Turn Special Event Fundraising Into Philanthropy Networking  

by | Jul 19, 2023

It’s always a lift when someone says one of these articles impacted their thinking. That happened recently at a local restaurant when a reader stopped by our table to tell me an article changed his thinking. So, it’s worth sharing again.

How many special event fundraisers have you attended – this year, last year, the last decade?  I’ve attended so many it would take the fingers and toes of a roomful of friends to count them all.  None stand out; they blend in my mind. I believe there is a way to make attending special events more purposeful for you and beneficial for the nonprofit.

Let’s start with the nonprofit’s goal for the event. Yes, they hope to raise funds for the organization, but just as important, they are in the friend-raising business. They hope to further connect you to their work or a cause and the opportunity to donate again.

It is also your opportunity to connect with friends just as committed to this or other causes. At the event, spend time with people who care about the work like you do. Look for fellow donors to partner with on funding opportunities.

Let’s get right into the event so you’re prepared 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 enjoy the party, yet you need to attend for various reasons. You believe in what they do, you’re on the board of directors, 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 then there are the perfect strangers. Everyone is there for their own reasons. Here’s how to be strategic and make the event useful. As you talk to different people, skip the typical networking questions.

Try these instead.

  • 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.

Next, the question is how to maximize your time with this room full of potential donor partners.

If you’re suspicious that this sounds like fundraising, it is. 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 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, just like you, is interested in making an impactful gift but knows they can’t do it alone.

With a fresh look at all the individuals moving around at the event, you can begin to take stock of who is there and where your interests intersect. Connect, ask questions, and 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 focused on being more social.  You will not slow them down. Move on and stay focused on your search.

You are networking with the mission, cause or purpose in mind first and the nonprofit 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.  Essentially, you are looking for others who share your definition of making an impact.

Turn the next event you attend into a donor partner opportunity. Share your passion for making an impact. Find others with similar interests and give well together. Can you find him?

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