How many special event fundraisers have you attended – this year, last year, the last decade? I’ve been to so many that it would take all the fingers and toes of a roomful of friends to count them all. None stand out; they blend together in my mind. Now before you bale on this post, let me explain. 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. You might not really enjoy the event and yet for a variety of different reasons you need to attend. You really believe in what they do, you’re on the board of directors, or a friend invited you, or perhaps your spouse is on the board. Whatever the reason you find yourself at the event.
People are everywhere, a few are friends, most are at best acquaintances and others perfect strangers. Everyone is there for their own reasons. Here’s how to be strategic and make the event useful. 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. This is fundraising with a mission, a cause or a purpose in mind first. This starts with your philanthropic interest and looks for partners.
A donor partner is someone who shares a similar interest in the same organization and is interested in exploring 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 begin to 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.
This is 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 are unable to 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. In essence you are looking for others who share your definition of making an impact.
Identifying potential donor partners is step one. Stay tuned for the next step.
Turn the next event you attend into a donor partner opportunity. Share your own passion for making an impact. You will find others with equal interest.