How to Turn Ordinary Event Attendees into Donors

By: Samantha Tokarczyknon-profit-event-photo

A nonprofits event is much more than just an event. They provide the organization with the possibility of engaging with people and guiding them towards greater involvement within the organization. According to Claire Axelrad,  on Network for Good, she identifies four levels of involvement:

1. Awareness

2. Interest

3. Involvement

4. Investment (any Fundraisers’ goal)

Events for nonprofits are crucial because they not only market the organizations mission but they allow the organization to engage with new people and develop relationships. Most of the attendees with be people who are already active volunteers and donors. Therefore, the goal for the organization at this point should be to get  new attendees involved as well as increase regular attendees overall investmentSM-Graphic

If it is the attendees first encounter with the organization, my suggestion is to first encourage them to sign up for the mailing list and get them following the organization on all its social media.

The question is, how does one go from just an attendee to an involved member or even a respected donor? Going from just another attendee to a donor is a process but it is possible.



1. Schedule Time for Follow-up

Connecting with and thanking donors, dedicated volunteers, and potential donors after an event should not be an afterthought. I recommend marking that time on your calendar just as you would for the actual event. Without following up with your supporters all you have is an event that happened and nothing to show for it.

2. Gather Information and Feedback

Typically an event aids in gathering information for the organization. Think about setting up a donor-focused debriefing, where staff and or volunteers are assigned to cultivate top prospects at the event, along with providing time after the event where the staff and volunteers can meet to discuss what was done well and what can be improved. This is a great time to plug information into the organizations database. Something your organization might want to keep in mind is surveying the events attendees to learn about what your supporters care about.

3. Two Words: Thank You

You can never thank your supporters too much. For attendees, volunteers, and sponsors you can never go wrong with a hand written thank you card. I recommend calling your volunteers and sponsors to personally thank them for their support, as it will make them feel valued. For steps on how to make a thank you phone call click here.

4. What was the Outcome of the Event?

Tell your supporters the results of the event and even post them on your social media with a couple photos. Communicate the results by social media, email, newsletter, or what ever other source was used to get the word out prior to the event. As you share the results of the event I recommend including a section thanking everyone for their support.

5. Recognize Donors for Their Contribution

shutterstock_74201731It is no mystery that people enjoy being thanked for their gift. Sometimes supporters think buying a raffle ticket is more generous then it really is, nevertheless it is still important to recognize their gift. As Claire put it, “You may know that the most of the cost of their ticket, or their auction item purchase, wasn’t technically a charitable gift, but they don’t think of it this way.” Recognize, thank, and encourage increased involvement.

6. Increase Donors Involvement with Your Organization in Other Ways

Encourage your donors to get involved in as many aspects of the organization as possible. This could look like donating, volunteering, and following your organization on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). It could also look like following a blog or signing up for a newsletter. Either way, gaining greater involvement from donors in other ways is a great strategy for any

7. Create a Journey

Not everyone takes the same path, causing supporters to engage with the organization in various ways, at different points. Your event is just one starting point to a path of greater involvement. The key is keeping the event as a stepping stone to deeper engagement and not a dead end to the journey.



All in all, an organization should follow-up, gather information, show gratitude, share results, recognize all generosity, encourage other ways of involvement, and build a journey to shift an event attendee into a donor.

About the writer: Samantha Tokarczyk is a senior at the University of Iowa studying Ethics and Public Policy with a certificate in Fundraising and Philanthropy Communications. She intends to continue working with animal welfare nonprofits, as well as attend law school after graduation.


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