From Event to Engagement: 4 Strategies for Donor Follow-Up

July 13, 2023

Nonprofit leaders know all too well the importance of hosting events. From fundraising to connecting with supporters to building cause awareness, events are a crucial part of nonprofit outreach.

After all the planning, marketing, and logistical work that goes into executing a successful auction, ensure your nonprofit has a post-event plan. There are several ways you can streamline donor follow-up after an event, making your post-auction outreach both efficient and meaningful. In this guide, we’ll review four strategies to retain donors after your event:

  1. Create targeted follow-up communications with donor data.
  2. Follow up immediately with a thank-you message.
  3. Share an event recap with donors.
  4. Gather event feedback through donor surveys.

No matter how you choose to reach out to donors after your event, you must emphasize the impact each supporter made by attending your event. This will convey your appreciation for their support and encourage donors to return for future events. Follow these strategies to send authentic follow-up messages.


1. Create targeted follow-up communications with donor data.

Before and during an auction, nonprofit staff members learn more about their donors. Whether information is provided online as donors buy their tickets or in person through conversation at the event, your interactions with donors are a surefire way to learn details that can influence your outreach.

For your follow-up messages to engage their recipients, craft specific and unique donor communications by leveraging data, such as:

  • Demographic information: Use demographics to call out the special effort donors have gone through to support your organization. For example, you might thank a donor for attending your auction on their birthday or for traveling from another state to be there in person.
  • Involvement history: Thank a donor for their first-time or continued support. Call out specific anniversaries if they’ve reached an engagement milestone. For example, you might say, “We don’t know if you’ve been counting, but we have—this was the tenth auction you’ve attended with us!”
  • Employer information: Tell the donor that you appreciate their participation in your event, especially considering their busy work schedule. For example, a food bank might thank a teacher for all they do for the community’s children by referencing the contributions they make both in the classroom and at the food bank.

Use your constituent relationship management (CRM) software or another system to organize and store donor data. Make the most of this information with good data hygiene—update old data, remove irrelevant data, and add only useful information to your database. That way, when you need to know something about your supporters, it will be easy to find.


2. Follow up immediately with a thank-you message.

Thanking donors is a crucial part of making them feel recognized and appreciated by your nonprofit. The key is to follow up immediately after the event through the channels that will most effectively reach your supporters, such as:

  • Direct mail: A letter or handwritten card with a short message can be an especially meaningful way to thank donors for their participation. If you send direct mail, be sure to prepare and send out the cards ahead of time so that they reach your supporters soon after the event.
  • eCard: Send a digital greeting card via email to thank donors for their support and invite them to get involved with your organization in other ways.
  • Phone call: Give donors a quick call to say thank you and let them know about any other upcoming events or opportunities. Recruit several staff members to make these calls the day after the event to make sure every donor is contacted as soon as possible.

Different communication methods will be effective for reaching different donors. For example, an older supporter might check the mail every day but not their text messages. When you follow up using a channel the donor prefers, you’ll re-engage them after your event by showing that your nonprofit pays attention to and cares about each donor.

Plus, efficiently reaching out conveys a sense of urgency in your follow-up. Donors will feel the event was such a huge success that you couldn’t wait to thank them for their involvement. With the event fresh on their minds, they’ll still be inspired by your mission when they get your thank-you message.


3. Share an event recap with donors.

When constructing your thank-you messages, tell donors how important they are to your organization. You can help them better understand the impact of their participation and contributions by giving them a behind-the-scenes look at your nonprofit’s work.

Use the data collected from your auction management software to give supporters an event recap. For example, you might share:

  • The dollar amount of money raised
  • A percentage comparison of money raised at this event vs. a previous event
  • The total number of attendees or participants
  • The highest dollar amount contributed
  • The number of total donations
  • The number of event volunteers

When this data is automatically collected throughout the event by your software, it will be easy to access and export and turn into compelling infographics that illustrate the impact of the numbers.

Don’t forget to make the connection between donations made at your fundraising event and your nonprofit’s overall goal. When donors see that their participation in your event resulted in a big contribution to the community, they’ll feel even more appreciated and needed. eCardWidget’s guide to donor recognition recommends specifically addressing your nonprofit’s operations and the concrete impact your campaign will have on the community.

For example, if you share that the proceeds collected from your auction fundraiser paid for the expansion of your county’s animal shelter, donors will feel that they directly supported those animals and likely even saved some of their lives.


4. Gather event feedback through donor surveys.

As every nonprofit leader knows, the fundraising event process is a cycle. The conclusion of an event is not merely the end, but rather, the beginning of your next fundraiser. Prepare for your next event by asking for donor feedback. For example, you might ask the following questions:

  • How did you hear about our event?
  • Would you have rather attended the event virtually/in person?
  • How easy or difficult was it for you to register for our event?
  • If you could add one thing to our event, what would it be?
  • Were there any aspects of the event that you would change?
  • What is one good memory you’ll take away from this event?

MemberClicks’s guide to event feedback recommends also sending a pre-event survey to understand how attendees feel before an event. Compare donors’ impressions of your nonprofit before the event and afterward to gather ideas for what you should stop, start, and continue doing. Most importantly, your donors will see their opinions are valued and will likely be excited to continue participating.

Anyone in the role of planning, marketing, or hosting a fundraising event typically views the event itself as the finish line. To successfully engage donors, nonprofits need to also take follow-up into account to build lasting relationships with guests. With these four strategies, your communications can keep donors coming back.

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