Building Relationships with Non-Fundraising Events

Photo by MJ/TR

An important part of turning a one-time donor into a regular donor, or even turning a non-donor into one, is what’s called donor cultivation. It’s sounds technical, but that just means you’re creating a relationship with your donors so they feel more attached to your cause and continue supporting you.

Events are a great way to do this. And not all events you host need to be big fundraisers. I spoke with my favorite Pinterest Pinner and fellow Yankee fan Lindsey Rosenthal, from Events for Good about this and she says there is a way to develop a deeper, meaningful relationship with your donors through non-fundraising events.

“Events are a way to establish, fortify, and create a strong relationship with your donors because of the face-to-face connection that we, as people, crave,” Lindsey says. “And that’s across cultures and socioeconomic status.”

What Events Can Do

Non-fundraising events can let your donor peek into what your cause is all about, without the stress of being asked for money.

Lindsey gave me a great analogy to explain what that feeling is like. She said to think of it as the friend who keeps asking you to spot them when you go out on the town.

“The first few times are fine, but after that, it gets tiring and you don’t want to go out with that friend anymore, even if you have the money,” she says. “Why? Because you don’t get your benefit.”

Non-fundraising events can give back to the donor and your greatest supporters; for example, events can be used to:

  • — Kick-off a campaign
  • — Educate the public about your cause
  • — Showcase your mission when otherwise not obvious
  • — Share news with your community/public
  • — Celebrate your wins
  • — Reward your donors and staff

And the outcome of these kinds of events can include:

  • — Build community/strengthen relationships (also called donor retention)
  • — Acquire potentially new donors
  • — Reengage a donor
  • — Gain a new audience (like media) in a way you haven’t been able to before

Why People Attend Events

To find what your audience wants out of your organization, first understand who is coming to your events and what their interests are. Lindsey says there are two types of people that come to nonprofit events—donors and regular attendees—and their motivations are different.

On one end, you have your most fervent supporter, who supports you solely because they believe so much in your cause. On the other end is the person who’s doing it solely for private interests, like the people that come to your benefit concert just for the band that’s playing.

“You want to accommodate them and everyone in between,” Lindsey says. “And you can always turn those people into long-term donors.”

Next Steps

When you’re creating your development strategy this year, think about what your donors want and what benefit they want out of their relationship with you.

Also think about the non-donors coming to your event, such as other key stakeholders. Think of your corporate partners, volunteers, staff, board members, business partnerships (in-kind relationships), and even those that you want to have business with.

“Every event is a fundraising opportunity. Now, does this mean you should always collect money? No,” Lindsey says. “You absolutely need to have primary goals. If one of those is to reward your volunteers, make sure that’s the focus of your event. But you can also put out a fishbowl or put envelopes on the table so people can give back to you if they want.”

“If all you concentrate on is the fundraising aspect, you forget these important pieces,” Lindsey says. “And the reality is you can turn potential long-term donors into one-time attendees.”

9 thoughts on “Building Relationships with Non-Fundraising Events”

  1. Hi,nIt is very informative.I do not how far it is practicable in the context of India.any i want to follow you.nThanksnM Mani

  2. This is an article I think every NGO should have a read of! The subtly of relationship building is a guarantee of long term enagagement of a potiential donor rather than a constant harrassment about money. These ideas should find themselves into the strategic planning process of NGOs. Good article.

    1. I agree; asking for donations won’t feel like “harassment” if you have a relationship and are asking the right way. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Angela!

  3. As an active Rotarian, I feel obliged to congratulate and thank the author for such this article, helpful for all of us!


    Thanks, youi turned on my lightbulb. I had lots of donors on our last project and this bit of info just enlightened me on bringing them back thru appreciation. I’m beginning to feel comfort in this arena. Thanks again. Oakland CEED, trying to keep the train moving!

    1. You have a great opportunity to gather those donors back with a fun event to thank them for supporting you. Great idea, Selina. We’re cheering for you!

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