Tis the season for nonprofit events.
I was at 2 last week and a few more this coming week. What about you?
The holidays are a great time to connect with your donors, inspire them to give and ask for their year-end support. The giving season typically starts late September and ramps up to December 31. This is when most organizations make or break their fundraising goals for the year. With good reason - about 1/3 of all annual giving takes place in the last 31 days of the year.
With all these events, I've seen, and heard donors talk about, the ever ominous event ask, so I thought I'd give you some tips on how to nail that ask and inspire support from your event audience.
If it goes right, it can feel like you and your audience moved mountains and are collectively solving the world's problems. Gone wrong, your audience can feel held hostage to your fundraising.
So here are 10 tips to help you inspire and move your audience to giving:
1. make sure you're talking to the right audience.
This might sound obvious, but if you're warming up an audience to your organization, it might not be the right time to ask. The most successful fundraising asks are always to an audience who cares about your work. If they don't care (yet), your ask will fall flat.
2. practice the ask
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Your ask needs to come across as inspired and authentic. It should be passionate and natural. Make sure your speaker practices so that it is smooth and comfortable. There is nothing worse than fumbling with a script right in the middle of a call to action.
3. have the right person asking
This is not as simple as it sounds. Often, we ask speakers to speak because they are the "appropriate" person to deliver a message. That doesn't always mean they are the best person to deliver that message. Authenticity is key - the person asking should be passionate and knowledgeable about the cause. They should also be a good speaker. If your board chair is the person who "should" speak but can't inspire, pass on the duties to someone else who can build energy and excitement.
4. inspire first
Before you ask, inspire. Share a story of a program recipient or deliver some content that will move people. Take what you know about your donors and why they give and then build that into the pre-ask.
5. give people time and space to make the gift
This is perhaps the most common mistake I see - not giving your donors the time and space to actually make the gift. People are much more likely to give in the moment. We are so bad with silence that our instinct is to rush through the time when we are asking people to fill in their forms. Just pause. Let them take a moment to actually fill in their donation card.
6. plant some champions
Social proof is important, so plant a few people who will start filling in their donor cards. People will follow along the collective action. Don't take it overboard though. I've heard of events where they list the donors in real time and it's a little too public for most people.
7. give people clear instructions
Now that you have a room of completed donor forms, tell people exactly what to do with them. Is there a box? Someone will collect them? Having a hard end to the ask is important with clear instructions on how to hand in their donor forms.
8. make it a moment, and move on
Going hand-in-hand with the clear instructions is also the need to move on. The ask should feel like a moment. If you follow these steps, there will be a collective action that is doing something important. Feel its gravitas, but then move on. Don't keep asking and continue your event.
9. thank your donors
Within 48 hours of the event, thank your donors. You can send an email with the results and a few pictures from the event, or call anyone who gave to say thanks (ideally, both). Share the impact of their support, not just the dollars raised.
10. keep the love alive
Event donors are notoriously difficult to transition to regular donors, but the more you communicate with them and reinforce the world-changing impact of their support, the more likely they are to continue their support.