Building relationships with your donors is a year-round effort. There are many ways to build relationships. One that’s more personal is having 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 other supporters such as event attendees, email subscribers, and social media followers, as well? This could be a great way to convert these supporters into donors. Encourage your 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 spring if you have an appeal then, or you could make it a thank you event.
Winter is tricky unless you’re fortunate to live someplace where it doesn’t snow. And summer’s not good since most people go away on vacation.
Whenever you decide to hold your open house, don’t ask for money at this event.
Keep it informal
No three-course dinners and speeches that are a cure for insomnia. Hold a gathering where your supporters can drop in after work, and 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/her story. Your executive director or board chair should thank your guests and share some accomplishments and plans for the future. Again, keep it brief. You don’t want anyone looking for a way to escape.
Create some photo displays and have literature available. You could also show a video on a laptop. Offer tours, if that makes sense.
Speaking of tours, you could offer them at other times, too. After I became a monthly donor, one organization invited me to arrange a tour.
Get your board involved
You must have a good turnout from your board. Encourage board members to invite friends and other potential prospects.
Make everyone feel welcome
Don’t hide in the corner or spend all your time talking to your co-workers. Your staff and board need to mingle with your guests and make them feel welcome.
You may want 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. And that doesn’t mean reciting your mission statement.
Don’t forget about the follow-up
Anyone who has taken time out of her/his busy schedule to attend your open house needs to be showered with love. Nonprofits tend to do a poor job of following up after an event and miss out on a great opportunity to build relationships.
Collect names and addresses of people who attended and send a thank you note right away. This is a good project for your board. 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’re interested in your organization. Keep them interested and keep building relationships with them! This will help ensure they’ll continue to support you.