Want to move some of your campaign prospects closer to your organization? Want to engage them in your organization’s vision, plans and also the coming campaign?
Many smart organizations use small gatherings of major donors as an important cultivation tool. And in my call this morning with one of our pre-campaign coaching clients, we took a deep dive into just how to make them work really well to draw your donors close.
Small Gatherings as Powerful Cultivation Tools
Why do small gatherings work?
Because much of the preliminary work in fundraising occurs in a social setting.
Small gatherings are wonderful opportunities to get in front of your prospects, and encourage a friendly, open relationship with them.
Here’s how to get the most out of these very special opportunities:
1. Make them exclusive.
When major donors get together, they usually prefer to hang with people of the same elite status as they are.
Example: I always had success inviting my major donors for a private VIP reception BEFORE the big party. They are more likely to come if they know they are one of just a few VIPS who are getting exclusive treatment.
2. Send the invitation from one of their peers.
Who is doing the inviting really matters. Who gets their attention? Who might they pay attention to and who would they ignore?
Example: If it is the president of the local bank, then she would more likely to respond to another CEO.
3. Consider the type of invitation sent.
Your invitation can convey the feeling of “VIP and special” or mass produced. So choose carefully.
Example: Personal letters and emails have a more intimate and special feel than a formal invitation that says ”You are cordially invited. . . . “
4. Serve first class refreshments.
Remember these VIP donors are used to superb food and drink. Go out of your way to be gracious and offer them what they would like.
Example: Whatever you serve, make it really really nice and not just regular stuff. Don’t take shortcuts with your libations.
5. Select a comfortable location.
The location sets up the environment for your event. It can be stiff and formal — or welcoming and relaxed.
Example: I find that a living room in someone’s home creates a far more relaxed, social and open feeling. And that’s what you are after!
6. Control the program.
You must find a way to manage the presenters and also to facilitate questions.
Example: Use an Emcee to introduce and/or cut off presenters who go on too long. The Emcee can also help pull out questions from your donors and encourage an open-ended conversation.
7. Start the evening with a warm welcome.
The very beginning of the event sets the tone for the rest of the evening. Make warm and welcoming.
Example: The person who does the welcoming needs to smile, relax and thank everyone who is there. The host also outlines what we will be doing this evening and how long it will last.
8. Launch the program with a testimonial from one of your guests.
This is a lovely way to set the tone. There’s nothing like a heartfelt message at the very beginning – especially from a VIP peer.
Example: “I also want to welcome everyone tonight. I care about this organization because . . .” – and just have them fill in that sentence.
9. Set clear objectives for the event ahead of time.
If you decide what you want to accomplish, then you can be sure to plan an experience that will fulfill your goals.
Example: You may want to:
– Inform your donors about this project.
_ Engage them in conversations about it.
_ Start getting their feedback.
_ Create enthusiasm among them for the project.
_ Open the door to more serious private discussions about it.
10. Use a Follow-Up Card
If appropriate, invite your guests to share their opinions with you on this card.
Example: You can ask:
_ What do you think of this proposed project?
_ Do you think we can raise the money?
_ Do you have any suggestions or input for us as we plan?
_ What is the best way to contact you?
Bonus Tip: Have fun!
You absolutely want to make sure that your guests enjoy themselves. That will be the most important objective of the night!
You want your major donor prospects to have a pleasant experience. If they do – then they will come back for more!
Small major donor cultivation events are vitally important in capital campaign fundraising. They offer a wonderful format to help you engage your lead prospects in your organization and in the pending campaign.
Be sure you make use of these to warm up and inform your donors well before they get a call from a feasibility study consultant.