Ales and Acquisition: Notes From Our First Fundraiser Happy Hour

Dayna CarpenterVice President and Senior ConsultantMarch 9, 2023

Last week, we tried something new: an informal, virtual fundraiser “happy hour” to discuss a key topic. We invited fundraisers from campuses and nonprofits to join the RNL consultants for an informal online chat at the end of the work day. A dozen of them joined us, and as we enjoyed our refreshments, we discussed new donor acquisition. Here are some insights we heard.

Fundraisers are getting creative and educating to attract new donors

Blog: Fundraising happy hour
We heard great insights from fundraising colleagues at our first online happy hour.

One key tactic that seems to be amplifying in focus is volunteer solicitation. Many organizations are investing more in volunteers, particularly to reach out to new donors. To quote one attendee: “The peer-to-peer ask is what makes a difference.”

Student competitions are also growing. One attendee shared the success of their student crowdfunding competition, which annually attracts over 1,000 donors. “We give students a step-by-step process, basically teaching them to fundraise.” The competition helps tell the stories of student organizations and captures numerous new donors. And the impact goes far beyond: “When we ask these students to give after graduation, they remember the competition, and are more attuned to giving.”

“Our role as the conduit between the institution and future donors is to answer who, what, when, and why,” said one attendee. Creative solicitations like challenges and competitions provide the venue, but the real value is making it easier and impactful for new donors to join in.

Good contact information and effort in getting it are key for reaching alumni

Everyone agreed that data are crucial for new donor acquisition. “We’ve also found that if our address/email info is outdated our cell phone numbers tend to be more accurate. With alumni moving, graduating, using their college emails less, etc. sometimes we can reach alumni through text that we can’t through other means,” said one attendee.

One thing everyone agreed on: confirmed mobile numbers are one of the most valuable items in your advancement database.

Gift premiums have regained popularity for new donor acquisition

Giving away things to new donors is growing once again. Of course, everyone is concerned that these gifts could be a bit “transactional,” and there’s a long history in fundraising of premium donors retaining at a lower rate. But it’s clear that making giving an experience by offering an item for a special event is still popular. Socks seem to be in the lead, with phone wallpaper downloads, stickers, and holiday ornaments also pretty popular.

The consensus from the group was that if you go with a “give to get” strategy, doubling down on stewardship is crucial. New donor retention to the second year is very low nationally, and premium donors are always a high risk for attrition. Putting some extra effort into thanking them and sharing giving impact is smart.

Join an RNL fundraiser happy hour, drink optional, and connect with peers

These are just a few notes from a conversation-packed event. Our next fundraiser “happy hour” is set for March 16. “Riesling and Retention” will be a chat about how we keep loyal donors. And then, on April 13, we’ll host “Whiskey and Why Not?”, a discussion of new, innovative tactics, and testing out new ideas.

We would love for you to join us and bring any beverage you like: sodas, iced tea, energy drinks, and the like are welcome along with the traditional happy hour drinks. If you’d like to join a happy hour to have great conversations with fellow fundraisers, drop me a line, and I’ll get you an invite.

Read Donor Engagement in the New Normal

Donor Engagement in the New Normal

Learn five key strategies for fundraising success and read insights from RNL’s fundraising team.

  1. Cultivating big gifts by investing in donor engagement.
  2. Maximizing giving by coordinating multiple channels.
  3. Boosting response with personalized, peer-supported communication.
  4. Personalizing at scale using artificial intelligence.
  5. Creating urgency driven campaigns to boost response.

Read now

About the Author

Dayna Carpenter joined RNL in 2016 and assists RNL partners with high-level strategic planning and oversight. Her focus includes annual giving assessments, persona development, and custom consulting experiences through times of program growth and transition....

Read more about Dayna's experience and expertise

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