So often, engagement opportunities for non-profits come at a big expense. Large scale events, such as galas or golf tournaments designed to raise money, can reach many people at the same time. But, they often cost so much that the ticket price barely helps the event turn a profit. And, if you could figure in the cost of the enormous amount of staff time needed to plan for a large event, your profit margin shrinks considerably. Smaller activities, such as cultivation meetings with a gift officer, are highly effective, but due to the time involved, most organizations cannot engage more than just their highest echelon of best prospects.
Some organizations have started experimenting with engagement opportunities that cost very little and have a big impact on the organization over time. One example comes from the corporate model of holding Shareholder or Investor Meetings. These corporate meetings are usually geared toward updates on financials, earnings, plans for future growth and development, and other very important, but often technical and dense topics.
While our donors certainly are not Shareholders of our non-profits, they are most definitely Investors. And while most donors may not be interested in a deep-dive about our organization’s finances (although some may!), they are most certainly interested in our programs, accomplishments and plans on how we are going to further the missions of our organizations.
Investor Meetings, or in non-profit speak Supporter Meetings, can be an incredibly cheap and efficient way to reach out to a very large audience without too much cost (financial or staff time) to your organization. All you need is a toll-free conference line (and a web conference if you really want to get ‘fancy’) and a compelling speaker on a topic of relevance to your mission. The speaker could be your CEO or Executive Director providing a year of services in review, a staff member speaking specifically about one topic or program of interest, a development professional coaching your supporters on how they could advocate on your behalf, or even someone from outside of the organization who can speak knowledgably and with interest on a topic close your organization’s mission.
These meetings are not about ‘the ask,’ and in fact shouldn’t even include a fundraising pitch. They should be designed to deepen your donor’s relationship with your organization, allowing them to feel like more of an insider, and pulling them closer with the sole goal of Engagement. Interestingly, I heard at a conference recently that some studies indicate that participants in this type of Supporter Meeting become ‘higher value’ over time – meaning that even though you are not making an ask during these calls, giving across participants tends to increase at a faster rate than those who do not participate.
Creativity is key! Have you had success with Supporter Meetings? Or, have you tried other Low Cost, High Engagement activities that have been successful? I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Melissa Bank Stepno is a consultant for Target Analytics. You may reach her at email@example.com.