Guest Post: Inspire and Engage Your Community of Supporters with Entrepreneurial Nonprofit Leadership

Welcome guest blogger Kathy Kingston! 

Would it also surprise you to know that your fundraising auctions and benefit events are an untapped, golden opportunity to connect your supporters meaningfully and deeply to what they love and care about most about your great cause?

However, attracting and retaining generous donors requires a shift in thinking.

Today’s, entrepreneurial nonprofit leaders, the subject of an upcoming event with the same name, understand the unique power of strategic fundraising auctions, galas and benefit events to deeply activate their community of supporters and to inspire a new culture of giving.

With an entrepreneurial mindset, nonprofit leaders can powerfully show supporters how their gifts will positively impact the cause that impassions them.

As nonprofits and educational organizations are challenged for greater income and resources to support their missions, entrepreneurial leadership and innovative strategies are vital.

Keeping Your Donors

Did you know that a top problem for many nonprofit and educational organizations is that they are not retaining their donors? Donor attrition may be as high as 40 to 70 percent for a typical nonprofit.* If you were running a business and lost 60 percent of your customers every year, you’d be out of business. It is as critical for a nonprofit to develop a pool of donors who upgrade their gifts as it is for a business to build steady customers.

“Your events are important assets for your organization,” says Gail Bower, “but only if you leverage them with purpose and strategy. Generating revenue, engaging donors, building relationships with your funders and sponsors, and connecting your community emotionally with your cause are the ideal outcomes of your overarching strategy and long-term vision.

Strategically designed donor engagement and fundraising brings people into your organization and ensures that you retain those donors, many of whom will upgrade their gifts over time until they consider giving their ultimate gift.

For example, as the consultant recently working with the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction, my innovative audience and donor engagement strategies helped their innovative executive director Maureen Cottingham increase revenue from $700,000 to $4.7 million in just four years.

Year round community of supporters

You get this type of result by creating a community of generous supporters to sustain lasting impact on your entire organization, clients, and community. A strategic approach means that your auction fundraiser has a greater purpose. It goes beyond raising money that night at your event. It has the power to unite people to generate enthusiasm and action—not only to raise money, but also to deepen their relationships with you and your great cause. With this approach, you unite people with fun and energy and purpose

“Money is a tool. It’s a means to obtain value.” Karen Eber Davis, the Income Growth Catalyst writes, “Your auction invites your supporters to raise their hands and say “yes” this mission’s worth doing. Yes, I’m excited to be part of it. Yes, we do better together. Great auctions leave your attendees with a high (not from any alcohol they consumed) but from the knowledge that they help to achieve something important worth moving forward.

Entrepreneurial Paradigm Shift 

Simply said, if you want to raise a lot more money and keep your donors, shift from the old tired friend-raiser mindset to a strategic philanthropic giving mindset. Change your one-time event mindset to one in which you leverage your auction as a gateway to long-term donor development. And instead of simply “doing” an auction and crossing your fingers, adopt a strategic philanthropy model mindset. That means leveraging your benefit fundraising auction to build long-term relationships and engage your wonderful supporters year-round, before, during, and after your benefit auction event.

My most successful clients maximize their proceeds (double, triple, even quintuple revenue) but more importantly create a dynamic climate for giving that transcends the benefit auction event. In other words, you create a culture of giving that begins with strategic design, that is highly visible at the auction event and continues long after your event ends. In this culture, you can make the most money after the event.

In conclusion, with an entrepreneurial leadership mindset, strategic fundraising auctions, when strategically designed and properly conducted, can be a highly effective solution for donor retention, audience engagement, board empowerment, supporter cultivation, mission-focused marketing, and maximum fundraising. To generate income, of course, leaders need to develop and engage your community of supporters in new ways.

Learn more about our upcoming complimentary online expert panel on June 27, 2018, at 1 p.m. EST and register before the session is sold out.

*Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute, “2013 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report”, Fundraising Effectiveness Project, 2013. /412906-2013-fundraising-effectiveness-survey-report.pdf.

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