As we start the year, we’ve still got our eye on the prize: successful fundraisers that captivate and engage our donors.

Here, we take a look at a few fundraising event trend predictions that might shift the way we view our events this year. We’ve also got a few tips up our sleeves to help you tackle these trends.

Here’s an overview of our predictions:

  1. Events will become more experience-based than ever.
  2. Event branding will remain key — before, during, and after your fundraiser.
  3. The move to mobile will intensify.
  4. Recurring donations will be at the forefront of fundraising strategies.
  5. Donor needs will become an even higher priority.

So, let’s settle in and discuss what we see coming.

Events will become more experience-based

1. Events will become more experience-based than ever.

Let’s face it: when you compete for a donor’s attention, you’re competing with a lot.

That’s why these days, nonprofits have really got to create something special in order to catch the eye of a potential event attendee. Now more than ever, your donors want to attend creative events that provide them with truly unforgettable experiences.

Trend Watch:

This year, we predict a strong increase in experiential events — that is, fundraising events that are extremely memorable and shareable for their attendees.

Events that are truly unique will excite and engage your guests before the event even starts, meaning they’re more likely to invite their own networks as well.

Take Action:

If you want to plan an experience that excites your attendees and fosters community, there are two major steps you’ll need to take:

i. Create a concept
ii. Get the word out

Let’s break each of these down in more detail.

i. Create a concept

Here are a few key ideas to consider on as you embark on the first stages of event planning:

  • Your committee sets the tone for your event, so make the most of them. The people who plan your fundraiser are one of the most valuable resources you have, so choose — and use — them wisely.
  • Your event’s theme should be relevant and fresh for your audience. Be careful not to mismatch your theme to your demographic. Spend some time brainstorming for an interesting concept that appeals to your donor demographic and hasn’t been overdone.
  • Cohesion counts. As you dive into the nitty gritty of event planning, focus on organizing an event that makes sense from start to finish. Don’t over-complicate it. Just be consistent and thoughtful in all areas.

ii. Get the word out

Experience-based events are inherently social, so consider the following tactics as you mobilize your communities and publicize your fundraiser:

  • Social media still works. A strong social presence goes a long way for your fundraiser. Stay active on your social media in order to get your donors excited for the event. Make sure to list the necessary details (date, time, location) on your website and event page, and then have fun with videos and photos that are relevant and entertaining.
  • Start with your base. Rather than throwing invitations at everyone you’re connected to, start with your closest friends and most dedicated supporters and allow your reach to expand naturally. Don’t forget to include key influencers on your invite list too. The goal is to fill your event with excited, generous donors.
  • Utilize peer-to-peer software. Thanks to new technologies, there’s a variety of ways to make a peer-to-peer campaign as fun and social as possible for your donors. Individual fundraising pages, reward badges, and leaderboards are a few examples of the many ways you can gamify your campaign to maximize fundraising.

By combining both angles, you’ll be able to plan an event that entertains and engages your audience and their networks.

The bottom line: Creative, well-thought-out events that break outside the fundraiser norm are more likely to bring in eager donors. By creating an interesting concept and engaging your networks effectively, you can organize a full experience for your guests and meet your fundraising goals.

Event branding will remain key

2. Event branding will remain key — before, during, and after your fundraiser.

More than ever before, it’s essential for a successful event to have its own distinct brand.

Event branding simply refers to the cohesive vision for your event. A well-branded event is recognizable at all levels and shows a strong level of consistency and attention to detail.

Trend Watch:

Successful fundraising events will no longer be able to slide by without implementing their own brand. We see event branding as a necessary stage in event planning.

Take Action:

If you’re not sure how to brand your next fundraiser, here are a few places to start:

  • Standardize your design. From color pallette to fonts, your fundraising materials should all go hand in hand. Begin with your logo and work outward to your website, social media graphics, posters, and invitations. To get an idea of how to perfectly brand your online persona, read through Neon’s breakdown of what makes a charity website stand out.
  • Your event should reflect your brand. Reinforce your design elements through your decor and onsite promotional items. Consider incorporating branded products into your fundraising strategy by selling custom t-shirts, water bottles, or tote bags at your event as well as online. Remember, these should echo your overall design choices.
  • Track your hashtag on social media after the event. One of the simplest and most useful ways to brand your event is the hashtag. Encourage your guests to include the tag when they post online during the event. When you track the tag across social media, you’ll have the opportunity to interact with your attendees, gather donor information, and gauge your guests’ experiences to make improvements for next year.

No matter how small or large your fundraiser is, smart branding can set it apart from start to finish.

The bottom line: We expect event branding to become the new necessity, which makes now a great time to experiment with creating your own brand. From design to decor, your unique brand should reflect who you are on every level.

the move to mobile intensify

3. The move to mobile will intensify.

At this point, you’ve probably begun to think about the ways you can integrate mobile giving into your fundraising and event planning strategies. If you haven’t, we can’t think of any time better than the present.

