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Grow Major Donors through Special Events

Don’t believe it! Well, at least not all of it!

You’ve likely been told, “Jettison events. Secure Major Donors!” Wait a minute…”If” you end an event, will you “Then” automatically increase in Major Gifts? Not necessarily.

Instead, grow Major Donors through Special Events by using these important strategies:

Attend Special Event Committee Meetings – Imagine, the very person you’ve been trying to meet with, trying to call, is sitting across from you, engaged and working hard, on behalf of your organization. Be wise…be patient…and be sincere. As you build authentic relationships and provide thoughtful suggestions, meetings and calls will happen naturally!

Create a Must-Invite Guest List – Early one afternoon, following a popular legacy luncheon benefiting an organization where I worked, the phone rang. A board member/ donor said, “Phoenicia, why wasn’t I invited to the gala?” I thought, “…the mail or an oversight or a printing error.” But no. She hadn’t been invited!

Many organizations leave the guest list up to the committee, and, therefore, it is narrowly focused. If you can’t reason away this practice, at least mitigate it by creating a Must Invite list. Include past and present board members, Major Donors, Major Donor Prospects, and key employees. No amount of explaining can assuage the hurt or anger a current Donor feels after being left off.

Influence Seating Arrangements – Special Events provide a wonderful opportunity to reserve great seats for your current Major Donors even if they aren’t underwriting the event. Talk to your Event’s table committee. Share the full impact your Major Donors have on the organization’s mission. They’ll usually agree, and you can seat your VIPs with the same priority given to Special Event sponsors.

Share Donor Names, Intentionally – Unlike your CEO or Board Chairman, you likely have access to your Special Event’s RSVP list. Intentionally give the names of 3-5 Major Donors to key leaders who are attending the event. Provide background, talking points, and point out where the donor will be seated. Don’t miss this opportunity to have a recognizable leader thank a Major Donor!

Allocate Staff Resources Appropriately — Special Events are often a highlight for new development team members. They provide visibility, time away from the office, delicious tastings, fun days on the golf course, committee meetings in private clubs, and on and on! Train, Assign, and Manage!

Major Gifts are the life-line of any mission, true! But, before cancelling an event in order to increase Major Gifts, do a thorough cost/revenue assessment with input from committee members, sponsors, and key board members.

Today’s post is the 3rd in my February series filled with common sense strategies to immediately increase the impact of your organization’s special events!


To share how you’ve maximized Special Events to increase Major Donors, email PMiracle@MiracleStrategies.com or post to my Facebook page. To get winning, donor-centric,  goal-focused fundraising & marketing tips delivered directly to your inbox sign up here!