As a smaller charity, you never need to worry about competing with larger charities, as long as you build authentic relationships with those who care about you and love what you do.
A crucial part of being authentic is to connect donors and potential donors with your core work in a concrete way.
But how do you connect people with your core work? How do you build meaningful relationships with donors?
YOU DON’T NEED ANOTHER GALA
Do you think you need to put on a fancy gala because another organization did? Or are you in the fortunate position of knowing some fancy people and you think they only want to attend fancy events?
Well, relax. Donors don’t want another gala.
In fact, many donors see galas as an obligation. You might draw people to a fancy event because they were invited by a friend, but you are not building long-term support by hosting events that are disconnected from your mission.
INSTEAD, GIVE YOUR DONORS AN EXPERIENCE THEY WILL NEVER FORGET
Instead, ask yourself what is unique about your organization. Then take what’s uniquely you and put that at the front and center of how you engage your community. Give your guests an experience they will never forget!
I was talking with an organization that teaches circus skills to at-risk youth. Instead of hosting a fancy gala, I suggested they host an event in a board member’s home where their students could teach attendees some simple circus skills. Guests would go from not knowing much about the organization to having an intimate understanding of the work.
DONORS WANT TO GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY
Another time, I was working with an organization that ran an after-school program to promote self-development and self-esteem in young girls.
One of their initiatives was to teach the girls how to make soap that they would then sell at farmer’s markets to raise funds to go back into the program. The girls were empowered by making and selling a desirable, homemade product. At the same time, they were able to give back to the program that was a safe space for them and that they loved so much.
Now, this client of mine was thinking about having a fancy donor appreciation event when I said, “Get the girls to teach your donors how to make soap!”
Trust me, donors don’t want to come to another event where they have to make small talk and listen to boring speeches.
Donors want to get their hands dirty- in this case quite literally!
IT’S ABOUT THE WORK, NOT THE BUDGET
You can easily host these types of events for the low cost of a few supplies and a little extra staff time. If you run public programs or are a social service organization that works with vulnerable populations, you can still host something like an open house. Download my free Shoestring Fundraising Cheat Sheet now to find out how.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas on how you can create really special ways for people who are committed to your work to connect with your organization on a shoestring budget.
Donors give because they love what you’re doing, so give them the opportunity to experience what you do first hand.
Events can be used to build relationships or to raise money directly. You can charge a ticket price, ask for a donation at the event, or have an auction or other fun idea. Start by putting your mission and work front-and-center and go from there.