Last weekend, I attended a fundraising gala for a local nonprofit. Like most galas, this was the organization’s largest event of the year. It’s an opportunity to bring in new donors, highlight current donors through sponsorship, and celebrate friends and supporters while raising awareness for the work that you do. Most organizations put all of their energy into the planning and day of event activities. The real work, however, starts as soon as the event is over.
Say thank you both publicly and privately. Send hand-written thank you notes to as many guests and supporters as you can. Include a photo from the event. (This can also be accomplished electronically.) Call your VIPs and sponsors to thank them and ask for their honest impressions. Listen to their feedback. Determine how they can become more involved with your organization and followup with a note that includes information that is pertinent to them. Be grateful for the support you received from your community. Nurture every relationship, including your vendors. Be sure to let them know how their services contributed to the success of your event.
Share the results
Tell everyone about your success. Post photos and share behind the scenes tidbits through your social media outlets. Alert the press so that they can do a post event story. Success breeds success. People who hear how outstanding your event was this year are more likely to want to contribute to or participate in your future events.
Meet with your staff and volunteers as soon as possible and go over the event in great detail. What worked? What didn’t? Where is there room for improvement? What do you want to remember for next time? Gather impressions, take notes and write a report. It will be invaluable the next time you start planning an event.
Look at the Numbers
Analyze your budget. Reconsider your assumptions. Where were you over/under budget? What are some costs you can reduce the next time around? Where do you think you should have invested more?
Build Your Constituency
Ideally, prior to your event, you will have identified people who have not been active with your organization in the past. Maybe they’re friends of a donor or guests of a sponsor. Capture their contact information and followup after the event with a card or letter that thanks them and asks them to become more involved with your organization. Try to find out what their interests are. Ask if they would be interested in volunteering, hosting a meet and greet, or coming by your organization for a tour. This way, they can self-select whether or not they want to become more involved. You’ll get far better results than if you were to just add them to your mailing list.
Recognize Your Volunteers
Bake some cookies, hang up a “We did it!” banner, and be sure to acknowledge everyone who helped to make your event possible. Keep notes in your database about volunteers who really outdid themselves. You’ll want to refer back to this when it comes time hand out volunteer of the year awards or to highlight a volunteer’s work in your newsletter.