Engaging Your Donors After Events: 3 Foundational Steps

Last updated: December 1, 2022

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Guest Post by Kelly Velasquez-Hague at OneCause

Nonprofit events come in all shapes and sizes—from lavish galas to casual public gatherings, merchandise sales to full-scale live auctions. However, all fundraising events are important investments for nonprofits for two reasons: they can directly generate donation revenue and they can foster longer-term donor engagement.

There are all kinds of ways to better plan and execute your traditional, virtual, and hybrid events to boost fundraising results. But how do you set yourself up for success with the goal of fostering more long-term engagement after an event ends?

In this quick guide, we’ll review three foundational steps to keep in mind after your events to ensure you’re generating as much donor engagement as possible.

1. Learn more about your event attendees.

Following up to express your gratitude to attendees is an important best practice for all events. But remember that you want your relationships with these supporters to grow over time. The same thank-you message over and over, while a nice gesture, can only go so far before supporters begin tuning you out.

Instead, you’ll need to learn more about your attendees so you can communicate with them and build your relationships in more targeted ways. Seek to constantly learn more about your supporters and attendees, gathering information like:

  • Their engagement histories with your organization
  • Demographic data like age and location
  • Wealth markers identified through prospect research, as appropriate
  • Other preferences, like preferred programs or communication channels

For some events, learning more about your attendees will be part of the planning process, like if you host a gala and live auction specifically for your highest-impact donors and prospects. But for any event, it’s worth taking the time afterward to review your data and ask a few questions like these:

  • Did you acquire new supporters through the event?
  • Who was the most engaged? Who was the least engaged?
  • Did anyone register but not show up?

This information, plus the various data points listed above, can give you valuable insights into who your event attendees are and the best ways to engage them. The ways in which you measure different forms of engagement will vary—digital marketing impressions or clicks, average number of bids per guest, etc.—so give them thought ahead of time and use software that allows you to track them in real-time. Think about what specifically you’ll want to learn about how your guests interact with your events and then make sure you have a process in place for collecting that information.

As you move forward, keep this data organized and up-to-date. Group your attendees into various segments to continue monitoring their engagement with your organization and reach out to each group using more relevant messages. Segmentation is helpful because it allows you to send more personalized outreach to each group without having to spend time creating individualized messages for every supporter.

2. Create an intentional follow-up and engagement cadence.

With a solid foundation of data to learn from, you’re ready to start actively using it to encourage more engagement in strategic ways.

By creating event follow-up and donor stewardship cadences or streams, you can channel your donors toward new or more impactful ways to engage with your mission. Your data helps to inform this process, essentially helping you sort donors into different streams based on what you know about them.

In practice, this often means organizing supporters based on their giving capacity and affinity.

For example, if you’re planning a hybrid gala, you could engage major donors and prospects by inviting them to attend in person while hosting all other attendees virtually. By catering the in-person event experience to major donors, you create a more natural path to a personalized stewardship cadence. After the gala, create a process to call major donors and subsequently invite them to similar events to continue building relationships. For mid-level supporters and prospects, send personal appreciation emails following the event that highlight the impact of their contributions.

Structure makes the process more manageable, and you can also use software to automate your communications and reporting processes. For instance, you can use your email marketing platform to keep track of email opens and click-through rates and flag when engagement is low. The process can then become cyclical as you use your engagement data to adjust your follow-up cadence as necessary.

3. Offer a diverse range of engagement options.

As you work to keep your messages and mission on supporters’ minds, make sure your calendar also includes opportunities to engage more fully with your organization.

This doesn’t always mean full-scale events. The shift to virtual and hybrid events has made it possible to have a fuller calendar without radically increased costs, labor, or time.

Planning around the shift to virtual fundraising can look different for each organization. For example, you might plan:

  • Virtual/hybrid auctions
  • Online peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns
  • Virtual informational panels
  • Social media awareness campaigns

Find ways to change up how your supporters engage with events, as well. Provide options for them to become ambassadors and play a more active role in your mission. For more passive supporters, highlight your monthly giving and membership options, their perks, and how valuable these forms of giving are for your nonprofit. Include social sharing buttons within your donation confirmation page or email so supporters can share their involvement with your organization.

Use dedicated software so that you can collect the data you need to follow up and continue refining your understanding of your donors’ journeys. For example, when hosting an auction, use a dedicated virtual auction platform to keep track of engagement throughout and to follow up post-event.

By intentionally targeting specific segments of your audience, learning more about them, and actively following up in ways that foster deeper engagement, your nonprofit’s events can pull double-duty: generating donations and/or ticket sales while also deepening your investments in donor relationships.


Author:  Kelly Velasquez-Hague from OneCause

Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings over 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause. As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors and raise more funds for their cause.

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