4 Donor Appreciation Events to Boost Engagement & Retention

Your donors are what make your mission possible. From simply keeping the lights on to making an impact in your community and beyond, your donors make it all happen. Showing your thanks for their generosity in meaningful ways is crucial for keeping donors engaged, retaining their support, and scaling their gifts over time.

Appreciation events are a great option for your staff and board to connect with donors in new ways, beyond the traditional thank-you notes and phone calls (which are, of course, still necessary!). From treating donors to a fun outing or activity to publicly recognizing them for their support, these thank-you event ideas make your donors feel appreciated and help boost their long-term commitment to your cause.

1. Annual Donor Appreciation Awards

Make a splash and publicly thank your donors—in particular, those donors who have supported your nonprofit for many years or have given a significant amount deserve recognition on a bigger scale. One way to do that is to hold a donor appreciation awards event.

Start by analyzing your donor data to pinpoint your most influential donors and determine the award categories. Some ideas might include the most consecutive years donated, largest individual gift, lifetime giving award, or rising star donor. Next, reach out to ask them if they’d like to be publicly honored at the event. Depending on the awards you’d like to present, you might also conduct personal outreach or interviews to determine who will be recognized. Either way, ensure you get donors’ permission to be publicly honored before proceeding with any awards.

Another take on appreciation awards is to create a Donor Hall of Fame to recognize major donors to your organization. Include an induction ceremony in the appreciation event and broadly recognize these folks in public ways, like on your website, on social media, and perhaps in a press release to local media.

For this annual event, invite all of your donors to attend. Provide food, refreshments, and entertainment. There are a number of ways to approach this event, from a formal gala to a casual gathering. No matter what you choose, the goal is to allow donors to connect, celebrate your mission, and recognize their important contributions.

2. Behind-the-Scenes Tour

Transparency is crucial to keeping your donors interested in your cause and organization. Offer a behind-the-scenes tour of your offices or facilities exclusively for donors to highlight what your team does on a daily basis. This sneak peek approach can help strengthen your donors’ connection with your mission and help them better understand what their dollars are doing to make a difference in your work. You might choose a time of year when your office is bustling with lots going on, perhaps when staff or volunteers are preparing for the annual charity golf tournament, packing or sorting donations, or other activities. 

Look for ways to make the event more fun and engaging by offering food and drinks, a chance to network with your staff and/or board members, and presentations featuring your beneficiaries. For example, you could create a documentary-style video highlighting a handful of your beneficiaries’ stories and how your organization has improved their lives.

You could also take this event a step further by incorporating a meet-and-greet element with your nonprofit’s beneficiaries, when appropriate. Just ensure that you carefully explain the purpose of the event to the selected beneficiaries so that they’re fully prepared to interact with your supporters.

3. Family Day

A family day is a great option to bring together donors and their families. It’s also an informal chance for your staff and board, plus their families, to engage with donors in a fun, casual setting.

There are multiple options for a family-friendly event. But before you decide on a theme, dig into your donor data to get a clearer idea of your donor community’s demographics. Some important data points that can help you make a decision on the type of event might include average donor age, ages of dependents, and family status.

Above all, you want to choose an event that allows for activities that everyone can enjoy and participate in, no matter their age or ability. Some ideas include a carnival, a cookout in a park, a round at a miniature golf course, a pool party, or a golf tournament. Look for ways to make the event special, like adding themed activities, special prizes, or contests. For instance, if you’re holding a family golf outing, GolfStatus suggests adding extras like:

  • A golf clinic
  • Hole-in-one contest
  • Longest drive contest
  • Closest to the pin contest
  • Longest putt contest
  • Skins games contest

Adding extra activities makes sure that there’s something for everyone to participate in, helps draw donors and families, and makes the overall event even more fun.

4. Friendly Competition

A little friendly competition is a great way to engage your entire donor community while also recognizing their contributions and showing appreciation for their ongoing support. The end goal is to strengthen your donor relationships and foster a community. There are a myriad of options for some friendly competition to choose from, but here are a few of the best ideas:

  • A golf tournament
  • 5K run/walk
  • Group bike ride
  • Trivia contest
  • Cooking challenge
  • Scavenger hunt
  • A charity auction

Whichever idea you choose, look for ways to connect it to your nonprofit’s mission in some fashion. Continuing with the golf tournament idea, you could add games to the tournament that relate to your work, like a putting contest with building tools for a nonprofit that builds homes or a blind putt hole for an organization that works with the visually impaired.

Wrapping Up

Your donor cultivation process shouldn’t end once a prospect converts and makes a gift to your organization. Taking the time to thank donors with exciting events that bolster your relationship with them helps set your nonprofit apart from the rest and can help deepen your connections with donors over time. Now’s a great time to start thinking about how you can show your donors some well-deserved love!

Author: Logan Foote, Sales and Education Manager at GolfStatus

Logan Foote has been around the game of golf nearly his entire life. He first picked up a club at the age of four, and despite thousands of attempts, he’s never had a hole-in-one. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and pursued a career in sales. Logan came to GolfStatus in 2017, where he channels his passion for golf to help nonprofits raise money through the game. As Sales and Education Manager, Logan oversees a team that works with thousands of nonprofit clients to maximize their golf fundraisers with the GolfStatus platform, and shares his golf fundraising expertise through GolfStatus’s free educational webinars. He lives and golfs in Lincoln, Nebraska with his wife and three sons.

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