Fundraising Events Post-Pandemic: 6 Must Have Strategies for Today’s Social Donors

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The world of fundraising is changing and evolving fast, especially as we emerge from an extended period of social distancing. We wanted to reexamine these pandemic giving experiences to better understand how social giving has evolved and changed over the past year.

To do so, we set out to survey +1,000 of today’s Social Donors, to understand what makes them stick and stick again to a cause.

In this blog, we’ll take a specific look into Event Donors and key strategies for fundraising events post-pandemic with surveyed feedback straight from the donors themselves.

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Who Are Event Donors?

With Social Donors in the U.S. on the rise (up to 27% compared to 23% in 2018), Event Donors are just one type of donor that The Giving Experience Study looks at.

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In the study, 32% of surveyed respondents identified themselves as Event Donors who donated to a nonprofit through attending a fundraising event (like a gala, golf tournament, or similar event), virtually or in-person in the previous 12 months.

These donors shared their needs, motivations, and what’s important for social giving experiences when returning to in-person.

Let’s dive into the top 6 strategies and how nonprofits can adapt to events post-pandemic.

  1. Make Donors Comfortable Getting Back to In-Person Fundraising
  2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
  3. Make the Donor Experience Easy
  4. Supplement In-Person Events with Virtual Options
  5. Create An Engaging Event Experience
  6. Focus on What Impacts Event Donor Retention

Make Donors Comfortable Getting Back to In-Person Fundraising

Make Donors Comfortable Getting Back to In-Person Fundraising

The COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge, and nonprofit fundraising was no exception.

Being forced to pivot to virtual and live stream events, and contactless fundraising was difficult. But here we are, still standing and ready to take what we learned and apply it to the fundraising future.

So what are donor telling us about the future?

76% of donors surveyed said they are ready to return to in-person events in 2021, which means now is the time for pivot again—getting back to the ballroom safely in a way that holds your donors top of mind.

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Although the majority (55%) of donors are ready to return to in-person events post-vaccination, it is important to understand certain factors that contribute to people feeling more comfortable.

35-30% of donors surveyed in The Giving Experience Study let us know their top factors for joining an in-person event:

  1. Vaccination of individual, household, and event attendees
  2. All attendees have their temperature taken upon arrival
  3. The event would have to be outside
  4. All attendees would need to have a negative COVID test
  5. Low COVID transmission rates/hospitalizations in area

To make donors feel comfortable, consider these strategies:

  • Survey your donor base and ask when they would be comfortable joining an in-person event. Use this data in your event planning.
  • Communicate your protocols and health safety plans.
  • Move your event outside!
  • Follow all CDC guidelines for in-person events.
  • Provide links to CDC guidelines and local health regulations on your fundraising site.
  • Promote your safety and event protocols on social media.

During this time of transition, it will be important to provide clear messaging and options to your donors.

Donors are now experienced in the digital fundraising and communication—use that in the evolution of your strategy getting back to the ballroom to fuel your mission.

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Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication will be key in your approach with Event Donors. What they’re asking for is a multichannel communication strategy for event promotion and easy donation.

This year we saw the rise of social media, surpassing email, as the top channel where donors heard about a fundraising event.

Even as we return to in-person events, it will be important to continue diversifying your channel strategy, leaning into digital channels for event communication and promotion.

One of the channels that shined through as a place where donors heard about fundraising events was advertisements. Nonprofits started reaching donors via paid ads, no doubt a result of a 2020 virtual approach.

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Recruit your committee members, table captains, board members, and other ardent supporters to help spread the word on their personal social media leading up to your fundraising events.

A multi-channel communication strategy will directly influence the number of donors and average donation dollar amount that attend your event. With more reach there will be potentially more support for you mission.

The Giving Experience Study found that the average donation for Event Donors was $272, stemming from a variety of channels:

  • In-person
  • Website Donation
  • Mobile Donation
  • Social Media
  • Mail
  • Text Donation

To help ease the nonprofit burden to organize a massive communication plan execution, multi-channel outreach and donation capabilities are all made easier with the rise of fundraising software.

Having fundraising software to connect donors to your cause and your events in a virtual world became a necessity during the pandemic. But it’s not over!

We believe the digital transformation will continue long after COVID-19 recedes and become a permanent part of the ongoing donor experience.

