top of page

Six Steps To Keep Donors Coming Back After Your Nonprofit Event.

So, you just finished your big fundraising event of the year. All the long hours. The countless details. The near disasters fixed in the nick of time. It’s all behind you.

Or is this when you need to get to work? Hopefully, people were moved to donate at the event. Ah, but unfortunately, all those warm feelings wear off. One psychological study found that most people feel gratitude and joy for about 30 minutes and then it wears off.

In the world of nonprofit events, that translates into engagement.  Look at your previous events. How many attendees gave once and never again?  If you are like most nonprofits, a huge percentage of the people who give at an event never make a second donation. 

Fortunately, you have some control over that problem. What you do in the days after your event can increase engagement and future support.

Here are six things you should do to follow up after your event:

1. Say thanks. This is the most important, the most obvious and the most overlooked way to reinforce the positive impact you had on attendees. If possible, send everyone who attended a thank you email within two days of the event.

2. Follow up. Don’t stop with just a quick email. I recommend you let them know in the thank you email that you will follow up with more information and will include them on your email newsletter. Then send two more emails in the first two weeks after the event:

  •  An email that tells them a little more about your organization.

  •  A soft ask. Invite them to become monthly donors and tell them you would love to talk to them about volunteering.

3. Special thanks. Send a special thank you to your chairs, larger donors and sponsors. It can be a call from someone on the board or a personal note.

4. Debrief quickly. Sit down as a group soon after the event. Talk about what worked and what didn’t. Take good notes that can be turned into action items.

5. Develop a donor follow-up list. Who gave a substantial gift?  Who talked to you about your mission? Which first-time donors were especially moved? Identify the people you should cultivate. Start setting up coffee meetings with them. A great conversation starter is to ask for feedback on the event: “How did we do?”

6. Be honest. Once the dust has settled, take a hard look at the event as a part of your overall mission.

  •  What was your return on investment? There is no magic number, but experts say a 3-to-1 ratio is good. In other words, did you make three dollars for every one you spent?

  •  Did you count all the staff hours and time in board meetings working to make it successful? Did the event distract you from other important activities?

  •  How well did you tell your story? Some nonprofits put on phenomenally successful events and everyone has a blast, but they hardly talk about their mission.  I always wonder, did anyone remember what that nonprofit does after they left the event?

Acquiring new donors is one of the biggest challenges facing nonprofits and events are a wonderful way to introduce people to your mission. However, follow-up is essential if you expect those first-time donors to stick around.


bottom of page