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 one on site, have it at a restaurant or other venue. You may be able to find someone to donate space.
Invite other supporters, too
You could just have an event for donors, but why not invite your email subscribers and your social media followers, too? This could be a great way to convert these supporters into donors. Also, encourage donors to bring a friend.
Coordinate it with your year-end 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 your open house is before you launch your year-end appeal, so you could hold one sometime between mid-September and 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. July and August are also problematic since that’s vacation time.
Whenever you decide to hold your open house, don’t ask for money at this event.
Keep it informal
No three course-dinners and never-ending speeches. Hold a gathering where your supporters can drop in after work. Serve something to eat and drink. 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. You don’t want your supporters fleeing out the door.
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.
Make everyone feel welcome
Be sure your staff and board mingle with your supporters and make them feel welcome. You may need to go over your organization’s talking points and brush up on your elevator pitches, so everyone is prepared to talk about what you do and answer questions.
Don’t let them get away
Anyone who has taken time out of his/her busy schedule to attend your open house needs to be showered with 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 next appeal, include a sentence that says “It was great to see you at our open house.”
Not all your donors will attend your open house, but 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’ll continue to support you.
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