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Will Event Supporters Become Annual Fund Donors?

Nonprofit organizations wrestle every few years with the quandary: Should I treat my special event participants as annual fund donor prospects?  If we write a nice appeal letter, won’t they contribute to the annual appeal?

The answer is, typically “no.”  Your community benefit organization attracts people with certain interests to certain activities. Supporters who come out for the 5k walk, the golf tournament, the chili cook-off develop a commitment to the event. There may not be the zeal for your mission that annual fund donors feel. The connection to the event may be more to people they know, whom they have a relationship with, that they like to see each year and maybe compete with to see who will raise the most money. For many event participants, it’s more about the people and the event than it is about the benefit to those you serve.

People who are contributing each year to the annual fund are of a different kettle of fish. They may be older. Their demographic profile is likely quite different from those who fill up your events each year. Think of the way you thank and honor your loyal annual appeal donors; how does this contrast to how you recognize key volunteers and super fund-raisers in your annual walk?

When you sit down with the development committee and discuss this, the differences become apparent to all. But I do recommend that you not give up the ghost on this pursuit.  Summertime is a good time to convene a group of friends of your nonprofit and run through the event participant list together. Perhaps there will be names some of these friends recognize.  Perhaps a special note from a friend might spur the person to add an annual gift over and above the money donated associated with the special event.

You can have a special appeal from annual fund friends to event friends. You can identify a few good prospects from the event lists and do a special prospecting approach to these individuals.  Sending a mass mailing to potentially hundreds of event supporters usually is a waste of resources.  Targeting the better prospects is the way to go.

So, the answer is: Yes. Event Supporters can become Annual Fund Donors. But it depends.

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