Sourcing Long-Term Supporters at Your Next Event: 4 Tips

You've worked hard to encourage many of your supporters to attend your nonprofit's fundraising  events. With the help of your digital marketing campaign, personalized phone calls, and targeted online ads, your RSVP list grew longer than you could've imagined.

But true donor connection and engagement needs to extend beyond your event. So the million dollar question is, how can you convert them into long-term supporters?

According to The 2021 Giving Experience study by OneCause, 64% of attendees rated their experience as excellent and 34% rated it as good. Your event gives your nonprofit a starting point to deepen engagement and forge stronger relationships. Think about it - attendees have already expressed an interest in supporting your mission via your fundraising event. They are primed to continue their support if you put in place the right stewardship strategies from the start!

Sourcing long-term supporters at your next event might seem intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Follow these top tips to leverage  your fundraising event to foster long-term relationships with supporters:

        • Make a good first impression. 
        • Perfect your messaging. 
        • Ensure it's easy to donate. 
        • Keep in touch.

Sourcing and retaining long-term supporters is one of the most effective ways to generate sustainable donation revenue for your cause. And those potential regular supporters are right in front of you at your events. Let's get started!

1. Make a good first impression.

Whether your supporters are repeat, first-time, or lapsed supporters, you need to make a great first impression. A good first impression extends past the first few minutes of your event and should be part of your planning for the entire event. Everything matters, from your registration setup, to your event communications, to how you thank your attendees afterwards.

When it comes to making a good first impression, be intentional. Think about ways to make the supporter experience seamless, fun, and grounded in your mission. Use these strategies to give attendees an experience to remember:

        • Personalization: Potential long-term supporters want to feel valued by your organization. Give them a personalized experience. On your emails, invitations, and communications, use your supporter's first name rather than a generic "Dear Donor" greeting. Go a step further and try to learn a bit about select first-time attendees so you can identify ways to form a meaningful connection at your event.
        • Organization: A well-organized event conveys professionalism and trustworthiness, and helps your mission shine. Be sure to keep organization and a seamless experience at the center of your planning. This is especially important if you're hosting a a hybrid event, with two distinct guest experiences (remote and in-person). To keep your hybrid events running smoothly, check out this OneCause hybrid fundraising guide.
        • Appreciation: Your attendees have taken time out of their busy schedules to support your nonprofit, so be sure to create ways to show appreciation, throughout your attendee experience. Dedicate time during the event to express gratitude and create  personalized thank you moments.

Remember, a well-organized and personal event will leave a strong, lasting impression. Whether you're hosting an in-person, hybrid, or virtual event, start  your planning process in advance to give you and your team enough time to prepare a great first impression.

2. Perfect your messaging.

Cultivating a personal relationship with your attendees is important, but the relationship won't stick unless your attendees connect with your mission at your event. Whether your event is about raising awareness about your cause or encouraging donations for a campaign, perfecting your messaging is crucial. To strengthen your messaging:

        • Align your tone with your brand: The tone you use in your messaging builds your brand. Be sure that the way you talk about your nonprofit, cause, and mission all have a consistent tone, brand voice, and strengths-based language.
        • Tie messaging back to your mission: Your mission should be at the heart of everything you do. In your marketing materials, communications, and event information - do one thing: tie everything back to your mission!
        • Emphasize donor impact: Your supporters want to know their contributions make a difference. Throughout your event, show how long-term support can drive impact and improve lives. Be sure to use concrete examples and impact statements. 

Your messaging creates depth for your supporters - it's what ignites their passion for your cause and creates a memorable experience. By spending time crafting a powerful mission message for your event, one that resonates with your audience, you can deepen your connection with short-term attendees and start building long-term supporters relationships.

3. Ensure it's easy to donate.

Supporters, whether they're one-time or recurring donors, value ease and convenience. Our Giving Experience study found that 64% of donors contributed to a nonprofit because "it was easy to do."

Start with your donation form. Look at it from the donor's perspective. Ask yourself:

        • Is it easy to use?
        • Can you complete it from your phone?
        • How many steps does it take from start to finish to complete a donation?

Streamline your donation form as much as possible, especially if you're directing virtual attendees to your website to donate. With the right fundraising software, you can customize your donation form to create a seamless giving experience. Remember your donors are consumers in real-life too. They want their giving to be as easy as their online shopping experience. So be sure your donation form delivers!

When customizing your donation form, have  a pop-up or other option asking if donors would like to become recurring donors. Include a blurb on  how recurring donors can deepen the impact of your mission. Simple, powerful recurring donation requests can encourage supporters to commit to your cause long-term.

You can get supporters more involved by actively encouraging them to explore matching gift opportunities. Perhaps their employer will match their donation on a monthly basis. Many supporters have no idea about the availability or power of matching gifts. Using matching gift software, you can quickly help supporters verify if their employer matches donations.

In the end, whether your event is virtual, hybrid, or in-person, a streamlined donation process will help your cause increase the chances of converting supporters from one-time gift givers towards more impactful contributions.

4. Keep in touch.

Once you've formed a connection with your donor at the event, you need to sustain the relationship with effective communication. Regularly communicating with your supporters, even if they've only donated once, will demonstrate that you value every contribution and might encourage them to donate more frequently.

Here a few meaningful ways to stay in touch with your supporters:

        • Send your annual report: Your annual point is an ideal place to show donors the impact of their contributions. Consider creating a digital version of your annual report to send out to all of your donors so they can see what your nonprofit has been up to.
        • Offer connection opportunities: You could also keep in touch with your supporters by sharing different ways for them to get involved beyond donating. Send information about signing up for volunteer opportunities if your supporters have previously expressed interest in getting more involved. 
        • Encourage peer-to-peer involvement: Don't forget to highlight potential peer-to-peer fundraising opportunities! For instance, if you're hosting a 5K run, encourage your donors to solicit donations from their friends and family members to support their participation in the run. Create templates and other marketing materials to help your supporters effectively connect with their network.

While you don't want to overwhelm your supporters with communications, it's important to stay in contact with them throughout the year and to connect with them in meaningful ways that extend beyond a donation ask. Find ways to communicate, share, and invite them into your mission. This creates long-term value for both your supporters and your nonprofit.

Long-term supporters are the backbone of your organization, and their contributions help sustain your work towards your mission. By connecting with supporters at your event and then following up on those relationships afterwards, you can source and keep more supporters for the long-term. Happy Fundraising!

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