Due to the COVID-19 crisis, it's likely that you've had to make some tough decisions with regard to your nonprofit’s in-person fundraising events.Perhaps you've rescheduled them for next year or canceled them outright.Many nonprofits have found success in converting the events into a virtual format. This can be done in many different ways, such as hosting the event using live-streaming services or converting the event content into videos for an email sequence. Others have started incorporating hybrid events in their calendar where there are both digital and in-person elements to the event in order to keep everyone engaged. Whatever format you choose, your donor database can aid you in engaging supporters prior to, during, and after the event. In fact, leveraging your donor data may be the difference between event success and failure, regardless of whether the event is virtual or not.Here are a few ways that you can lean on your donor database to make your virtual event a huge success!
If you've already been collecting event registrations, but fear you might have to cancel or postpone, it's important to first gather a list of folks who have registered or paid for admission to the event. This is the group you'll want to communicate the cancellation to first since they have already made a financial and/or scheduling commitment to attend. Hopefully, you have used an event registration software like Accelevents to record the transaction details and store the donor profiles. Using an event platform will make it easier for you to manage any changes on your event. You'll want to also move that into your donor database so that you can add to the full and robust profiles of supporters and record how they have interacted with your organization.Why? If you are going to cancel or postpone the event, tell the registrants that you have converted their ticket into a donation, and that you will refund it if they wish. This is a nuanced approach. You don't want to refund the ticket and then ask for a donation. Instead, assume that they will be supportive of the donation conversion. It’s likely that the vast majority of these ticket buyers will have no problem with this. You should of course quickly refund anyone who objects and record that information on their profile (they may not be a great supporter of your mission going forward). Or, you could use that information as a stewardship opportunity — maybe they were really looking forward to something that was going to occur at that event.
If you're lucky enough to be starting with a clean slate in terms of an upcoming virtual event, you can use your donor data to promote the event to different types of supporters in different ways. This is a good best practice in terms of any type of communication, especially if your nonprofit focuses heavily on your retention rates, but an event is a great opportunity to flex those muscles for the first time if segmentation is new to you.Rather than sending out one generic invitation to your entire list, customize several versions of that invitation for different groups of supporters. There is really no limit to the number of segments you can use, but your best bet is to focus on three core groups: lapsed donors, current/active donors, and monthly donors.How you approach these three groups can vary from organization to organization. For example:
Your organization likely has many unique types of supporters that warrant unique outreach. For example, an education foundation may want to invite parents of current students to an event differently than community members who do not have children in the district. For sponsorship requests, consider asking past sponsors using different language than you would businesses that haven’t supported your organization before.The more you move away from a generic, one-size-fits-all approach, the more likely it is that your appeals hit the mark.
In addition to staff and service recipients, you might want to feature your supporters at your event.With an effective nonprofit CRM, you can run a report and find donors who have been giving to you for 10, 20, or even 30 years. You can also find volunteers who have supported you for just as long or most valued peer-to-peer fundraiser. All of this data is readily available when you have access to well-built out donor profiles. These supporters could be great people to speak during your event. Perhaps ask them to speak on the topic of why they believe in the work you do.
After the event concludes, you'll want to record attendance and any donations made on supporters’ profiles in your donor database. If you're using external software to host the event or take donations, make sure that information gets imported into your donor CRM. If you don’t currently have a database that supports this information, consider beginning the research (try reading Bloomerang’s complete buyer’s guide) to invest in one that does. After all, these are critical interactions that you won't want to miss. Be sure to also record any no-shows or those who were invited but did not buy a ticket or attend. If your donor database has integrated email marketing and event registration, it will be easy to record all of these interactions. If you don't, it's worth the time to import everything from the separate systems. You can use this data to send specific thank-yous to your attendees for being there, as well as for making any donations. You can also tell no-shows that you missed them, and give them alternative ways to engage. This data will also come in handy for your future events when you segment your invites!All in all, your donor database can empower you to entice supporters towards your virtual event more so than if you did not take a data-centric approach. The more you leverage your donor data, the more likely it is that your communications will resonate with the intended recipients!