to personally thank them for attending and let them know how much was raised (people like to know). Tell them how the money will be used and see if they have any questions. Ask if they would like to keep in touch, that you’ll be happy to give them regular updates (your newsletter). Yes, this will take some time, but it will be time well spent. You’ll likely hear valuable feedback on the event, plus you’ll likely WOW people with your phone call (they’ll be stunned that you took the time to call them).

    Bonus tip: Don’t just say “Thanks to you, we raised $10,000 this year. We hope to see you back again next year.” That indicates you don’t need their help between now and then. Instead, say “Thanks for being part of a very successful event! Together, we raised $10,000 which will feed 30,000 people this holiday season.” In short, translate the amount raised to the good work your nonprofit does. Tell them exactly how many lives will be changed.


  5. Create and send a thank-you video from the event. If you took a lot of photos during the event, create a photo montage video with peppy music and email it to attendees. Also share it on social media so attendees can share it with their friends if they want. People love seeing photos of themselves and they’ll be excited to see who they recognize from the event.
  6. Segment event attendees in your database so you can communicate with them differently going forward. Technically, these folks haven’t made a donation yet – they bought a ticket or purchased a silent auction item. When you send out an appeal, modify it slightly for this group, acknowledging their support of your event and offering them the chance to make a bigger difference in the lives of those you serve.

The Bottom Line

Every new, young, and small nonprofit needs more donors. Building a big, loyal donor base is key to creating sustainable, long-term revenue for your organization.

If you’re not purposefully working to convert your event attendees into donors, you may be missing an opportunity. It’s not easy to do, but with a little effort, you should be able to inspire at least some of your event attendees to support you after your event is over.


About the Author:

Sandy Rees, Chief Encouragement Officer, Get Fully Funded 

Sandy shows leaders of small nonprofits how to fully fund their big vision, so they can spend more time changing lives instead of worrying about money. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to adding 6 figures to their bottom line. As a trainer, she shows her students how to find ideal donors, connect through authentic messaging, and build relationships that stand the test of time, so that fundraising becomes easy and predictable. Find out more at www.GetFullyFunded.com.

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