Tonight I leave for a week in Berlin at the film festival, Berlinale. Four weeks ago I spent a week in Park City Utah for Sundance. You see, one of my clients right now is Hot Docs, a documentary film festival based in Toronto. So I get to travel to other film festivals. Even as a fundraiser. Let me explain.
As part of patron benefits, Hot Docs offers its supporters the opportunity to join us at other film festivals, where we plan and curate a full itinerary of documentary films, meals and attractions. Yes, our donors travel with us. And they love it. And we love it. And you should do this too.
There are two significant benefits to these trips.
The first is pure relationship building. In just five days I get to know our donors at a level that would typically take me three years! We bond over a shared experience and build a relationship that is beyond transactional. This deepens their connection to the organization and helps me better understand their motivations, interests and values. It's not an awkward conversation over coffee, but a genuine and authentic connection that comes from being together for five days straight. The benefit this has for our fundraising is both deep and long reaching. But it also benefits our donors. We can better create a meaningful giving experience for them, tapping into their interests and passions.
The second benefit is community building. Hot Docs' fundraising has been successful because we create a community of supporters. While they start these trips as strangers, they end as friends. Friends with shared interests and a passion for documentary. These relationships are reinforced through our donor events and activities at home and throughout the year, making Hot Docs THE place to be. Donors who shied away from events because they didn't know anyone now are our most regular guests. And better yet, they bring their other friends, who become prospective donors.
I often get asked about the logistics, so here are a few quick notes about these trips:
The donors pay their own way - we charge them a fee for the trip that covers films, meals and any other on-site expenses. The fees also cover the costs for our staff to travel. The donors pay their own airfare and hotel (which we arrange).
We find that having one or two champions (early adopters) who can spread enthusiasm about the trips help drive sign ups.
We have the days booked pretty solid, but people can opt-out of any of the activities. These are adults - we let them make their own decisions.
They work well for small groups, 15 - 20 people has worked really well for us.
Carry the theme of "service" and "stewardship" through to these trips. We go out of our way to make them feel special and cared for.
Chose a location/activity that makes sense to your donors and to your organization.
So how can you use travel with your donors?
What types of experiences would deepen their connection to your mission and their relationship with your organization?