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Convert Advocates into Donors with These Five Unique Event Ideas

By Clay Boggess on Sep 20, 2017
Convert Advocates into Donors with These Five Unique Event Ideas

Learn important strategies that will take your next fundraising event to another level

Let’s open with a question that was actually posed in a recent article on this very blog:

Do you wonder if all the hard work that goes into a fundraising event is worth it in the end?

It’s a relevant question. Fundraising events can run the gamut from affordable to costly, low-key to grandiose, small to gigantic, and so on.

As this article advises, nonprofits need to consider two key areas:

  1. Budget
  2. Event planning

We’re going to focus on the latter to further that conversation.

We will be zeroing in on a very specific area: strategies to encourage your loyal advocates to donate.

The relationship between being an advocate and a donor is fluid. Many of your donors are sure to be active advocates and vice versa. But, you’re likely to have a group of people who tend to strictly show support of your cause through advocacy.

Rather, they choose to help by, “publicly recommending or supporting” the specific work you do (Learn more about the semantics here:

Their support is incredibly valuable, action-oriented, and mission-driven, but it’s not necessarily financial.

With the right techniques in place, though, you can do a better job of encouraging your advocates to become donors. And, events are a great place to start!

In case you want to skip ahead to a particular section, here are the five strategies:

  1. Include an auction or a raffle in your next advocacy gathering.
  2. Mention donation opportunities in your communications.
  3. Offer chances for mobile giving.
  4. Make sure to research your advocates ahead of time.
  5. Emphasize the impact of a gift.

Read on to explore all five ideas for converting advocates into donors during your next event!

1. Include an auction or a raffle in your next advocacy gathering.

Just like there are fundraising events, there are advocacy events. They simply have slightly different priorities, both of which feed into your end goal — serving your mission.

Popular examples of advocacy events can include:

  • Hand delivering a petition to its recipient.
  • Organizing a rally.
  • Sending out a team to gather signatures.
  • Peacefully protesting.
  • Hosting a community event to raise cause awareness.
  • Plus, many more!

The advice in this strategy is pretty straightforward: include an auction or a raffle in your next advocacy gathering.

Of course, not all advocacy events are going to be conducive to this (like hand delivering a petition), but there are ones that an auction or a raffle could complement nicely (like a night dedicated to raising cause awareness).

Auctions and raffles are a great way to convert advocates to donors because they are a fun and incentivized means of giving.

Instead of feeling like you’re approaching your hard-working advocates and asking them to donate on top of their service, you’re giving them the chance to win a fun prize or purchase a unique experience.

Plus, who doesn’t love a good bidding war? Auctions and raffles can be the perfect point of entry for new donors.

2. Mention donation opportunities in your communications.

Breaking news! You can’t secure donations that you don’t ask for.

Sure, the occasional donor might just give out of the blue, but more often than not, supporters donate as a direct result of the hard work of your marketing and fundraising teams.

Just like you wouldn’t expect a random prospect to give without prompting, you can’t expect your advocates to do so either.

Instead, incorporate donation information into the communications that you send out about your events.

You can add a small blurb or even just a “Donate Now” button to various pieces of correspondence, such as:

  • Invitations of all kinds.
  • Email reminders.
  • Social media posts with event details.
  • Acknowledgements.
  • And any other correspondence you send out.

Just remember, if you’re going to be directing your advocates to your online donation process, it needs to be in tip-top shape.

The better your online donation forms are, the higher the likelihood that your advocates will complete the process.

We don’t want any abandoned online shopping carts!

The strategies for improving online donation forms are vast. For example, with advocates and events in mind, your team is going to want to optimize the page by:

  1. Keeping the form simple: The event is what brought your advocate to this page in the first place. They’re already a step away from where they planned to be; don’t overcomplicate the process.
  2. Suggesting giving levels: Keep the same simplicity principle in mind and account for the fact that some of your page visitors are going to be first-time donors. Offering giving levels makes things easier for all involved.
  3. Making the gift shareable: Most of your advocates are likely also some of your biggest supporters on social media. Encourage them to share their gifts on their social networks to raise awareness and reach more people.

