No matter where I go, I end up saying similar things to folks who ask me about which event is best to recognize and engage their donors: Events aren't a silver bullet to donor recognition and engagement.
Allow me to take that one step further by saying that a vast majority of the events that donors are invited to are NOT donor centered. By their very nature, you are asking a donor to do something that they may or may not want to participate in, you tell them the following:
-You need to show up on THIS date
-You need to show up at THIS time
-You need to eat and drink THIS that WE picked
-You'll sit next to the people WE choose for you (good grief)
-You'll hear about things WE want to tell you (sometimes for a looooong time)
-You'll have to get gussied up no matter how long your day in the office
- You CAN'T bring your kids (or maybe you shouldn't)
So my question to you is, why should I go? And what happens if, God forbid, I already have plans that evening? If I miss the event, do I miss the whole experience?
These type of traditional donor events are ORGANIZATION centered, not DONOR centered.
So what gives? Why do we keep doing it the same all the time?
The answer: Because I guess no one challenged the status quo. "We've always done it that way"
Events are a time where a donor should be immersed in the special experiences that only your organization can offer. They should be fully sensory and interactive, and they shouldn't make the donor feel bad for not wanting to hear from every single member of your leadership in 3-5 minute stints.
So how do we fix this?
We start designing events donors want to come to, and we start doing events that are smaller and more customized. In addition, for those who can't attend, we don't ignore them.
Ok so what does that event look like? I have a rule about events, (and excuse the candor here folks), it should be an event I want to get off of my couch for and put on my bra. You're laughing, I'm serious.
Why do I want to come and eat your baked chicken? What is it that I will experience that I can't unless I go? I say it all the time, there's only so many heavy Hors d'oeuvres a person can eat in a lifetime, believe me. Why should I be herded together with hundreds of other semi wealthy to wealthy people and given the same speech? Where am I in all of this? Or is this really about YOU.?
Sometimes, it's going to be about US, like campaign launches and when I get to meet the beneficiary of my giving, but most of the time, it's really about YOU. And frankly, I grow tired of that. What is a unique experience that I can touch, taste, see, smell, interact with that only you can provide? Once you've seen a ballroom and hotel carpet, you've kind of seen them all. What sets yours apart?
Check out this amazing video from the University of Central Florida athletics department.
They had their top loyal supporters experience what it was like to go through an official recruiting visit- that's TOP NOTCH folks. Imagine how exciting for the donors that must have been.
So my challenge to you is to make one or two changes that turn YOUR events into something that your donors THRILL and DELIGHT at attending. Remember, it's not about YOU, it's about the DONOR.
I welcome your thoughts!