Acquiring & Retaining Millennial Donors: Part Two

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A while back, we wrote a post focusing on four ways to acquire and retain millennial donors. In order to provide the best advice we could, we drew from many of the best practices we had learned over the past two years, organizing our annual fundraising event in Boston, the Boston Fall Formal.

Our fundraiser is geared almost completely toward millennial donors, and has donated over $175,000 to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in two years!

To help you and your team with your next fundraising endeavor, we thought we’d expand a bit on our fundraising experience, and provide you with detailed information on how we improved our contribution each year, while still keeping our donors engaged. To help guide our conversation, we’ve answered questions from a fellow fundraising host (thanks, Elsa!).

Q: How much of your total proceeds from the two years (about $175,000) came from ticket sales versus pure donations versus opportunity drawing proceeds?

A: This is a great question, and brings up an important point to keep in mind as you plan your next fundraising event. Depending on the type of event you hold, different cost components could include:

  • Venue Cost
  • Food / Drink Cost (higher cost for open bar)
  • Entertainment (band, DJ, photographer, photobooth, etc.)
  • Décor
  • Ticketing Processing Fees

When planning your event, it’s always good to have a detailed estimate of the costs you will incur. This level of detail will give you a better idea of what your final contribution to your charity will be and will also help you understand what you can afford for your event.

For our event, revenue broke down as follows:

Revenue Item Dollar Amount Percent of Total Revenue
Ticket Sales $185,000 67%
Sponsorship / Donations $72,000 26%
Opportunity Drawing Proceeds $20,000 7%

You’ll see that our revenue was well over our total proceeds of $175,000, meaning we incurred about $117,000 in costs over the past two years of our event! 

Q: What was the breakdown among corporate sponsorships and pure donations?

A: As with costs, we find it to be extremely beneficial to track all of your sponsorship and donation amounts.

Surprisingly, we did not solicit sponsors in the first year of our event, meaning all of our proceeds from donations were from individuals, not corporate sponsors. While we considered the inaugural event to be a success, we clearly had a lot to learn.

Using this lesson from our first event, we put a lot more effort into attracting and winning amazing sponsors. (You view our Ultimate Guide to Sponsorship here!)

Shifting our efforts resulted in a much different breakdown than in our first year, and as a result, sponsorship and individual donations were at about a 50:50 split – a huge improvement from our prior year!

Q: What was your retention rate from year one to year two?

A: Our high retention rate played a significant role in the growth of our event. While we were very happy with the new attendees we attracted in year two, the return attendees helped spread the word on the event, and continue to drive awareness up until the night of the event.

Comparing year two to year one, we retained about 58% of our initial attendees!

More to come on our tips for engaging these attendees, further down in this post.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on engaging millennials as straight donors instead of as event attendees? Fundraising events can be expensive – are they truly necessary to engage millennials in order to garner donations from them?

A: While it is definitely possible to generate straight donations from millennials, we’ve found that the key to acquiring and retaining millennial donors is to provide engaging and unique experiences. Millennials constantly seek connections to the causes they support, and one of the best ways to create this connection is by building a relationship / experience through a special event.

Some of our additional thoughts on engaging and retaining millennial donors include:

  • Get Personal – Tell the story of your cause, and how it has personally affected yourself and your committee.
  • Utilize Technology – Millennials are very connected. In order to gain their donations, you must be, too! For your next fundraiser, be sure to embrace mobile technology through donation pages, mobile silent auctions and raffles, and even email campaigns.
  • Embrace FOMO – Play into millennials’ fear of missing a great time. Promoting your event through social media, videos, and other digital media will cause those in your audience to fear that they will be missing a great time, further convincing them to engage with your event and support your cause.
  • Show Your Appreciation – This is a staple for all nonprofits and fundraising events. Don’t forget to thank your attendees and donors for their contributions – this is their hard-earned money that you are asking for, after all!

Finally, while we do think that fundraising events are one of the best ways to engage millennial donors, this does not mean that you need each attendee to join your event each year. By putting together thoughtful email campaigns, social media updates, and utilizing mobile technology, you can keep your initial attendees engaged, even if they may not attend your event, or if you’re not planning on holding one each year.

