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It’s Summer! Try a Porch Party to Open Doors and Cultivate Prospects

August 9, 2017

By Gail Perry 

Gail PerryCasual, small social events like Porch Parties can be terrific tools for fundraising.

You probably know that lots of fundraising happens in a quasi-social environment. You can open the door to a new prospect, touch base with a donor, and find out what’s on a prospect’s mind.

Casual chitchat can reveal a donor’s hot buttons, how they feel about your organization, and how engaged they are in your cause.

Small Socials: The Art of “Schmoozing” For Your Cause.

You can cover so very much ground at a Porch Party. But be sure you master your fundraising “soft skills.”(Like how to properly introduce people to each other, how to listen, how to be gracious and cordial).

When we talk about cultivating relationships, this is how we do it – one-on-one conversations that are all about the donor, not about you.

Porch Parties are the Best!

Pulling donors or new prospects together socially is a wonderful strategy for fundraising.

Porch parties are easy to pull off.  They “feel” attractive to donors because they are casual and informal. 

And if the weather is cold, then consider a Fireside Party, or something that feels informal and fun. Donors will attend because the invitation has an informal feel, and they think they might enjoy themselves.

What Exactly is a Porch Party?

It’s a small, informal gathering of people who are current or prospective donors. It’s a wonderful way to open doors to new prospects—without being pushy.

You can also add community leaders, elected officials, current and former board members, and major donors to the mix.

Just think what you could accomplish if you could access all these people in a brief span of time.

Great for Introducing New Prospects to Your Cause

One thing I love about Porch Parties is that they are lovely formats for meeting new people who might turn into donors or supporters.

You can invite new potential prospects to a casual, fun-feeling social event to introduce them to your cause – and find out why they are interested.

It could be the beginning of a long and happy relationship! 

Top 5 Secrets to Make Porch Parties a Winner Every Time

 1.    Who does the inviting really matters.

The best people to host Porch Parties are board members or major supporters of your organization.

Your core leaders and supporters are the ones to “invite” others in the community to come find out a bit about your organization.

You want someone who has the clout or social reach to attract people in.  You can send the invitation via mail or by email – whatever fits the flavor of your event, and the person hosting.

If you can have the event at someone’s home that people are interested in seeing – then you’ll draw more people. 

2. You have to work the room. 

So – you have all these wonderful people gathered together. What’s next? You can’t just huddle in the corner 

You have to work the room.  You need to meet every single person in attendance.

Ask them why they are here? How did they come to be interested in your cause?

Every donor or potential donor has a story they are dying to share with you. That’s where the conversation comes from.

Decide ahead of time who the MOST important people are. And plan to focus on them first!

3. Name Tags are essential. 

Here’s an often-forgotten Porch Party tool.  If you are the nonprofit representative – YOU are the person who, above all, wants to know exactly WHO is in the room.

You absolutely must have name tags, so you can work the room properly. It’s not awkward to have them. I find that guests really appreciate them. You can see people dropping their gaze to double check on someone’s name.

You may not know everyone’s face – so you really need their names. Also, I think name tags are good manners because they help people feel comfortable.

Don’t let guests fill out their own name tag. Instead – have someone at the door, greeting guests, and writing name tags in easy-to-read, large block letters. 

4. Someone has to be clearly in charge.

Yes, you’ll have social time on the porch for an hour or so.  And then you’ll go inside for a short program or conversation about your organization.

But be clear about what’s happening when. Be ready to cut off speakers if they go on too long.

Be the director of the event. Make sure things happen when they need to. Don’t leave ANYTHING to chance!

5. You can have a soft ask but not a hard ask. 

You can have a soft ask at a social event like a porch party – but I would steer clear of a hard ask. You don’t want to be passing out pledge cards and asking people to fill them out,

unless you let the guests know this will be part of the event.

A soft ask is when someone says “we hope everyone in this room will want to join our community to accomplish xxx.” Or you can say, we are hoping to raise $50k this fall for xx or yyy project or need. We hope you’ll consider joining the cause!”

Here’s a rule you should follow always: never surprise your donors with an ask. It’s supremely awkward and people don’t like it.  Especially at a social event.

6. Follow-up is essential!

It’s one thing to expose people to your mission. It’s another thing to know what to do next!

Here are ways to follow-up:

  • Call everyone who came. Thank them, then ask what their impressions were.
  • Invite them to your organization’s next large – or small – fundraising event. 
  • Invite these guests to come over for a tour.
  • Ask the guests for a donation – put them on your solicitation list.
  • Write them a personal letter, thanking them, and asking for a gift.
  • Put the right prospects on your major gift prospect list, and develop a cultivation plan for them.

Tip: Personally follow-up with top people about something they are specifically interested in.


Small Socials like Porch Parties are absolutely excellent fundraising tools.

Remember to work the room, make sure people enjoy themselves, and carefully followup with key prospects.

Then you’ll be on your way to developing a core group of supporters who are die-hard fans and donors. 

Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE, is an international fundraising consultant, keynote speaker, trainer and philanthropy leader. She is a leader in the new breed of fundraisers who are on the cutting edge of fundraising today. Her Fired-Up Fundraising approach, developed over the past 30 years as a nonprofit philanthropy expert, has helped organizations raise hundreds of millions in gifts. Gail was recently named #10 on the list of America’s Top Fundraising Experts, published by Philanthropy Media.  Her best-selling book, Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action (Wiley/AFP) has been called the “gold standard guide to building successful fundraising boards.”


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