But what software capabilities do you need for your today’s events? Let’s take a look at what Social Donors valued in an easy event experience.

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Make the Donor Experience Easy

Ease may be the #1 key ingredient with any positive donor experience. What we heard from Event Donors is that ease is something they struggled with in the past 12 months.

While 83% of Event Donors found it very easy to donate, there’s still work to be done to improve the registration, log in, and viewing experience, especially for virtual attendees.

Here are our 5 recommendations to increase ease in your event experience:

Increasing Ease in the Donor Experience

Task% of Event Donors found very easy Recommendation
Make a donation83%Have donation options in every channel of communication that your donor hears from you.
Register for the event67%Simplify the event entry experience with a quick and secure registration process through your fundraising software.
Log on67%Choose a software with an intuitive interface that allows supporters to login easily.
Share information about the organization you donated to66%Social media sharing functionality is a must with fundraising software. Even better, prepare some content about your mission for donors to use as a template.
Access online or virtual content65%Evaluate the full process for a supporter joining your event and experiencing your event page. Give them the “call-to-actions” they are looking for on the homepage.

Extend ease beyond donations to all aspects of the online experience to ensure the impression of your event is a positive one.

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Supplement In-person Events with Virtual Options

One thing we learned from the pandemic pivot was the different strategies needed for a virtual world. Does this mean they go away for post-pandemic events?

NO! Virtual should remain in your event mix. As we saw earlier in the study, donors told us they would want a mix of ways to engage with your event both in-person and virtually.

Event Donors valued 3 things when it comes to virtual events:

  1. Convenience
  2. Flexibility in Viewing the Event
  3. Cost-effective

With 67% of surveyed donors saying they are tired of doing things virtually, your donor base is craving in-person interaction.

But that doesn’t diminish the power of virtual options (see Figure 18):

  • Over 3/4 of Social Donors agree that the convenience of virtual events makes up for any downsides
  • 86% said they would donate the same amount regardless of event format
  • 86% said virtual events allowed them to stay connected to the cause
  • 81% agreed virtual events are worth the same donation as in-person events

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Whether it’s adding some virtual-only events or providing a hybrid experience with different options for in-person and virtual attendees, lower cost, virtual options will allow nonprofits to maintain the expanded reach and accessibility they saw during the pandemic.

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Create an Engaging Event Experience

Once you get your donors to the event, the magic lies in engagement.

For most Event Donors, hearing about impact, an engaging event theme, and live entertainment kept most attendee’s attention.

Here are our 5 recommendations to increase donor engagement in your next event:

Increasing Donor Engagement

Engagement% of Event Donors found very easyRecommendation
Hearing about the impact of your donation59%Weave impact statements into your donation experience. (i.e. after a donation, post-event email, impact the total raised has on the day-to-day mission)
Event theme59%Grab your team or a few friends, and brainstorm the next event theme that will get the whole donor base excited.
Live entertainment58%Know a local musician or a Grammy award winner? Invite them to your next event to draw a crowd (virtually and in-person)!
Follow along lessons57%This could be the perfect moment for new (or existing!) donor education on your mission.
Direct donation to a specific project57%The perfect way to tie in donor generosity + impact. If your donation appeal or entire event is supporting one project or fund, communicate the impact of the dollars raised. (Hint: Include storytelling!)

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Focus on What Impacts Event Donor Retention

When it comes down to it, Event Donors are analyzing these 5 factors on whether they would give again:

  • I feel like my donation makes a difference.
  • The process of donating is positive and easy.
  • The campaign or event inspired me to give again.
  • I enjoyed the campaign or event I participated in.
  • The organization informed me on the impact of my donation.

And those 5 factors boil down to: Ease, Mission, and Impact.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? As you plan your event with donor retention in mind, and you begin making decisions and prioritizing items in your event plan, pause, and think:

“Will this contribute to donor ease, mission education, or communicating impact?”

If the answers continue to be “yes,” you are well on your way to retaining your Event Donors.

Wrapping Up

Social giving and virtual formats over the last year helped expand access to philanthropy through the reach of online channels and technology – especially in the event world.

Future fundraising should incorporate a mix of virtual and in-person fundraising to continue reaching a broader, more diverse group of Event Donors post-pandemic.

Take these top 6 strategies for Event Donors to optimize post-pandemic giving experiences. It’s good to be getting back!

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