If you’re a glass-half-full sort of person, then a room full of donors might be just the opportunity you’re looking for.
In October of 2019, I wrote about special event fundraisers and the hidden potential of a room full of donors. Several readers liked the idea of turning the next special event they attend into a purpose-driven opportunity.
Of course, that was all before our world turned upside down and special event invitations disappeared from our mailboxes. Thankfully, our world is getting better, and invitations are back!
So, it’s time to revisit my earlier thoughts and make this the decade of purpose-driven events. How many special event fundraisers have you attended in the last decade?
For me, it would take the fingers and toes of a roomful of friends to count them all. None of the events stand out; they all seem to run together in my mind.
A note for my nonprofit friends—this post is not really for you—it’s for the wonderful folks at your special event.
Another note for my donor friends—this post IS for you!
My purpose is not to help the nonprofit be better at their particular brand of event. No, this is for you, the donor—to be better at turning the next fundraiser event into an opportunity to look for donor partners, make an impactful gift and build lasting connections.
Your presence at the event suggests you’ve paid for the opportunity to help the nonprofit raise needed funds. You probably even bid on auction items or buy raffle tickets. In truth, you might not enjoy the event, yet you need to attend for various reasons.
Reasons Why You Attend
- You believe in what they do
- You’re on the board of directors
- A friend invited you
- Your spouse is on the board
- It’s an opportunity to network
- Or, I’m sure you can fill in the blank ___________________
People are everywhere; a few are friends, most are at best acquaintances, and others are perfect strangers. Everyone has their reasons for attending.
Here’s how to be strategic and make the event worthwhile. First, skip the typical networking questions.
Try these Questions
- What brings you to XYZ event tonight?
- What do you like about the organization?
- Have you been a donor for long?
Each question creates the possibility of intersecting interests. In minutes you’ll know if you’re talking to a prospective donor partner. Listen for enthusiasm and passion about the organization.
Next, the question is how to make the best of your time with this room full of potential donor partners.
If you’re suspicious that this sounds like fundraising, well it is, but it starts with you – the donor. It’s fundraising with a mission, a cause or a purpose in mind first. It starts with your philanthropic interest and looks for partners.
A donor partner shares a similar interest in the same organization and will explore what a pooled gift might accomplish. A donor partner, like you, is interested in making an impactful gift but knows they can’t do it by themselves.
With a fresh look at all the individuals moving around at the event, you can take stock of who is there and what you know about the kinds of things they’re interested in. Connect, ask questions, make a mental list.
If you have thirty seconds with someone to gauge their level of interest, don’t be shy about it. Don’t worry about those who are more social. You will not slow them down. Move on and stay focused on your own search.
Now you are networking with the mission, cause or purpose in mind first and the organization second.
After the event, identify two or three to connect with for a longer conversation at a time and place where you can share ideas. Don’t forget to involve board members or the Executive Director of the organization in your discussion when the time is right.
Most of us cannot make impactful philanthropic gifts to our favorite charities. But connected with a group of individuals equally focused, we can generate positive and unexpected good things for an organization. Look for others who share your definition of making an impact at your next nonprofit event.
Identifying potential donor partners is step one. Staying connected and communicating with the nonprofit organization is step two.
Turn the next event you attend into a donor partner opportunity. Share your own passion for making an impact. You can find others with equal interest.
Like it? Use it. Share it. Comment below.