Good morning, DonorDreams readers! As many of you know, my work schedule has become challenging in recent months, and I’ve asked a number of “virtual online friends” to help me out with guest blog posts. Today’s post is from Sarah Tedesco, who is the Executive Vice President at DonorSearch. She talks about the role that donor and prospect screening can play in helping your special events raise more money. I hope you enjoy this morning’s post. Here’s to your health! ~Erik
3 Ways Prospect Research Can Help You Raise More Money from Events
Most nonprofits host at least one event annually. Even smaller nonprofits will typically make the push for one.
Cost per dollar raised (CPDR) is often the biggest factor in deciding on an event type. Smaller nonprofits with tighter budgets cannot afford to make the upfront investment for something like, say, a concert. Instead, they can opt for an event like a walk-a-thon. Each event has its merits. It comes down to individual circumstances.
Given the heavy emphasis on CPDR, nonprofits absolutely have to maximize fundraising in every aspect of the event. Prospect research is a valuable asset for such maximization.
See what a screening can do for your next event in the three benefits listed below.
1. Teach You Valuable Information About Your Guest List
So you have your RSVP list. You know who is coming. What do you do with that information?
Hopefully, you use it! And by use it, I mean doing more than making sure you have everyone’s t-shirt size or dinner order. Both pieces of information are important for the flow and preparation of your event, but they’re not incredibly relevant to the task at hand — fundraising.
Twiddling your thumbs with a guest list in front of you is a missed opportunity. Research the attendees and learn about them before you see them.
- Giving histories
- Financial situations
- Philanthropic interests
- Business affiliations
Developing prospect profiles on all of your guests prior to the event will supercharge your staff’s ability to mix and mingle when the big night rolls around.
You might know some of the high-quality donors in attendance, but prospect research will help you round out the list. Once you know who is coming, create your VIP, very important prospect, list.
Your staff can study those individuals and make sure that they dedicate some time to stop by and check in with each VIP.
2. Point Out the Donors That Warrant Extra Post-Event Attention
Much like you can create a pre-event V.I.P. list, you can do the same after the event.
The post-event research can accomplish two tasks:
- Making up for the pre-event process if you didn’t perform an advance attendee screening.
- Finding the VIPs who weren’t on your initial list.
Your organization’s handling of event acknowledgments and follow-ups is crucial. You know this, so any information you can gather to improve the process should be welcomed with open arms. Well, open your arms to prospect research.
A high-attendance event, like a 5K, is going to have far too many participants for your staff to reach out to one-on-one afterwards. But, certain donors warrant that type of follow-up.
Consider an example scenario with a donor named Ron who attended your fundraising dinner and auction as a plus one. At the event, he ended up bidding on and winning one of your middle-of-the-pack auction items. You learned his name and various personal details through his auction win, and screened him after the fact.
Your post-event screening revealed that he’s a perfect candidate for planned giving. You now have a direction to go in after sending your acknowledgements.
Knowing what to send immediately after a contribution is easy…it’s a thank you. The next stages of building a communication stream require much more nuance and perspective. That’s when prospect research is so necessary.
3. Help You Adjust Your Event Strategies
Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Insanity is a strong word, but you have to switch things up if your fundraising events aren’t bringing in enough money. That can mean adjusting the event itself or hosting an all new event. Choosing the latter option will take some effort, but there is no shortage of fundraising event ideas out there to get your mind going.
Rather than just guessing the solution to your issue, let prospect research lead you in the right direction. Have the data inform your plans.
Screen those you invited, those who RSVP’d, and those who attended. There’s going to be some overlap among those categories, but it won’t be all overlap.
Look for trends in your fundraising performance and commonalities among the various prospects you screen. To isolate the trends, you’ll need to analyze multiple years’ worth of participation.
For instance, your research could show that despite the fact that one of your events is largely populated by millennials, they’re collectively donating less than any other age group in attendance.
That could direct you to assess how you’re collecting donations. Maybe the event needs an online giving component. Maybe you need to optimize the process for mobile donating.
In another scenario, you may notice that an event you’ve hosted for five years draws a disproportionate percentage of small and mid-level gift donors as compared to major gift donors. If that event isn’t yielding enough funds, find ways to attract those missing major gift donors.
Whatever the solution you’re searching for, it starts with the data.
Attending industry conferences can also be another great source of insight into fundraising event best practices. For more information, here is a great list put together by IMPACTism of the upcoming conferences in 2016.
As you can see, there’s a place for prospect research in any and all phases of an event. Incorporate the screenings into your other betterment techniques and see even greater results.
Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President of DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.