  • Email Campaigns & Social Media Updates – Both of these tools are great ways to update your audience. We use these mostly to:
    • Update donors on progress made from our fundraising event.
    • Provide any updates that the organization or cause you support has made.
    • Thank your donors and attendees for their support.
  • Mobile Technology – Mobile technology allows you to reach your donors throughout the year, regardless of their geographic location or the timing of your event. With tools such as donation pages and mobile silent auctions and raffles, you can promote your cause or organization anytime throughout the year, and can reach a large potential donor base of people who may not be able to attend your physical event.

These elements combine to create a connected approach to fundraising that will keep your donors in the loop and donating year after year.

Conclusion

After reading this post, we hope you have a more detailed view into the numbers behind running a fundraising event. We’d love to answer some more questions, so ask yours in the comments section below!

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Written by Zach Hagopian

Zach is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding.  An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.

Connect with Zach via:
Twitter | Facebook

Guest Post: Disarming Yourself in Corporate Fundraising – Part 2: HOW?

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Do you remember where we left off last week? I was telling you about my mentor who had a 70% close rate on all of her sponsorship proposals, so early in my career I sat down with her to learn about good sponsorship packages and what they entailed. After asking all about word count, design, spacing, and more, she said to me: “You still haven’t asked me a thing about good sponsorship packages.”

My mentor went on to tell me that to her, the package was incidental – a pure formality. She never submits a proposal of any kind without her prospect’s explicit approval and permission to do so. Because she worked with the person and built trust, the proposal was used only to justify the expense to the finance department, or to champion internally, and never contained any filler.

The Conclusion

Let’s skip right to it! When you meet your prospects for the first time, I challenge you to bring absolutely nothing with you at all! Not even a pen and paper or iPad? Nope! I challenge you to have a real conversation with a real person all about them, and then use your memory to recall important facts.

Warning: This will feel uncomfortable at first (and forever), your boss will think you’re crazy, and your prospects will too… and this is a good thing.

If a prospect asks you for a package, instead ask them for a five-minute phone call or a 15-minute cup of coffee to get a better sense of their needs before you submit something.

In other words, tell your prospect “no!” and get a sense as to what they like to fund, their target demographic and their sponsorship goals. If your event, program or charity doesn’t fit those goals, don’t submit a proposal! If your prospect doesn’t have five minutes for a call, they aren’t going to spend 20 minutes reading your proposal and they aren’t really a prospect and you should move on.

I can feel you squirming at the thought of this… wait until you try it! Am I really saying not to shotgun blast your proposals to every company you can think of and that when they ask you to give them a proposal that you say no? That’s exactly what I’m saying!

How can I commit to such sacrilege? Simple. When you blindly send out proposals you are using a direct mail strategy, and direct mail gets a 2% response rate, if you’re lucky. If you need 20 sponsors for an event then you need to send out 2000 proposals! Now think of the last time you got your anchor major donor from a direct mail campaign. Pretty rare right? Chances are you won’t get your title sponsors from a direct mail campaign either!

People buy from People, not Proposals

The closest thing I see to custom proposals is the inclusion of a statement like this at the bottom of the package: “We also do custom packages so let us know if you want to have a conversation.” This puts the responsibility on the prospect to figure out that you can help them reach their goals, which is never a good thing. It also assumes that people read your entire package, which is not a safe assumption.

Let’s do Some A/B Testing!

Don’t take my word for it; try it for yourself! Instead of jumping in with both feet, segment your prospects and set aside 10% of your list to use this approach with. Do a biweekly checking to compare success rate, average sponsorship dollars and “sponsorship per hour invested” and see which method is right for you and your organization.

I think you’ll like what you start seeing.

What works for you with corporate fundraising? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Happy corporate fundraising!

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Written by Chris Baylis

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Chris is a fundraising professional with expertise in cause marketing, sponsorship and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Chris has managed both national and local campaigns and is a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in Ottawa.

Connect with Chris via:
The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn

Guest Post: Disarming Yourself in Corporate Fundraising – Part 1: WHY?

Disarming yourself in corporate fundraising (2)

Maeve and I talked a lot about the commonalities between corporate fundraising and individual giving and so while this two-part series has a corporate fundraiser in mind, I bet that the major gift fundraiser in each of us will enjoy it too.

These two posts are all about the biggest psychological crutch that we use in corporate fundraising. For those of you who follow my blog at The Sponsorship Collective, you know that I believe passionately in a relationship-based approach to corporate fundraising and how using a sponsorship package is a barrier to those relationships. I would (and often do) argue that the sponsorship package is a barrier to good fundraising, so let’s explore why people use proposals, one-pagers, leave-behinds and any other name used to describe the opposite of going to a sponsor visit with nothing in hand.

