Struggling with how to get people involved in your nonprofit? Struggle no more. Many clients come to us with a number of the same pain points:
- Donor engagement
- Expanding their donor base
- Telling their story well
- Showing the mission in action
- Leveraging the Board of Directors
Often the reasons for these challenges boil down to two key issues: staff capacity and revenue to support the efforts. As of late, there’s one strategic solution I’d like to propose for your consideration.
Here’s the premise, inspired by the results-based Benevon Model: there are potential champions of your cause waiting for you to invite them into your organization. Believe it or not, fundraising best-practices point to an abundance, not scarcity, of resources waiting to be invested in your cause. All you have to do is create the opening.
The Point of Entry Event
This is a replicable event that invites new individuals to experience your mission in action and get a first-hand look at what you do, how you do it and why it matters. For a Point of Entry event (POE) to really work, it needs to include these key elements:
One-hour max: Honestly, who’s got more than an hour to give these days anyway? Commitment-phobia is a real thing in 2017. If you want a good turn out, make it an hour. Start on time and end on time. This will require a very tight program. But guess what? People love clear and effective communications.
Breakfast or lunch for the win: Evenings are hard to get folks to show up. They’ve got spouses to spend time with, kids to put to bed, dinner to enjoy and a litany of other commitments filling their margins in the evening. For working professionals, coming into the office 30 minutes later or taking an extended lunch break isn’t only doable; it’s desirable.
Mission in Action: If you can have the POE event onsite, that’s ideal. Create an experience for your people. Get them on their feet and walk them around. Don’t just tell them what you do, show them what you do — observe a classroom, hold an adorable puppy or give a tour of your facilities. Create opportunities for guests to interact with those you serve.
Tell the story: The human mind is wired to create and remember stories. We’ve written about storytelling a lot in the past few months because it’s a powerful tool. We recommend picking two to three key program areas or service offerings to highlight at your POE event. For each area or offering, pick one anecdotal story of a constituent directly impacted. Create tension through showing where they were, where they are today and how your nonprofit made the difference.
Stories are best when told first-hand. If possible, tell the story through the voice of the beneficiary. If that person isn’t available, have a staff member read a letter or a parent talking about the transformation they witnessed in their child. Remember to share that “this is just one of many stories of people impacted through our programs, in fact [insert your meaningful impact stat here].”
Empower your supporters to serve as hosts: This may seem farfetched, but organizations who follow the steps outlined above are having huge success with this step too! Ask current donors, volunteers, board members (i.e. your champions) to host each POE event. As a “host,” they simply choose the date, invite their network to attend (aim for 8-20 people) and give a brief welcome at the event. A representative from your organization will take over from there. This empowers the individual to be a real ambassador for your cause.
Replicate to a tee (over and over): For your nonprofit’s sake and for staff capacity/sanity, don’t reinvent the wheel. Do the same event over and over again just for a different audience. Eventually, you’ll be able to do it in your sleep! Your hosts will know exactly what to expect for their guests, creating a high-level of comfort with the process. Make sure your hosts attend a POE event before volunteering. We’d recommend doing at least one POE event a month to get the hang of it. Some clients who’ve mastered the POE event do it as often as once per week.
Collect information: How can you invite these new individuals to go deeper with your organization if you don’t have their information? Make sure to collect and record attendees’ contact information immediately after the event.
Follow-up: Within 72 hours of the event, ensure each attendee receives a phone call to thank them, get feedback and learn how they’d like to be involved. If they’re not interested in getting involved, that’s perfectly fine! Thank them and let them go. Typically around half will be willing to be added to your email list, volunteer, attend a future fundraising event or even host a POE event in the future.
There you have it, folks! This is one way to engage people new to your organization. We’d recommend not making a financial ask at the POE event. Share your needs (in-kind, capital, staffing, or funding), but don’t invite people to respond at the event. It’s more of an FYI. Some people will choose to respond immediately to a need in your follow-up call. Most will need to be cultivated over the next 6-12 months before being willing to invest. That’s great!
The POE event gets folks in the door and primed to be stewarded to make a financial contribution at the right time (end of year appeal, annual campaign, etc.).
You’ve got this! We’d love your feedback as you craft and experiment with the best POE event for your nonprofit.