Trend Watch:

Mobile fundraising is an inclusive term for a number of methods of collecting donations on mobile devices. And now more than ever, it’s on the rise.

We see mobile giving taking over fundraising this year, especially as it relates to the fundraising event.

Take Action:

There are two specific ways you can utilize mobile giving at your event:

i. Use mobile bidding to re-energize the silent auction.
ii. Incorporate text-to-give tools to engage both attendees and absentees.

Each of these factors will have a big impact on how you organize your event, so let’s dive into them one by one.

i. Mobile bidding

For many fundraising professionals, silent auction bid sheets have been on the way out for some time now in favor of a fresh, fully digital take on the age-old auction format.

Basically, the new and improved auction process works like this:

Bidders can place offers on auction items directly on their smartphones and receive instant notifications when they have been outbid. If the bidder wishes to place a new bid, he or she simply responds to the initial notification.

This new process is not only easy, it’s also fun, meaning that participants will be more likely to take part in bidding wars right on their phones!

In general, mobile bidding is a more convenient, engaging way for your attendees to take part in silent auctions — and it’s a big win for your event.

ii. Text-to-give tools

As their name would suggest, text-to-give tools make it simple for individuals to donate by texting.

There are a number of text-to-give services you can choose from, each with their own specific advantages. In general, these programs are a smart way to quickly collect and process payments before, during, and after your fundraising events.

Text-to-give makes it easier than ever for donors to give, but we see these services becoming a major player because they engage a previously forgotten audience: non-attending donors.

When you enable text-to-give, you’re not only able to engage event guests with their smartphones in tow, you’re also able to reach out to interested donors who couldn’t make it to your fundraiser.

The bottom line: Moving forward, it’s crucial that your organization adapts to changing technology. We see mobile giving becoming a standard part of event fundraising in the coming year.

recurring donations will be at the forefront of fundraising strategies

4. Recurring donations will be at the forefront of fundraising strategies.

It goes without saying that the most successful fundraising events don’t just attract one-time donors; they encourage donors to commit to more long-term giving.

After all, what’s better than a single donation? Multiple donations!

Trend Watch:

We see nonprofits making a reinvigorated effort toward encouraging and securing recurring donations.

Recurring donations don’t just increase revenue for your nonprofit. They also lead to higher donor retention overall, stronger donor relationships, and less time and energy spent on donor acquisition.

In short, recurring donations have the power to transform your organization and make your fundraising efforts truly worthwhile.

Take Action:

There are many ways to turn one-time donors into repeat donors. Here are a few strategies you can implement this year:

  • Accept direct debit payments. By working with a payment processor who accepts ACH debit payments (otherwise known as eChecks), you’re making it easy for your donors to give on a regular basis. For a more detailed breakdown on how this works, check out iATS’ guide to direct debit payment processing for nonprofits.
  • Keep in touch. Sending thank-you notes after your event is probably a no-brainer, but it’s equally important to follow up with your donors throughout the year, long after your fundraiser is over. Remind them that they play a major part in your organization’s success, and let them know you appreciate their help.
  • Stay engaging and accessible. Promote ongoing donor engagement by maintaining an active presence online. An easy-to-navigate website, interesting email campaigns, and consistent social media pages will all communicate to your donors that your organization is still going strong — and in need of their contributions!

Getting donors to your event once might seem daunting on its own, but by thinking strategically, we guarantee your donors will keep coming back.

The bottom line: Recurring donations have always been key, but we see a resurgence in their prevalence this year. Stay active and accessible to your donors throughout the year in order to secure their recurring gifts.

donor needs will become an even higher priority

5. Donor needs will become an even higher priority.

At the end of the day, your donors are what make your nonprofit possible.

This year, we see donors coming back as the primary focus for your organization and the fundraising events you plan.

Trend Watch:

We believe donor needs will take priority over organizational needs this year, and nonprofits will reframe their approach to fundraising to reflect that shift.

Take Action:

Luckily, knowing how to make your donors #1 in the eyes of the organization isn’t difficult. We know what donors want and how you can be there for them right now.

Here are a few tips for reconnecting with your donors this year:

  • Make it personal. If you want your donors to feel passionate about your cause, let them get to know you on a one-on-one basis. Offer tours of your facilities, provide hands-on service opportunities, and allow them to speak with your organization’s leaders face-to-face.
  • Tell your story. Including videos or live testimonials at your event is a surefire way to connect donors to your cause. It’s also a great idea to share specific success stories following fundraising events to let donors know where their money went.

The bottom line: We predict a major refocus on donor needs this year. Now is your chance to reconnect with your constituents and find out how you can best be there for them. When you do, you’ll be sure to see a major payoff in fundraising!


In Short

Whether you’re crafting the perfect experience for your guests or finally capitalizing on fantastic mobile giving software, we’re sure this will be your organization’s best year yet.

Consider our predictions for event trends as you lay out your strategies for the upcoming year. You might be surprised what you’re able to achieve!

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