Thinking About the End Before You've Even Begun: Our Top 4 Fundraising Event Follow-Up Activities

Recently, we’ve had the great pleasure of helping Grief Support Network (GSN), a fledgling non-profit organization, prepare for their first major fundraising event. It’s exciting to work with an organization during a time when each move is new. Together we get to go on an adventure, deciding if GSN should take a traditional path, say in how they stage their live auction and paddle raiser (they’re going with less traditional) to garnering attention for the organization- and the event- on Facebook. Even though Facebook seems to dominate our lives, social media’s history of best/next practices is still relatively short. So GSN chose to experiment with a “Day of Sharing” campaign to see how much traction they could gain by circulating personal stories of grief and transformation online. And you can bet they are taking notes to inform their next social media campaign.

Some level of handwringing accompanies planning any event. Will the VIP dinner sell-out? Are we cramming too much into the event program? As we collaborate with GSN’s very hardworking and almost all volunteer staff, we continually remind them about the advantage of being a new organization – they have a whole lifetime ahead of them to improve and grow.  This is why one of our mantras during this planning process has been, “This year we’ll take notes.” Which brings us to a key component in event planning: What do you after the event? GSN will take notes about what went well and what can be improved upon, but the meaningful work will come when they bring those notes to staff, event volunteers, board members and advisors to make a plan for how they will leverage the outcome of the event for another year, in preparation for their next big event. Taking notes, getting feedback from event attendees and integrating those outcomes into a future plan are a critical post-event activity. Here’s more on collecting feedback from guests as well as 3 more priority post-event activities amalgamated from Nonprofit HubAdvice for Good and npEngage.

1. Gather feedback from guests using SurveyGizmo (our favorite because its local!) or another online survey tool. Chose 3-4 critical event elements that you want feedback on in order to keep the survey short ‘n sweet while also being meaningful for you. If you are staging a multi-component event like GSN (a VIP dinner followed up by a general admission show), be sure your first question segments your guests and sends each group of attendees on a different survey path. You’ll likely want different feedback about each event component.

2. You can include a link to the survey in your event follow-up thank you email which, among all of the mind-numbing minutia of pre-event planning, is ideally written in advance of the the event and scheduled to send the day after your event. Segmenting is an important move here too. You don’t want to thank a VIP for attending your general admission event and vice versa. Also, be sure to double check that the people receiving the message actually attended the event AND don’t forget to update your database/mailing list with any new acquisitions before sending a thank you. You might even consider sending a special message to guests newly acquainted with your organization to welcome them to the fold. Sorry, we’re not done yet because you’ll also want to send out a very special thank you to event sponsors, volunteers, advisors, and in-kind donors. If at all possible, engage your board in advance of the event to pen hand written notes to these special event participants and your VIP attendees. But don’t forget to double check that they did actually come to your event before popping those notes into snail mail.

3. Do some online housekeeping- once again, in advance of your event. If you have the capability to easily customize a website landing page, create a post-event extravaganza that will showcase photos from the event and hard numbers to report your fundraising success back to your donors and supporters. You can also include a link to this page in your thank you email. Thread your message of thanks and celebration to any social media outlets that you use too. Everyone loves photos so post a collage to instagram and create a Facebook photo album. If your guests tag their friends, news of your event success has potential to gain high visibility online.

4. In addition to sharing your event successes on your website and via social media, pointedly share event fundraising data and how that has positively impacted your programs as a way to keep donors engaged in the weeks, months and year following your event. Taking time to draft an event report that includes an analysis of your event notes and your key staff, volunteer and board members’ recommendations for the future will provide you with a valuable document from which you can send a more formal follow-up email to event guests reporting fundraising numbers; hold an IRL (in real life) VIP event to update your closest donors about your organization’s progress or host a time-saving “State of the Organization” webinar. For many donors it is incredibly meaningful (and motivating) to see the effect of their investment in your organization throughout the coming year.

Grief Support Network will hold their very first Gratitude Celebration & Fundraising event at Shine Restaurant & Gathering Place this Saturday, September 20th. The farm-to-table VIP dinner is almost sold-out but you can still support GSN by purchasing a $10 general admission ticket to hear the rousing Sambadende perform on the organization’s behalf. Join us!