Special Events: They Just Don’t Happen

Planning a donor cultivation event takes time and planning. One element of the planning is why you are holding the event. You’d think it’s about the money. It isn’t.

Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, spoke about donor cultivation events during the recent annual international conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals held in San Antonio, Texas. Often at donor cultivation events the rule is if you ask for money you’ll get advice but ask for advice and you’ll get money.

Like plants, cultivation events just don’t happen, she told the audience. There are two things to keep in mind. You know the first one — donor acquisition is expensive so once you have a donor you keep to keep the person. The second element is that donors want to know how you’ve used their money.

There are four reasons to have an event: To raise awareness of wider audience to your cause; to generate excitement about it; to get feedback from a specific sector of potential donors; and, to lay the groundwork for future cultivation.

Your event plan requires a purpose. For example, the purpose could to be to build relationships with current donors, cultivate relationships with prospective donors, get advice from supporters, obtain media exposure, secure government funding, recruit volunteers or to increase clients, Lysakowski, who is based in Boulder City, Nev., told the audience. Through it all, you need to tell your story.

There are seven steps to getting this all done. You must choose your audiences, determine your events, plan your schedule, secure your hosts, send your invitation, create your agenda and follow up.

When it comes to the event host, your chief executive should be part of the show but probably shouldn’t host. Finding the perfect host might need some individual cultivation, too, she told the audience.