The Great Event Donor Debate | npENGAGE

The Great Event Donor Debate

By on Aug 24, 2011


We’ve all wondered “what do we do with event donors?”  Do we try and convert them from event donors to organizations donors.  I’ve talked with some organizations who’ve added event donors to their direct mail list; they figure if we don’t mail to them someone else will.  I agree with that sentiment, someone is probably mailing to them.  While you might upset a few donors, others will either contribute or recycle the mailing.  I’ve heard from other organizations that they have a no solicitation policy with event donors.  I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here, you should do what you’re most comfortable with.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and was reminded of a blog post a few months ago: ‘Thonors’, Not Donors.  At the end of the post, the author shared his frustration about how donors are connected to the participant and not the organization. Personally, I’m not bothered by event donors having loyalty to the participant. As wise man once said to me “You have to pick your battles.”  I think this is the approach to take with event donors.  Is it worth the effort to try and connect with someone who’s sort of interested in you or would your time be better spent cultivating participants?

According to our donorCentrics Events Benchmarking group, five walk programs averaged a 40% participant retention rate.  We also learned that multi-year participants raise more than new participants.  But, every year organizations continue to spend a ton of effort recruiting new walkers.  Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate event strategies and spend more time retaining participants.

I didn’t set out to write a post about retention, I actually intended on coming up with a couple ideas for turning event donors into organization donors.  Let’s get back on track.

Here’s one idea.  Instead of trying to turn all event donors into organization donors, why not focus on your efforts.  How do you focus your efforts?  Let’s borrow a tactic from Major Gift Officers.  When a MGO (I love acronyms) is searching for new opportunities, they often look at their current portfolio of donors and to see who their donors know.  Maybe a current major donor can connect them to a new prospect.

So, let’s use this strategy for event donors.  Instead of dropping all event donors in the direct mail cycle, look at your most active participants.  Set up a meeting with your participants to review their donor list.  Work with them to connect you to their donors.  If they aren’t comfortable discussing their donor list, then take this time to thank them for their hard work and support.  Spending some quality time with your participants will go a long way in making sure they fundraise again next year.

Or, how about focusing on your board members’ donor list?  Hopefully your board members are participating in your event.  If not, get them involved!  After the event, sit down with your board members go over their donor list.  Their list could contain potential board members, major donors, or individuals who will make an additional gift.

What do you think?  Are you currently working with your board members to uncover new prospects?


Amy Braiterman, principal strategy consultant at Blackbaud, supports customers with their peer-to-peer fundraising events with a process she refers to as “data-driven strategy.” Amy’s data driven strategy analyzes how effective event participants are using online fundraising tools and takes those results to develop an event fundraising plan. Prior to joining Blackbaud, Amy earned her fundraising stripes managing events for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Alzheimer’s Association and Share Our Strength. She shares her fundraising know how here on npENGAGE, by hosting educational webinars and speaking at customer conferences

Comments (1)

  • Good tips Amy.
    One other strategy to try is to make sure you meet the event participant prospects with the most potential AT the events instead of waiting until after the event is over.  I like to prospect from the expected attendee list and share the list with major gift officers.  If your office stores information on attendance in your database, use that info to identify people to approach and meet personally at the events.  Before the event, print an attendee list that has the # of events attended and maybe the names of the last 2 events attended, total gift amount, and # of gifts.  Share the report with major gift officers and fundraising staff.  The people who have high event attendance and a good track record of giving should be greeted at the event.  You may even be able to introduce them to speakers, physicians/professors, etc., or other folks who could help tease out the interests they may have beyond attending ‘thons and other events.

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