Who Said Cultivation Events Can’t Be Inexpensive, Easy, and Effective?
Cultivation events are a great opportunity to strategically cultivate your top supporters and build relationships with potential major gift donors. And the good news? You don’t have to commit a significant amount of time or money to be effective. With the right tools and systems, any organization can execute a successful cultivation event for a low cost.
When our clients engage us to help them implement new and innovative ways to identify, cultivate, and steward major gifts donors and prospects through events, here are some of the best practices we recommend:
1. Engage your most dedicated and active supporters by forming a host committee
Events carry a lot of logistical steps – finding a venue, hiring a caterer, drafting the invitations, etc. Establishing a host committee can relieve some responsibilities from development staff, while also ensuring a flawlessly executed event. Members of a host committee should include your organization’s most enthusiastic supporters who are able to plan, fundraise, and execute the event. Engaging a donor or prospect through a host committee is an excellent cultivation opportunity to have them feel more involved and invested in the success of your organization.
The size of the committee should correspond to the size of the event, i.e., 2-3 members for small events or 10-12 members for large events. When recruiting a host committee, identify people with…
- Wide personal and professional networks
- Access to venues
- Fundraising experience and/or those willing to ask for financial support
- Robust project management and organizational skills
- Experience with event design and planning
- Strong connections to your mission and/or philanthropy in general
2. Look to your board for sponsorship opportunities
As leaders of their communities, board members can be extremely helpful with identifying and soliciting potential sponsors, or underwriters, for your event. Meet with your board members to discuss their connections to corporations in their communities. Use these conversations to identify which of these organizations may be willing to provide monetary or in-kind donations in return for on-site, written, or digital recognition.
Once you’ve identified prospects, work with your board to solicit these opportunities, or at the very least, have your board members make introductions. Remember to also prepare your board members with templated language and event materials.
3. Make it virtual
Thinking about how to cut the costs of a venue, caterer, valet, etc.? Go virtual! Utilize a video conferencing system where individuals can be introduced to your organization and hear from key leaders and top supporters from the comfort of their own home or office.
Nowadays, many conferencing systems allow you to answer participant questions and share helpful links, videos, and presentations during the event. Record your virtual event and share it across social media platforms for anyone who was unable to join. By utilizing technology, you have the potential to dramatically expand your reach!
4. Create your own “Event-In-A-Box”
When you plan and execute events year-after-year (or even month-after-month), the planning process for each event can be repetitive and time-consuming. So how do you streamline the planning process? Create an “Event-In-A-Box” – a suite of resources that you can replicate and use time and time again. This “Box” should include templates for invitations, programs, solicitation letters, as well as any materials you typically utilize on-site like brochures, handouts, and signage. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel for each and every event!
With the right strategies in place, cultivation events can be easy! In conclusion, the ultimate key to a successful event is giving yourself enough time. We recommend setting an event date at least 4-5 months out for smaller events. Remember – it’s all about working smarter, not harder.
Abby Carlson is an Associate Director at Orr Group, a full-service fundraising and nonprofit strategy firm. Having been with the firm for over three years, Abby has a deep knowledge of event planning and fundraising, as well as implementing customized fundraising database platforms. Connect with her on LinkedIn or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.