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Giveffect is an all-in-one nonprofit software solution that streamlines your online fundraising systems into one platform.

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7 Tips for a Successful Donor Cultivation Event

Major gift cultivation can be a game-changer for nonprofit organizations. In 2018, $427.71 billion was given in philanthropy – a 4% increase from giving the previous year.  Despite the increase in charitable donations, fewer and fewer households are giving to nonprofit organizations.
However, the wealthiest of households are continuing to give and in large amounts to the causes that they care most about.  Just last year, the top 1% of donors contributed to 49% of the $427 billion given to nonprofit organizations. 
According to Giving USA, the number of small and medium-sized gifts are dropping year over year.  Add to that, the challenge of keeping the attention of our supporters today. Often, nonprofits are focused on acquiring new donors and not cultivating existing relationships with their loyal supporters.  Without those relationships, donors are almost guaranteed to move on and give their support to organizations who are learning more about them and what makes them give.
One of the best ways to build these relationships with major gift donors is through creative, entertaining cultivation events.  These events are designed to emphasize the importance of your mission and show your prospects a great time. Cultivation events are opportunities for your organization to engage in meaningful interactions in support of your mission.  You have the chance to share the impact of your organization. As an added benefit, you get top-tier prospects to invest in the cause your organization champions and the work that you do.  
Donor cultivation events are vitally important in major gift fundraising. Organizations can not only secure major gifts but also revive their donor lists with cultivation events. With a successful event, nonprofits can significantly increase their fundraising revenue and develop a better, long-lasting relationship with their most giving supporters. So, nonprofits should be sure your guests enjoy themselves. If they do – then they will come back for more! Read on for tips on how to have the most successful cultivation events:

1. Host a party, not an event.

Everyone enjoys a party! The word party alludes to a more fun and relaxed environment, which could entice more donors to attend. When sending your invitations, emails, and marketing materials, use the word “party” instead of “event” to invite them to your festivities.

2. Find a strong advocate.

Consider asking a current major donor who is close to the organization or volunteer to host an event in their home for friends and acquaintances who they know have the ability to give at the major donor level.  Guarantee them that your staff will handle all the logistics and that their efforts should be dedicated to building the invite list and networking. Use your board members as a resource. Your board members should play an active role at your cultivation event. Let your board members can be the first face your prospects see when they arrive. Other ways to get your board members involved is to have them introduce guests to each other to spark conversations, and seek out unengaged attendees to join in the conversation.

3. Advertise special guests.

This might be a client who has been impacted by your cause who can share their success story. Board members can also be advertised as special guests. If not, ask them to reach out to their peers and their networks.  Remember to book your special guests as far in advance as possible. 

4. Have a substantial invite list.

The average response rate for donor cultivation events is between 10 and 30 percent of those invited. In anticipation of lower response rates, be sure to invite more people than you expect to attend your cultivation “party”. To increase open rates, tell donors that space is limited and urge them to reply soon.

5. Train your staff for exceptional service.

Your event should be a representation of your mission at each turn and be flawless, fun, and well-managed.  Prior to your “party”, schedule training sessions with your staff to reinforce 100% white-glove service. Encourage your staff to help with serving so they are in a position to mingle in personal conversations with guests.

6. Take every opportunity to make a personal touch.

Personal touches make all the difference. If inviting a small group of people, hand-address the envelopes. Within a week of your cultivation event, make a personal phone call to each supporter who attended, whether they made a donation or not. By thanking your attendees in a timely fashion, you are not only being polite, but also solidifying the relationship you established at the event.

7. Listen!

Donors want to know they’re being heard and that their interests are being considered.  Listening to your donors will help you develop the plan to secure your major gift.  By asking open-ended questions, it can help you determine what your donor is passionate about, their awake at night issues, and even the best time for solicitation. 
Ultimately, to pull off a meaningful donor cultivation party, you need to unleash your inner party planner and ensure your donors have a great time! Check out how you can manage your events with the Giveffect system.