Those three techniques should give you an idea of what we mean by saying “optimize for advocates.”

Every donation page has an area that needs improvement. These improvements, in particular, just happen to directly impact your advocate-to-donor conversion rates.

Once you have the confidence that your donation forms are optimized, make their promotion a priority.

So next time you send your advocates an event-related communication, make sure it mentions donation opportunities!

3. Offer mobile giving opportunities.

Make donating at the event as quick and seamless as possible by providing mobile giving opportunities.

Did you know that 84% of event fundraising pledges are fulfilled? That’s too good of an opportunity to pass up!

Once you have mobile giving set up, promoting it during an advocacy event will be no problem at all.

In addition to including mentions in your communications and on signs at the event itself, you can reserve a few minutes for one of your team members to have the floor. During that time, have the team member suggest that everyone takes out their phone and makes a donation.

Mobile giving has rapidly grown in popularity for a reason. From grandmas to middle schoolers, most people have smartphones. You can’t beat that level of accessibility.

Before your event, you’ll want to consider what aspect of mobile giving you are going to offer your advocates.

You might want to just ensure that your online donation pages are mobile responsive so that advocates can use their smartphones to go right to your website when you ask them to give. Or, you might want to look into services that provide text-to-give software.

Think through which solution will best suit both your event and your advocates.

Just remember, a mobile-responsive website is going to benefit your organization on the whole, with broad-reaching effects far beyond advocacy events. It’s a worthwhile endeavor.

4. Make sure to research your advocates ahead of time.

Prospect research is likely already a big part of your general fundraising strategy as well as your event strategy. There’s no reason why you can’t refocus your research microscope on your advocates.

The more you learn about your advocates, the better chance you’ll have of a securing a gift from them.

In particular, prospect research is going to be a huge help in finding advocates who are qualified candidates for major giving.

Thanks to a combined analysis of wealth and philanthropic markers, you should be able to determine who on your list of advocates has the potential to give a major gift.

Your analysis will involve studying certain traits and behaviors that showcase both an advocate’s philanthropic history and financial capacity. Such traits and behaviors include:

  • Past giving to your organization.
  • Involvement in other nonprofits.
  • Owning sizeable real estate holdings.
  • Considerable stock ownership.
  • Donating to political campaigns
  • And more!

When you’re searching for major gift prospects among your advocates, focus on philanthropy first and then qualify with wealth.

Just because someone is the wealthiest person in your community does not mean that person will be open to donating.

While, on the other hand, you might find an advocate who has a strong drive to give and a less flexible financial situation. That person’s charitable instinct might mean they’re willing to give a larger gift than your assessment of their financial situation would indicate.

Learn more about the great big world of major gifts here.

5. Emphasize the impact of a gift.

We’re going to close this list out with a more general fundraising tip that will also help convert advocates into donors.

It never hurts to focus on what good a gift can do.

When it comes to asking for donations, you already have a leg up with your advocates: they are devoted to your cause.

Advocates want to see your work succeed. So, on a fundamental level, they’re going to be invested in doing what they can to make a difference. And sometimes that can mean making a donation.

At your next advocacy gathering, whether it is a rally or petition delivery, make sure that your gift solicitation focuses on the potential impact of a gift.

Appeal to your supporters in a logical way. Explain, in as much detail as is possible, what their donations will equate to.


With the right strategies in place, everyone wins. Your organization keeps an advocate and gains a donor. And your advocates experience new ways of connecting with your organization.

What about you? What are your strategies for turning advocates into donors? How do events factor into your planning?

Guest Author Bio Dan Quirk, Author

Dan Quirk is the Marketing Manager at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. Dan's marketing focus is on content creation, conversion optimization and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.

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