Nonprofit organizations need to find ways to thank donors all year round. One special way to show appreciation is to hold an open house at your organization. If you can’t hold it on site, have it at a restaurant or other venue. You may be able to find someone to donate space.
Not for donors only
You could just have an event for donors, but why not invite your email subscribers and your social media followers? This could be a great way to convert these supporters into donors. Also, encourage donors to bring a friend.
Coordinate it with your annual appeal
Depending on your resources, you may only be able to hold one open house a year. If you can hold more, that’s great. A good time to have one is before you launch your annual appeal. Most organizations do a fall appeal, so think about holding one in October or early November.
Another option is the spring, if you have an appeal then, or you could make it a thank you event. Winter is tricky, unless you are fortunate to live in a part of the country where it doesn’t snow. Summer is also problematic since it’s vacation time.
Whenever you decide to hold your open house, don’t ask for money at this event.
Make it informal
Hold a gathering where your supporters can drop in after work. Serve refreshments. You may be able to get food and beverages donated or find a sponsor.
Have a brief program. You could show a video and/or let a client share his or her story. Your executive director or board chair should thank the attendees and share some accomplishments and plans for the future. Again, keep it brief; don’t bore people.
Create some photo displays and have literature available. You could also show a video on a laptop. Offer tours, if that makes sense.
Let your donors and other supporters see the heart and soul of your organization.
Get your board involved
You want a good turnout from your board. Encourage board members to invite friends and other potential prospects.
Brush up on those talking points
Make sure staff and board mingle with your supporters and make them feel welcome. You may need to go over your organization’s talking points and elevator pitches with everyone, so they can be prepared to talk about what you do and answer questions. The 4 Cornerstones of Your Nonprofit Message Platform
Don’t let them get away
Anyone who has taken time out of his/her busy schedule to attend your open house deserves a ton of attention.
Collect names and addresses of people who attended and send a thank you note right away. Don’t ask for money (that comes later).
When you do send your annual appeal, make a reference in the letter or handwritten note that it was great to see them at your open house.
Not all your donors will attend, but they will appreciate the invitation. Donors and other supporters who do come are showing you they are interested in your organization. Keep cultivating them. This will help ensure they will continue to support you.