Let's Raise Some Money
Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

A Fundraiser Is About Raising Money, But Don’t Forget To Recognize Those Who Already Donated

May 22nd, 2014 by Karen Climer

Last week I attended a cocktail party fundraiser.  The event was “free”.  There was mingling, a short presentation, hors d’oeuvres and drinks.  During the presentation, they asked everyone to make a donation.  You’ve probably been to plenty of these types of events.

I was a guest of the underwriting sponsor who we’ll call Major Orlando Corporation.  When I checked in, the volunteers at registration thanked me for sponsoring the event.  I appreciated that.  I told the registration volunteers that I didn’t actually work for Major Orlando.  I will give the volunteers credit for knowing that Major Orlando Corporation was a sponsor and thanking me.

After a little bit of mingling, the program began.  There were probably four different speakers during the program including the president of the nonprofit.  Not one of the speakers mentioned Major Orlando Corporation who had underwritten the cost of the entire event.  (This is where a script comes in handy.)  Yes, my host (who worked for Major Orlando Corporation and had arranged for the sponsorship) noticed this oversight.

After the ask, the committee members handed out pledge forms.  One particularly bold committee member walked up to the Major Orlando Corporation representative and asked if she would like to donate.  Umm, that was awkward.  She politely said she had already donated.

Will Major Orlando Corporation donate to this event next year?  I don’t know, but I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t.  I wouldn’t want to be the volunteer who calls them next year to ask for the sponsorship.  It is difficult enough for volunteers to ask for money.  Now, next year’s volunteers are going to have to overcome the blunders from this year before they even get started.

And handing a pledge form to the presenting sponsor…well, if the speakers hadn’t made the first blunder, this second one would have been much more tolerable.  Maybe the volunteer didn’t know my host was from Major Orlando Corporation (even though it said so on her name tag).  Before the program, someone from the organization needs to gather the pledge-card-passer-outers, point out a handful of people and say, “These people are the sponsors.  Instead of handing them a pledge form, say, ‘Thank you for your sponsorship.’”

Another way to do is to say, “Thank you to Major Orlando Corporation for underwriting the cost of this event.  Because of their support, everything you donate today will go directly to the cause.  Where are you, Ms. Major?  There she is.  Let’s all thank Major Orlando Corporation for their support.”  You thank the organization and draw attention to the representative from the organization at the same time.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know how much I reference Penelope Burk’s research.  Donors need three things after a gift:

  • Prompt, personalized acknowledgement of their gift
  • Confirmation that their gifts have been used as they intended
  • Measurable results on the effect of their gift prior to the next ask

If the donor gets these three things, 83% of them will give again next year.  In this case, the organization could have handled all three requirements right there at the event.  They didn’t and it might have cost them an underwriting sponsor for next year’s event.

Posted in Acknowledgment, Events

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