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How Big Picture Thinking Will Improve Your Fundraising Event

Resource Center - Foundation

Jamie Lehman, Communications Manager, Cornerstone Group of Companies.

You more than likely have a checklist when planning your annual event. However, when you are immersed in the minutia of details that have to be executed it’s possible you are missing some of the big-picture items that can make the difference between a good event and a great event.

In that spirit, we have compiled a few more crucial items that you should check-off to ensure that you event is successful.

Event Insights

Have you done a complete analysis of your previous year’s events? You may find some great insights through post-event participant analysis and website analytics. Some of the data points of interest that you should review include items such as:

  • Location and other key geographic information. What locations had the best participation, or the most donations? Remember to analyze and give weight relative to population density.
  • How much did your participants raise and what methodologies did they use most successfully?
  • What variables played a factor in the negative results of your event (E.g., event was too far from public transit, invites went out too early, online donation site crashed on day of event)?
  • What variables played a factor in the positive results of your event? Are you collecting feedback from registrants and donors? What online variables and objectives are you tracking and measuring?

When our clients ask us to do this analysis for them, we inevitably find nuggets of insight that help them make their upcoming event more successful.

Focus On Retention

What is your analysis telling you? If it’s revealing that specific participants are raising the majority of funds year after year, this may be a signal that it’s time to create custom retention strategies for your event.

You can segment your donors by defined categories with an experienced analytics team, and then deliver tailored messaging to these various groups. Some strategies might include: “flashbacks to last year;” “photo diaries;” “follow-ups on how donor dollars were spent;” “loyalty programs;” etc.

With a defined objective on how your retention efforts are going to affect your end result, you can measure how successful your strategies are executed.

Auditing Your Event’s Online Resources

Equally as important as the analysis of your data to retain your best participants is an audit of your event website to optimize results.

If you threw an event last year then you have powerful and actionable data that can be derived from an audit of online user activity. There are several user states you should consider:

  1. Generic User Experience – Does your website have intuitive flow? In this respect, is it easy to understand? Do users know what they are expected to do, and how quickly and easily can they achieve what you want them to do (register, donate, volunteer, etc.)?
  2. Specialized User Experience – Is this a gala? A holiday-themed event? Are the graphics and content consistent with the type of event you are promoting?
  3. Content User Experience – What role does content play in your event page? Does it communicate your primary message? Will it prompt the user to want to learn more? How does it impact the user’s motivation to make a gift?
  4. Mobile User Experience – How does your online event site present in a mobile or tablet version? On the day of your event you should expect many attendees to be on and sharing through their mobile devices.
  5. Email User Experience – Is your email communication with your donors well-integrated into the design and flow of your online donation platform? The two should fit together seamlessly.
  6. Social Media and Web Presence – How is your brand being represented across all social media channels? What is your user going to feel when they arrive at your site from an ad? If you can’t manage all social channels, choose the select few that best connect to your event and leverage insights tools such as Facebook Custom Audiences to understand your donors even better.

With so many moving parts it can be difficult to manage your event, but focusing in on variables like analysis, a good online donation user experience, and retention/segmentation can help you successfully grow your event every year.

Remember that the combination of great analysis, retention/segmentation data and an excellent online donation site are the ideal groundwork for targeted advertising. 

Article written by Jamie Lehman, Communications Manager, Cornerstone Group of Companies.

Cornerstone Donation Processing & Fundraising Services business provides our Fundraising Clients with end-to-end outsourced online and offline donation processing and donor database management services. To learn more head to or email

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