porch party

Your Questions and My Answers on VIP Donor Cultivation Events

Small VIP donor cultivation events are an easy way to open doors to new prospects — and engage current donors in your mission.

Porch party cynthia 1

My last Porch Party in April!

We had a blast in my free webinar on Donor Cultivation Events this week — I drilled down into how to create the perfect donor cultivation event.

And I shared my go-to tips that can transform a simple gathering on your porch into a compelling, engaging experience for your donors.

We had tons of questions at the webinar and I’m answering many of them here:

1. What’s the role of the board at a small VIP donor cultivation event?

Board members can play important roles to help make these events successful – especially if you have a small staff.

They can help pay for events. They can host small cultivation gatherings in their homes. They can:

  • Invite people to come to the event (hand deliver invitations?)
  • Help identify potential attendees and share contact information
  • Follow-up invitations to encourage people to come
  • Handle logistics (put them in teams for food, drink, invitations, clean up)
  • Be hosts at the event – greeting people and making them comfortable

Tip: I like to have board members make followup calls after a small event, thanking and asking guests they thought of the gathering. 

2. What kind of program should you have?

A cultivation event needs a short compelling program showcasing your organization’s work.  It must be brief, especially if people are standing up.

It should include:

  • a short overview of how you are making your community better
  • an emotional picture of the people your organization is helping
  • a call to action

You can use:

  • a short video
  • a testimonial
  • a story shared by program staff
  • a short performance if you are an arts organization

Tip: Your program should evoke an emotional connection- with pictures, words and stories. 

3. Should you make an ask at a VIP Donor Cultivation Event?

Well if this is a cultivation event for major donors, then it means you are preparing these people for a future major ask.

So why muddy the water with a small, impersonal group ask?

Tip: I say, NO ASK at a cultivation event. It defeats the purpose. 

4. I have a board member who wants to make a hard ask at a paid event. What to do?

You CAN make a hard ask IF you let your guests know that they will be asked.

Good manners requires that you never ask without permission.

It may be awkward if your guests pay a lot and then they are cornered for an ask. I would not do it.

Tip: You should never, ever surprise your donors with an ask.

5. What kind of call to action should I make at a VIP Donor Cultivation event?

I like a call to action that inspires everyone to join the bandwagon, spread the word, get involved, and make it happen.

A call to action like this is inspirational. It has good energy and excitement.

It focuses your guests on the mission at hand, not on money.

Tip: Ask people for their help, before you ask for their money.  

6. Should you have a small charge to attend?

I prefer to have my small events privately underwritten.

Often the host will simply cover the costs. Or you can seek an underwriter.

I prefer NOT to ask donors to pay anything. BUT I think it’s entirely acceptable, for a big dinner or party – to ask attendees to pay an minimal amount.

Tip: A free event feels more gracious and welcoming to your VIP guests.

7. How many staffers should attend?

I like to have plenty of staff to attend IF and ONLY IF they mingle with the crowd.

They should not be off huddling in a corner with their cell phones! This is a social event, really!

I like to have key program staff AND fundraising staff.

If your major gift officer has a prospect at the event, then he or she MUST be in attendance.

Tip: Your VIP donors do enjoy getting to know the staff. 

8. How do you capture your guests’ information?

Ask your guests to fill out a Followup Card.

Have lines on the card for their contact information.

Include boxes for them to check off:

  • I’d like to get on your mailing list.
  • I’d like to make a gift.
  • I’d like to host a small social of my own.
  • I have an idea I’d like to discuss with you – please contact me:

Tip: Followup cards help guests SELF-SELECT what type of followup they want. 

BOTTOM LINE:

Small VIP donor cultivation events are easy to pull off.

Just be sure they are fun, pleasant and social.

Then your guests will want to come back to another event!