Guides & Resources

How to (Affordably) Impress Your Nonprofit’s Event Guests

Stewardship & Marketing: Donor Relations/Stewardship
Fundraising Strategies: Special Events
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Organizing nonprofit events takes skill, strategy, planning, and maybe even a few gray hairs earned. We get it. They’re not always easy, but events are perfect opportunities to raise money for your cause.

These fundraising events can also provide the potential for your organization to build a strong community. Building this community means your organization can continue returning to your engaged supporters for future donations, advocacy campaign participation, and volunteer hours.

In this guide, we’ll cover how you can make small changes to your event preparation process that will impress your guests and encourage them to remain part of your community for the long term.

Generate excitement before the event begins.

Before your event begins, manage and communicate what your guests should expect. Most guests want to know what the theme is, how to dress, and what activities will be offered. You want to do everything you can to communicate these aspects of your event so there are no surprises when your guests arrive. You wouldn’t want a guest expecting a casual barbecue to arrive surprised at a full-blown gala with a silent auction, plated dinner, and classical entertainment.

Generate excitement before the event by providing insight into the kinds of entertainment, the benefits of the location, and even what kind of auction items they will be able to bid on. This will generate excitement for their attendance.
Be sure to tease this information on social media, your website, over email, and with other outreach platforms as a part of your marketing strategy.

Keep your attendee data in mind during event preparation.

When preparing for your event, make sure to take into consideration the preferences of your organization’s supporters and target audience. Doing this will ensure you have activities that will appeal to your supporters and keep your audience engaged.

Start with the data in your CRM. Using the data you already have will help you make decisions about:

  • What auction items will best intrigue your audience
  • What marketing channels will best get their attention
  • Who the best speaker for the event will be
  • Where people should sit in the table seating chart

Making better use of the information you already have is completely free, and requires no additional materials or equipment rentals.

Ensure a smooth check-in and check-out process.

Having long lines at either check-in or check-out will always leave a negative impression on your guests. When planning your event, spend a lot of time considering how to streamline these processes, taking into account all of the following:

  • Allow supporters to register online before the event, filling out any necessary information, signing waivers, and otherwise providing information for your team. This will limit the number of people who need to complete these tasks at the event itself.
  • Ensure your volunteers are trained to use your event software so they can easily check supporters in using their registered ticket and check them out when it’s time to leave.
  • Collect payment information beforehand. This is especially important for events like silent auctions, where your nonprofit needs to quickly process payments. If you’re hosting an event like this, look for software that allows you to collect the information you need prior to the event itself.

Celebrate with your guests when you achieve your goals.

When you achieve your fundraising goals at the event, you should celebrate this with your attendees! After all, they’re the ones who made that achievement possible. Go above and beyond with your celebration when you reach significant goals by using strategies like:

  • Making announcements at the event, telling everyone about your accomplishment
  • Bringing out a surprise speaker to celebrate with your attendees and discuss the impact of reaching your goal
  • Offering everyone a discount or prize as appreciation for helping you to accomplish your goals

After the event, continue with this celebration. Write to attendees, thanking them for helping to achieve your goals and telling them the impact of their generosity.

You've done all the legwork to secure donations and sponsorships, and now it's time to deliver a memorable event that will leave a lasting impression on your attendees. By combining data-driven results with attention to detail, you can provide an event experience that ensures your guests want to continue their involvement with your nonprofit in the future.

a picture of a man: Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter, Founder & CEO of Handbid, has spent 18 years in the nonprofit industry. In 2004 he founded the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association of Colorado where he still resides as board chair. Jeff learned early on that nonprofits desperately needed better and more affordable fundraising solutions.  Leveraging his software background, he built most of the tools his charities used, and in 2011 he launched Handbid at his own fundraising event.  The goal was to improve the guest experience, reduce administration and increase revenue.  Handbid accomplished all of those goals, effectively doubling revenue in its debut. Nine years later, Handbid's suite of tools has delighted over a half-million guests, generated millions of bids, and helped thousands of charities raise well over $100 million.

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