Big events and nonprofits go hand in hand, but they often share a love/hate relationship. If you’re interested in trying a new way to engage with your audience, that’s understandable. Event planning takes a lot of work, preparation and manpower, and it can exhaust your staff and volunteers.
In lieu of planning one event after another, you might want to take a break and consider engaging with constituents and potential donors on a smaller scale, like through an in-home get-together or a casual gathering. Here are six things you can do to build relationships and fundraise without the immense energy it takes to pull off a large-scale event.
1. Latch on to something already happening. Maybe there’s sporting event you can score tickets to, or an opportunity for wine tasting or brewery tour. You might be able to take advantage of popular holiday events in your community, like a Fourth of July parade or Memorial Day barbecue in the park. Piggyback onto a specific community event that’s already in the works, send out some invitations and just make a casual ask at the end.
2. Plan a small party at a board or staff member’s home. It doesn’t have to require a lot of planning—it can be as simple as wine and cheese or beer and pizza. In-home events are more intimate and can give you a better opportunity to get to know prospects and supporters, and they can be an even more effective way to build important relationships.
3. Plan a “non-event.” Send out invitations to everyone on your email list saying, “In lieu of hosting a big event this year, selling tickets or asking for donations in a formal setting, we’re cutting costs and funneling as much money toward our cause as possible. Please consider making a donation: All money will go to supporting our mission, not to planning our event.”
4. Hold an online event. Think Google Hangout, Twitter parties (or chats) or even a Facebook Live event. The key is to let your followers know well in advance when to join and to make your agenda clear. Do you have a specific project you want to feature? Give everyone a little info beforehand to whet their appetite and get them interested in tuning in when it’s time. The upside of a social media or online event is that it can be easily shared and by both you and your networks.
5. Sponsor a night at a local establishment. Whether you host a bowling night, a roller-skating party, a potluck in a park or a day at the pool, you have already built-in activities that encourage your audience to engage, participate, network and just get to know each other. You could rent out the whole space or just part of the venue depending on the size of your invite list—either way, a fun outing is the perfect way to foster relationships and make a soft ask without all the prep of a big event.
6. Plan a crowdfunding campaign. This is a perfect way to raise awareness and funds, especially if you have a specific project or need in your organization that you can highlight and feature on a fundraising page. Crowdfunding campaigns use a sense of urgency and an organization’s core group of constituents (or, their “street team”) to motivate donors to give, and while they do require some advance planning, the amount of overhead is insignificant compared to the costs of holding an event.
Are you enjoying the thought of simplifying your life a little bit? At Firespring, we offer software and fundraising tools that can streamline your fundraising efforts and help you raise more money with less work. Learn more about how we can help you put the fun in online fundraising.