Base & Mid-Level Giving

Every annual fund needs new donors and more dollars to grow and succeed (and meet increased expectations and budget goals). While that’s nothing new, what about trying a different and exciting way to acquire leadership annual fund donors? Hosting an acquisition event can be easy, fun, and low-budget.

To have a successful event, you will need three key things: a well-thought-out list of invitations, a compelling speaker (or speakers) with a genuine message and ask, and a hospitable atmosphere.

1. Invite prospective leadership annual fund donors.

Depending on how big you want your event to be, this could be a broad list of those who have given to the annual fund consistently at non-leadership levels or a well-researched list of high-potential donors. You could also invite volunteers like class giving representatives or reunion committee members who haven’t joined as leadership donors yet. You will also want to consider inviting young alumni if you have a young leadership giving society.

2. Find a compelling, dynamic speaker (or multiple speakers).

Enlist a current leadership annual fund donor—a board member, well-known alum, class representative, or key volunteer. Your speaker(s) should be able to tell their leadership donor story—why did they choose to give to your organization at a leadership level? They should also be able to speak to your organization’s mission and needs—why should someone join the annual fund leadership giving society now? Besides the speaker(s), make sure to invite other leadership donors who can mix and mingle with the guests. Also think about how many staff members you will need to run the event. Have a few staff members on hand to make your guests feel welcome but not too many staff members that it feels overwhelming to your guests. Most of all, you want your guests to hear from and interact with their peers. Whether it’s one-on-one or during an event, connecting with your prospects is essential to increasing the number of leadership donors.

3. Make the event convenient for prospects to be there.

Find somewhere in your city (or the city you’re hosting the event—you can host these events away from your organization’s home) that is easy for your prospects to get to. Consider things like public transportation, accessibility, and parking. Choose a time that would work for most donors—perhaps a breakfast meeting would work well for an invite list full of busy people or a happy hour for a younger audience. To help keep your event low-cost, ask your speakers or other volunteers if they have somewhere they would be willing to host your guests. Maybe an interesting office space or a private room in a club or restaurant? Your speaker or volunteer might also be willing to help pay for the cost of refreshments (be sure to serve your guests something to eat and drink). Wherever you host your event, be sure to choose a time and location that works best for the majority of your invite list.

Lastly, be sure to follow up after the event. It’s not a bad idea to have a sign-in sheet at your event that asks for your attendees’ email addresses and phone numbers. Use that information to follow-up soon (no more than a week) after the event. Your follow-up plan should include email and calling. Send an email to everyone thanking them for attending, then call a few days after that to ask them to join your leadership giving society. Staff members or volunteers (including those who were present at your event) can make these calls. Just be sure everyone gets a follow-up and a chance to give!

Leadership donor acquisition events can be simple, to-the-point events. You do not need much to be successful. If you have a good invitation list, a persuasive and motivating speaker who can make a strong case for support, and a convenient location and time, you can look forward to increasing your leadership annual fund donors.