Guest Post by Rachel Muir
In yesterday’s post, I shared 5 questions you should ask yourself to develop a donor cultivation event:
1) What are you already doing with clients that would be meaningful for your donors to see?
2) What high value “VIP” volunteer opportunities can you create to allow donors to feel a part of your mission in a fun, engaging way?
3) Who is your audience: major donors, midlevel donors, prospects, board members, media, stakeholders, etc?
4) What is your event concept and event plan from start to finish?
5) What is your follow up plan for everyone who attended?
Today I want to inspire you with great examples of donor cultivation events I’ve personally done to get your creative juices flowing!
I founded Girlstart where we empowered girls in math, science, technology and engineering. We served girls at our location, local schools, universities, and on occasion field trips.
The low hanging fruit for us was summer camps held at our location. Each Friday when the girls “graduated” from camp we invited “celebrity judges” to review the campers work (websites, robots, videos, business inventions, etc) and award prizes. We had reserved parking, a set start/finish time, and assignment for judges with the option to interact with the girls as much or as little as they felt comfortable doing so, such as asking them questions about their invention, introducing their career, etc.
Our judges loved it and we made camp come alive for them by engaging them in a camp science experiment, such as sewing stitches on a chicken breast in a mock surgery, or testing “mystery powder” found at the scene of a caper. Each guest got a personalized invitation, reminder calls, a staff or board member to escort them personally through their visit, a follow up phone call and handwritten thank you card for attending.
Once we mastered that we were ready for our next trick: inviting our donors on a field trip. Every year for our Take a Girl to College Day, we had 100 + middle school girls come to the University of Texas campus to experience a day in the life of a college student. If these girls went to college they would be first generation college students.
It was a meaningful experience to behold and we soon welcomed donors to it with valet parking, a green room with refreshments, time to mingle with other supporters and board members, and an orientation from a program graduate. As the girls got off their school buses college admissions counselors (our donors “cast” in a VIP acting role) congratulated each student by name to tell them they’d just been accepted to Harvard, Yale, MIT and more and give them their (scripted) orientation. This event was a huge hit and our sponsors especially loved it.
My last example is an event created specifically for my top tier major donor in my portfolio. I had a six-figure ask goal for his capital campaign gift. After learning in one of our visits that he was a futurist, we created an ad hoc high tech advisory council to advise us on building our future computer lab and asked him to chair it. He filled it with high tech C-level friends, we met over lunch in our space and engaged attendees with in-person testimonials from graduates and solicited their advice on cloud computing trends that might impact our technology planning. Several months later we had the gift!
As I said in yesterday’s post, even if your clients are remote you can still creatively engage your donors. The only limit is your imagination!
Rachel Muir, CFRE is a fundraising consultant, speaker and trainer transforming nonprofit professionals and organizations into successful, confident fundraisers. When she was just 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show. Her career spans running successful nonprofit organizations, leading an online fundraising consulting practice, and managing major gift portfolios for some of the country’s largest and most successful nonprofit brands. Rachel is a recognized subject matter expert on moves management and major gift fundraising and has authored numerous white papers on these topics.