porch party

7 Tips to Create a Wildly Successful VIP Donor Cultivation Event

Donor cultivation events – they happen everywhere, and they happen often.

Sometimes these gatherings feel awkward.

Then other times, they are easy and enjoyable. They just flow like a river.

porch party!

Porch Party at my house this spring!

Why Major Donor Cultivation Events?

We find that a lot of major gift fundraising happens in quasi-social situations.

You have the chance to meet a VIP donor prospect. Or you chat up a donor who is interested in getting more involved.

We use small VIP events all the time as fundraisers. We try to pull together an elite group of supporters with deep pockets and connections. And we mix and mingle.

But it takes skill to pull this off beautifully! How do you make these events work really well?

I’m taking a deep dive on this topic with a FREE webinar: Creating the Perfect Donor Cultivation Event – the Art of Social Gatherings for Your Cause.

I’ll show you how to create an amazing cultivation event that will introduce new donors to your cause, and bring current donors even closer. I’ll share my secrets to having fun while you are making new connections.

Find out more about it here. I’m presenting it June 28th and July 7 at 1pm ET. YES it will be recorded!

Here are my tips to help you organize a donor cultivation event that really works.

1.   VIP donor cultivation events need to be exclusive.

When major donors get together, they usually prefer to hang with people of the same elite status as they are.

Tip: Try a private VIP reception BEFORE a larger gala or reception. VIP’s are more likely to come if they know they are in a very small group of peers. 

2.   Have a VIP donor send the invitation.

Who is doing the inviting really matters. How you frame the invitation really matters. Who gets your guests’  attention? Who will they respond to?

Tip: If it is the president of the local bank, then she would more likely to respond to another CEO.

3.  Select a welcoming location for your donor cultivation event.

The location sets up the environment for your event.  It can be stiff and formal — or welcoming and relaxed.

Tip I really prefer events in someone’s home. The ambience is relaxed and social, and that’s what you are after.  

4. Set a casual, “social” tone – not business.

I once read that the success of any party depends on the attitude and energy of the host.

If you are hosting, you MUST be gracious, charming, considerate and happy. That sets a lovely tone, because the guests will pick up on your energy.

Tip : Greet people warmly, and welcome them. It makes them feel at ease and happy too. It’s vitally important that your guests enjoy themselves

5. Use name tags for donor cultivation events – always!

I am such a fan of name tags. I simply think they are good manners.

People really do want to meet each other, and they so appreciate having the person’s name so that it’s easy to see.

Tip: Name tags will help YOU too if donors you don’t know well come in the door.

6.   Be careful with the program.

You want to share amazing stories about your mission, but DO NOT go on too long.

Your guests may be in a seriously social mood and really enjoying themselves. So keep the program short, snappy, hard-hitting, and upbeat.

Tip: Use an Emcee to introduce and/or cut off presenters who go on too long. The Emcee can also help pull out questions from your donors and encourage an open-ended conversation.

7.   Launch the program with a testimonial from one of your guests.

This is a lovely way to set the tone. There’s nothing like a heartfelt message at the very beginning – especially from a VIP peer.

Tip: Your volunteer can say: “I also want to welcome everyone tonight. I care about this organization because . . .” – and just have them fill in that sentence.

BONUS TIP – Use a Follow-Up Card

If it’s appropriate, you can invite your guests to share their opinions with you on this card.

You can ask:
_    What do you think of our organization’s plan?  

_    Do you have any suggestions or ideas to share with us? 

_    Please share your contact information if you’d like.

Bottom Line:

Small major donor cultivation events are vitally important in major gift fundraising. They give you access and a way to “touch base” with important donors.

But be sure that your guests enjoy themselves. That’s a vitally important objective.  If they do – then they will come back for more!

Comments – what are your favorite VIP donor cultivation events? I’d love to know!