If your nonprofit has a big fundraising event on the calendar, and it probably does, this is one post you won’t want to miss! Event planning is extremely popular in the nonprofit sphere for one reason: it works. But it also takes a lot of effort and time, am I right?
You absolutely want to make the experience top-notch for current and prospective donors. Please do that first. However, there’s a vital piece of event planning that often gets left out: the follow up. It’s not the most exciting thing to talk about, but I can’t stress it enough.
Having a solid follow-up plan is part of what makes an event strategic for your organization, and not just something you do every year.
You’ve put so much hard work into planning this event, and an excellent follow-up strategy makes it more effective. What you say and how you say it could mean additional donations, recurring donations, and higher attendance at the next event. That’s why today’s post matters.
And it comes to you from my new friend Erin at Funraise, which a super sweet nonprofit fundraising software built by nonprofit people. (I’ve taken the backstage tour, and it’s pretty awesome!) Okay, back to today’s post. I think you’re going to like it!
Congrats, Fundraiser, the big event day is behind you! Hopefully, you’re propping up your feet and giving yourself a pat on the back for a ginormous job well done. Fundraising events are no small feat, and it can feel awesome when that behemoth is behind you. After you’ve taken some well deserved R&R, it’s time for the next phase of the event. No, we don’t mean cleaning up/organizing the event supplies that've taken over your office. It’s time for event follow up that'll wow supporters and attendees.
Attending an event should be an excellent experience for supporters, and extending that warm, fuzzy feeling beyond the event is an exciting bonus for them. It’s a chance for you to build BFF-status relationships with donors.
Follow up is critical: not only does it give you an opportunity to extend a heartfelt thanks, but it also opens the door for you to establish your nonprofit as an organization that genuinely cares about relationships. And that’s something you can take to the bank.
Follow up strategies for 1 to 7 days after the event
The first phase of event follow up is what happens immediately afterward. Typically this is a thank you for attending and donating (because they donated... right?). If your organization wants to build relationships beyond the event, this is a must.
Here are some ways to say thank you that'll make a lasting impression.
Pick up the phone and say thank you
Calling attendees is an easy thing to do the day after the event that leaves a big impression on donors. If you had a lot of attendees and donors, prioritize your call list by first following up with donors who made the most substantial gifts or strategize by calling first-time donors. If you need help getting through the list, ask a board member to come in for an hour to make some calls.
Send a day-after email to everyone who attended
Use this email to share how much money the event raised and what the funds will be earmarked for. This touchpoint allows you to show attendees the next steps for engagement, such as signing up for your email list or following your organization on social media. Schedule the email in advance so you can relax a tiny bit post-event.
Record personal thank you videos
Did you know there are video services that can help you make a custom thank you video for each attendee and supporter? Services like BombBomb make it possible, and it’s a delightful surprise in someone’s inbox. Short, personalized videos are an unexpectedly wonderful alternative to mass emails if you’re looking for something a little more personal.
Mail a handwritten thank you note
How awesome is it to get a card in the mail these days? Much more awesome than getting endless flyers from the local pizza joint. Make your supporters’ day by sending them handwritten thank you notes after the event. You could even create a custom postcard that includes a powerful image or two from the event, so they have a memento.
Bonus: This is a great engagement opportunity for your board members. Ask them to come by the office and write 10 cards each. You’ll be done in no time.
Jump on the text train
Using the same service that you send text messages with, send out a quick "TY for the amazing night! We hit our fundraising goal!" text. You can point supporters to your website to check out groovy event photos or tease them with the exact amount that was raised. (Sneaky tactic—if you didn't hit your goal, they may send a post-event donation.)
Tip: It can be helpful to block off time in your calendar in advance for event follow up. Also, if you anticipate having a lot of follow up to do, schedule emails, order mailers, or set up text messages before the event. Organize some volunteer or board members ahead of time to lend a hand.
Keeping in touch and building relationships
Follow up with supporters doesn’t end after the initial post-event thank you. You’re now on the path to creating life-long relationships with them, so it’s essential to have a game plan. Here's how you can keep in touch with supporters to build relationships that outlast the event.
Send a survey
It’s super valuable to know what supporters thought of your event. Feedback from people who were there means you'll be able to plan a solidly successful event year after year. Asking for feedback also signals to supporters that you value their opinions and feedback, which in turn builds trust. Put together a short survey that you can send them in the weeks after the event, or as you prepare for next year's big event.
Share impact stories
We heart storytelling. Sharing stories that make your donors’ hearts flutter is a great way to build transparency and show donors the impact of their giving. If you fundraised for a specific initiative or program at your event, find a story related to that.
Ask your supporters to share their giving stories
The social proof of giving stories is solid gold. In your follow up with supporters, connecting your supporters with the results of their giving and having them share is something you can do to engage them and recognize their support.
Add a personal note on future snail mailings
You might send event attendees snail mail down the road: an annual report, a newsletter, or even a direct mail piece. Personalize it by adding a short handwritten note, making the mailer feel less like a mass blast, and more like recognition of the relationship you have with attendees.
Create a video
Video is an awesome way to connect with supporters and attendees. You could create a special year-end video to talk about your organization’s impact and tie in the role your event played in it. These days, video doesn’t have to have a slick production value to be impactful so pull out your smartphone and hit record.
As you prepare for your event, you probably have pre-event communications and marketing planned. Consider expanding this plan to include post-event follow up for at least three months following the event so you can organize your follow up strategy ahead of time.
Events are an excellent way for your organization to build community, grow awareness, and gain support. Capitalize on the momentum from your event with follow up that shows supporters that you're more than just a one-note organization. Your nonprofit values relationships and you’re in it for the long haul.
If you’re serious about becoming an event follow-up master, check out Funraise’s Events & Ticketing solution where nonprofits can easily set up follow-up email automations via seamless integrations with MailChimp, Constant Contact, and other email marketing platforms. Also manage everything from event registration and ticketing to collecting donations, all in your donor CRM. No more letting prime relationship-building opportunities slip through your fingers!
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I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.
Note: I’m an affiliate for Funraise, which means I may get a small commission from sales purchased through this site. But I only recommend products and services I think are valuable!