You work so hard to get people to come to an event. You recruit them through phone calls, personal visits, direct mail and email. You plan for the speakers, the program, the food and drink. You are so pleased with the turnout!
But here’s a big question: do you have a well thought out plan for timely follow-up with your attendees? In my experience, this is where fundraisers most often fall short and sometimes fail completely. We are all so good at planning events. But we often neglect the critical step of a structured plan for what happens after an event. Timeliness is critical!
Here are a few suggestions for detailing your plans for follow up with event attendees:
- Use the occasion of the event to update contact information for all those in attendance. You can do this through a reception table, where you welcome people and show them the information you have and ask them “would you please confirm that this is still your preferred contact information?” You can also do this by distributing cards at the event—inviting guests to indicate their interest in further engagement with your organization, providing you with their contact information, and of course collecting the cards before the event concludes!
- The next day, review the guest list and assign a prospect rating to each of the attendees. Use your own established rating system or use a simple one such as this: Top Prospects (highest priority), Supporters (medium priority), and Guests.
- For the Guests, a sincere “thank you for attending” is all that is necessary. You can do this by letter, by phone, or by email. Calendar this thank you for the first few days after the event. The important thing is that you thank them. In doing so, you let them know that their presence was noticed and it was valued.
- For Supporters, write a personal letter or hand-written note expressing gratitude for the importance of their continued generosity to your organization. If the timing is right, let them know that your annual appeal is coming up and that you know you can count on them for their continued generosity. The intent here is to let your most reliable donors know that their ongoing support is critical to the work that you do. Calendar these letters to be complete within a week after the event.
- For Top Prospects, make individual Moves Management plans! 80% or more of your timely follow up plan should target these people! Consider having your CEO call them directly to thank them for coming and invite them to a one on one visit. Consider whether that call might best come from you. But calendar that call within two weeks after the event for each of your top prospects. The message you want to communicate is that your are grateful that they took the time to attend the event, but there is much more to discuss about your organization and that you value their ideas as you take the next steps in furthering your mission. If for some reason you cannot get through on the phone, write individual letters to your top prospects thanking them, acknowledging that they were busy when you called, and stating that you will “call their office next week to schedule a visit where we can continue the conversation” about your organization. Then do it!
Think about why you put all that work into planning the event in the first place. Your goal is to advance the mission of your organization. You will if you have a well-organized plan for timely follow-up with every single one of your guests!
By Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions