At an Alexis de Tocqueville event for United Way.

At an Alexis de Tocqueville event for United Way.

Once, while preparing for an event for major donors, a colleague commented, “These events are easy for you, you like doing it. It is hard for me!”

It is true that I love to talk to people and hear their stories. I enjoy hosting parties. And I take pleasure in being a guest at a great party. But none of these is what mingling with donors – current and prospective – is all about. There are times when it is difficult for me, an extrovert, to step forward to and say, “Hi! I’m Beth Ann. I’m so glad you were able to attend tonight,” and begin asking questions or speaking about the work of the nonprofit.

When your charity is hosting an event – whether it be an intimate gathering or a big event such as a gala, golf tournament, or walk – your charge is to meet and thank current donors, to make strategic introductions to people inside your organization or other guests, and to welcome friends and prospective donors. Fundraising staff and non-fundraising staff can (and should) join in; after all, donors often want to hear from staff working on the “front-lines” of the organization.

If you have met your donor before, it is easier to reconnect; if it is the first time this is a perfect opportunity to introduce yourself, offer a business card, and begin a conversation and discovery.

Remember that fundraising events are there to raise awareness, teach people more about the work your nonprofit is doing, and raise funds. People attending know that they will be asked to support your charity with their treasure, time or talent. You are there to deepen the connection with the guests, move relationships forward, or launch relationships between the prospects and your charity. Talking to guests, acting as a gracious host, and having fun are a part of the event, but never forget your job is to engage. As a fundraiser, you should be prepared to talk with those who know your organization and those who are (hopefully) about to enter a fruitful relationship.

Be prepared for meeting guests at the event, then mix and mingle!

What are your favorite opening lines for donor conversations at events?

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