At this year’s P2P Professional Forum there was much discussion in the Endurance Summit about recruiting, retention and the participant experience. Later while shopping at my neighborhood Whole Foods, it had me thinking how an event experience compares to my favorite grocery store from choosing to participate and deciding to return.

My husband argues that Whole Foods isn’t the most economical choice, and he isn’t completely wrong. While I feel like I score big frugal points when scooping out my red quinoa and French lentils in the bulk foods isle, we do pay more for our produce whether it is organic or not. So why am I willing to pay almost 8 cents more for my conventional bananas?

While strolling through my neighborhood store, I understood exactly why: their service and the experience are impeccable almost every time. While all Whole Foods aren’t created equal, there are 3 ways my store keeps me coming back.As you read through my experiences below, think: Does my organization offer the same qualities to our event participants?

Here are the three ways you can provide your event supporters a Whole Food’s kind of experience:

Offer Great Customer Service

No matter what time of day, I’m greeted by smiling associates asking if I am finding everything I need. Early one morning, not wanting to bother the associate on a ladder a few feet down, I found myself standing on my tippy toes trying to reach a can of garbanzo beans. But without asking, she stepped off her ladder assisted me, smiled and then asked me if I was making hummus. I was. Then she inquired if I liked spicy food. I do! Then she described an easy roasted chipotle pepper hummus recipe. Nice!

My point isn’t about the chipotle hummus or even that I wasn’t forced to use my “Go Go Gadgit” arms to reach those beans, but that she engaged me with a great recipe idea. I had the can of beans, but was I aware I could make something really delicious?

How do you engage and serve your participants as they fundraise throughout your event?

They’ve registered and they have access to online tools, so now offer them tips and training opportunities to move them toward success.

Know Your Supporters

I’m just one of the thousands of people that meander through their doors everyday, but my store takes opportunities to know me personally.  Gretta, an associate, approached me when I voiced my excitement about a new wine find. After a brief chat, she offered to call or text me if she saw a comparable vintage in my price range. And when she does, her suggestion is spot on.  I’ve had similar experiences with associates in other departments as well.

I know they do this to increase my total at the register, but it still makes me feel special AND I’m not flooded with information about every new thing that passes through the isle. (Think segmenting!) These little efforts keep me coming back.

How do you recognize all of your fundraisers? What do you do to make your top 10% fundraisers feel special versus your top 40%?

It can be as simple as a phone call, a nice note, taking someone out for a cup of coffee, or sending an email when they’ve reached their goal, but remember great engagement goes beyond sending something to the inbox.

Create a Sense of Community

My store has community events all year round. Every Fourth of July, their parking lot is jam-packed with tailgaters waiting for the fireworks to start. Throughout the year there are in-store dinners featuring local farms and cooking classes for kids and adults. They find ways to bring us all together at our store, reminding us that we have things in common and giving us the opportunity to meet new people. It provides us a sense of place.

Make sure your supporters are part of your community and find ways to provide them sense of belonging.

Most of your participants have a connection to your cause, so find ways to nurture that connection. Schedule a Run and Brunch, send out recipes as they train for the big ride or offer additional ways to learn more about the impact your organization makes. Show them they are a true partner in your organization working together towards accomplishing your mission.

I started going to Whole Foods simply because they make it fun, but it is the way they connect with me that keep me coming back as a loyal customer.  The same can apply with your event. Your supporters sign up because they have a connection, they want to have fun and also because they want to be a part of something. Once you’ve got their foot in the door, think about how you will nurture them to make them long-time supporters.

What about You?

I would love to hear about how you engage your event participants. What are ways you make your participants feel special to keep them coming back?

 

photo cred: The Harmonious Crow

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a Blackbaud consultant, Jennifer Peters combines her knowledge and nonprofit experience to help customers maximize their fundraising potential with Blackbaud Sphere’s Friends Asking Friends. Jennifer loves seeing her client’s peer-to-peer fundraising websites move from thought to fruition. Her day to day activities allow her to work with a variety of organizations to build their online fundraising site while guiding them with best practices along the way.

Prior to joining Blackbaud, Jennifer served the nonprofit sector through various development and communication roles with non-profit organizations such as Project Medishare for Haiti, Drug Prevention Resources, Inc., Alley’s House and The Mended Hearts, Inc. Her background consists of event planning, peer-to-peer fundraising and eMarketing.

When she’s not working, Jennifer can be found either walking her three dogs, hiking/kayaking/biking around White Rock Lake or traveling to satisfy her wanderluster soul.

Get nonprofit articles, best practice advice, fundraising ideas and invaluable industry reports and webinars delivered for free!