virtual eventConvert your event to a virtual event and invite your caseload donors…
It seems like a good idea on the surface.
But if the event is the same old same old event from before – but now virtual, you really haven’t changed anything. Which means you’re likely causing several things to repeat themselves that we’ve addressed in our free White Paper:

  • You’re focused on transactions. That is what most events are. They’re clothed in the cause, but the attendees are focused more on the event than the cause. Therefore, their giving is transactional.
  • You’re telling your caseload donors that this is all they need to do. Just come to the event, sponsor something, get an auction item and bam! we’re done. This will undermine that donor’s giving to your cause.
  • You’re likely not counting all the cost. All the staff time to pull off the event is probably not discounted from your gross income. And then there’s the distraction for MGOs and PGOs from their caseloads, which has a real cost.
  • Most of the event attendees will not continue giving. This is the problem with many events – they attract event people, not cause-oriented people. I did some recent analysis of a donor file where there were a number of “event donors” and, sure enough, their giving in subsequent months and years after the event was very small.

OK, that’s all the bad news. The good news is that if you make the event cause-oriented and virtual, you can have solid success. You just have to be more strategic.
The key objective of any event planning must be to deliver content that matches donors’ passions and interests and a core service (cause) your organization provides. (Tweet it!) That content also needs to be designed such that it moves the donor toward bonding with your cause.
What all of this means is that you need to be proactive in assuring that the program content and the ask result in a dynamic that is no different than if you had met with a major donor privately. Specifically, this means:

  1. You’ve created a program theme that matches the interests and passions of all the donors present.
  2. You’ve created an ask which is large enough to accommodate the sum of all the individual asks you would have made privately to each major donor present. It doesn’t make sense to present a $100,000 need at your event, when the sum of what the major donors present could give is $250,000.
  3. You deliver the ask in the program in a manner where point #2 above is clearly understood by your caseload donors and others present.

In our opinion, every event should have the following three strategic objectives:

  1. Effectively “selling” qualified major donors on the event and why they should come. Make it cause-oriented rather than event-oriented.
  2. Effectively “selling” the cause during the event. Match the theme to the interests and passions of the donors present and a related core service area of your organization.
  3. Effectively asking. Match your ask amount to the sum of the capability of the major donors present, and then ask in a manner that results in each major donor giving at the level they would have given had you interacted with them privately. You can apply this same “formula” to the new donors in attendance.

These objectives are connected and inter-related. They can’t be planned for or considered separately. They are synergistically linked. If you can’t deliver on these three objectives, then you shouldn’t have the event.
To be clear, I’m not against events. Put simply, I’m against anything that gets a MGO off of that very special, and rather mystical, thing that happens when the MGO connects with their caseload donor: you discover the donor’s passions and interests, and you have the opportunity to fulfill that passion/interest through their giving to your good cause.
Make sure that if you send your caseload donor to a virtual event, it has this approach – then it will be good for them, the organization and for you.
PS — We have a lot more ideas on making events successful for major gifts in our white paper – and you can use many of them for virtual events as well.