The Art of Deliberate Distraction

Think about the last time you handed someone a proposal, what did they do? They turned their attention away from you to the package in front of them and you probably tried to talk to them while they did it. Guess what? They absorbed nothing from your proposal or from what you told them and the second you walked out the door, they recycled what you gave them.

So you drove, flew, walked all the way to meet your prospect to hand them something you could have e-mailed them? If someone agreed to meet you in person, it’s because they see value in human interaction and want to know who they are considering working with. So why is it that virtually every fundraiser I know brings proposals and one-pagers with them to prospecting meetings? I think something deeper is happening here. I think that we believe if a prospect is reading a proposal and judging it, they aren’t judging us and saying no to us. The proposal then, is not a sales tool but a subtle self-protection tool!

If that’s true then that means going to a meeting with nothing in hand forces your prospect to judge you as a person, and you have to describe to them what you want from them. By going with nothing in hand you change the dynamic and make it about people and about relationships. Sound scary? Good! Use that to keep you sharp and make sure you know your stuff!

Sometimes Sponsors Ask for One!

Armchair psychology lesson number two is that “send me a proposal” is code for “no thank you!” Just as you giving them a proposal means that they aren’t rejecting you personally, getting you to send them a proposal means that they can tell you any of the following without guilt:

  • I shared it with the team and they declined
  • We have already spent our CSR/sponsorship/community investment dollars this fiscal
  • We have moved away from gala/event/program sponsorship
  • I will let you know if I/we have interest

The proposal is a crutch for both sides of the partnership – the fundraiser feels protected and so does the prospect.

When I first started in fundraising I had a mentor who boasted a 70% close rate on all of her proposals. I sat down with her for two hours one day and asked her questions about her approach. All of my questions were about word count, design, spacing, call to action, levels and all of the things that make up a “good” sponsorship package. After two hours I thanked my mentor for her time and got up to leave, at which point she said, “You still haven’t asked me a thing about good sponsorship packages.”

Do you want to find out what she told me, and what I’ve learned in my own work? Tune in next week for Part 2: HOW? You know why us corporate fundraisers need to disarm ourselves, so wait a week and I’ll show you how we do it.

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Written by Chris Baylis

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Chris is a fundraising professional with expertise in cause marketing, sponsorship and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Chris has managed both national and local campaigns and is a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in Ottawa.

Connect with Chris via:
The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn

Sponsorship vs. Philanthropy

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This week Waterloo Region is being inspired through the shared experience of film thanks to an organization called the Grand River Film Festival (GRFF). In an effort to immerse myself in the community of which I’m now a part, I joined the Board of Directors of GRFF back in April as their Chair of Fundraising. Now, about eight months in, I am really energized by this great organization, especially now that I can see the Board’s and other volunteers’ hard work coming to fruition.

I don’t have to tell any regular readers that I’m passionate about fundraising, and the work I’ve done so far for GRFF is no exception, but it’s different! My first lesson fundraising for GRFF was learning the difference between sponsorship and philanthropy. These are by no means universal definitions, but here’s a bit of what I’ve learned:

  1. WHO: companies vs. individuals. I’m rarely requesting the support of individuals for GRFF, mostly companies, whereas in educational fundraising my focus is almost exclusively on individuals.
  2. WHAT: tangible rewards vs. warm fuzzy feelings. Philanthropy certainly has its benefits, but more often than not it’s about someone putting their money where their passions are. Sponsorship seems different to me; it involves logo recognition, complimentary tickets, opportunities to speak at the film screenings, etc.
  3. WHEN: budget-time vs. any time. With sponsors, their budgeting process determines their ability to support you. Although I know a lot of donors who are strict and strategic with their charitable giving, on the whole individuals tend to be more flexible with when and where their money goes.
  4. WHY: benefits vs. passion for organization. Corporate sponsors are more motivated by the benefits to them, whereas with individual donors it’s usually their passion for the organization that gives them the incentive to give.
  5. HOW: what they’ll gain vs. what the organization will. People don’t part with their money easily, so outlining the benefits to them can occasionally make for an easier pitch. This is where the sponsorship process is easier than philanthropic fundraising; it can be more straightforward to meet their needs than to express our own.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email