Convert Auction Attendees into Annual Fund Donors

5 Strategies to Convert Event Attendees into Annual Fund Donors

An organization’s annual fund is the money raised from their annual giving campaign.

An annual giving campaign is a group of strategies organizations put forth in order to raise their annual funds. The annual fund is usually used to help the organization cover any costs they may run into while they implement different campaigns and projects for their causes.

One great opportunity to grow your annual fund is to host your auction events and properly steward your bidders and attendees. The point is always to increase donor retention in efforts to maximize donations or bids. You’re thinking, easier said than done, right?

Well, we have 5 easy strategies to help you help your attendees make the switch.

  1. Make sure your event goes off without a hitch
  2. Remember that timing is everything
  3. Create a membership program
  4. Personalize your outreach
  5. Get the support of the right software

Read on to learn about great stewardship and how to convert your event attendees into annual donors! Header-Images.jpg

1. Make sure your event goes off without a hitch

As we all know, first impressions are important. Keep this in mind when interacting with your donors at your fundraising auction because with 4 out of 10 donors only giving once, donor retention is crucial.

You need to have great stewardship from day one of your annual fund. Here are a few strategies to start things off on the right foot:

  • Donor Recognition. Don’t wait more than 3 days to express your gratitude because the sooner your attendees realize you appreciate their contributions, the more likely they are to donate to your organization again. Remember to keep your thank yous personal! Also, look into publicly recognizing them. The supporters who receive your shout-outs will appreciate recognition after the event, and it can encourage other donors to step up their game.

  • Keep them involved. Encourage attendees to get more involved with your organization. Invite them to your next event or ask them to volunteer. The more involved they are, the stronger your relationship will be.

  • Update them. Don’t ask your attendees for more donations right away. Instead, update them on where their last donation went, the final accomplishments of your fundraising event, and how your organization is doing in regards to your goal.

The takeaway: Forming strong and positive relationships with your donors will result in better and more frequent donations.

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2. Remember that timing is everything,

The fate of your nonprofit’s annual fund rests in your timing.

But when is the best time to follow up with auction event attendees about annual fund donations? Well, it’s different for every organization and you’ll have a lot to keep in mind, so answer these questions:

  • When did your organization’s event start and end? You’ll see the most success with donations at the very beginning and very end of your campaign, so schedule outreach for both of those times.

  • Are your staff and donation processing tools both adequate enough to accept the amount of donations you want? If you’re planning to accept $20,000 in donations, you’ll need to make sure you have the right software to track donor information as well as donation information like average amount and frequency.

  • What time of year is it? Your safest bet to ask for donations is the month of December no matter who you are! The end of the year tends to be the most lucrative with 31% of annual giving taking place in December.

  • What are the other fundraisers your organization is currently working on? You’ll need to get a feel for how many donations your other fundraisers will draw in and keep in mind that if a donor gives to one campaign, he might not give to another that’s currently in progress.

You don’t want to ask for donations right after an event. In fact, you won’t revisit asking for donations for a few months.

Directly after your event, you’ll want thank your donors for their contributions within 48 hours, but you’ll need to wait about 3 months before contacting them for donations to your annual fund.

You’ll have to engage them in between the time you thank them and the time you ask them. This way after your event thank you, your follow-up inquiry a few months later won’t be a surprise or scare donors off.

But, be wary of sending too many messages, because that’ll only get you to supporters’ spam folders. Send occasional emails and vary your outreach from email to letters to social media contact.

You may want to create an outreach calendar based around your events and December to know when’s best to reach out to donors for contributions.

The takeaway: Asking for donations at a poor time will result in fewer donations to your campaign. Plan on engaging your supporters through email and ask them for donations approximately 3 months after your event to give them enough time between giving to your event and giving to your annual fund.

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3. Create a membership program

Typically, organizations use membership programs to increase engagement with and donations from former auction event attendees.

This fundraising strategy gives donors an exclusive edge to the organization’s progress. A program with a membership fee will give members perks or incentives in exchange for donations and you can entice greater participation by asking one-time event donors to join in on your membership program.

While you’ll want to market your program to all your supporters, you can focus on the prospects who will genuinely help to reach your goals and further your cause, such as your event attendees!

There are different types of membership programs that you can implement. For example, your different tiers of membership might include some of the following features:

There are different types of membership programs that you can implement. For example, your different tiers of membership might include some of the following features:

  • Impact on the organization. Members will have the opportunity to put their word in on your decisions and therefore, influence your nonprofit’s work, projects, and campaigns.

  • Large change. Your members will be able to team up with your nonprofit in order to support a bigger cause, enabling them to make a large-scale difference.

  • Strong community. Members will be immersed in the community of your nonprofit, allowing for strong bonds between individuals to further your cause.

  • Experience. Your nonprofit will be able to expose members to programs they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to be part of.

You’ll need to decipher which model works best for your organization’s efforts and keeps your goals in mind and which model will be appealing to your event attendees. From there, you’ll decide on a membership goal to find the appropriate amount you’ll charge for membership fees.

The takeaway: Remember to push the value of joining your membership program because you’re offering programs to help build a community. Promote what prospects want: to know about your organization’s community and how they can add to it.

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4. Personalize your outreach

Recurring donations to your annual fund depend heavily on your ability to master and personalize your outreach techniques to past auction event attendees.

You can reach these attendees through:

  • One-on-one meetings
  • Calls
  • Email/mail
  • Social media

Instead of directing your attention to the monetary value of donations, keep the goal of building and strengthening donor relationships in mind. You don’t want to risk making supporters feel alienated and like ATMs. Plus, you’ll want to retain the event attendees you convert to annual fund donors.

With the help of a donor database, you can track all your donors’ data to help give you important insights into their lives, which you’ll use to personalize your outreach. If you segment event attendees’ data accordingly, you’ll be able to personalize without having to individualize.

To segment your data, you might make a list out of your event attendees with categories like:

  • Volunteers
  • One-time donors
  • Recurring donors
  • Major gift donors

Creating a list will help you target every event attendee appropriately.

The takeaway: When a donor knows and connects with your organization, a community of value is created and the donor will be more likely to give more often to your cause.

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5. Get the support of the right software

Fundraising software will help your organization easily plan and execute your campaign, as this Neon CRM guide explains. There are dozens of different software options for you to choose from.

Your software can help with:

  • Donor databases and profiles. Your campaign is focused around your relationships with current and potential donors. Finding a software with a donor database will make getting to know donors so much easier, giving you a better view of each donor. This way you can track relevant data and leave yourself notes about each donor. A donor database will allow you to create complete profiles in order to personalize your communications and maximize donations.

  • Personalized web forms. You’ll need to be able to accept donations online for your donors’ convenience, and software can help you create the perfect online donation form! Finding a software that lets you customize your donation page and incorporate it into your current website is your best bet. Make sure your pages are mobile-friendly, too. The information from these forms can be used for your donor database and profiles!

  • Outreach support. Outreach is a huge aspect of any campaign and especially your annual giving campaign. You can take advantage of outreach made easy with your software’s communication tools. Plus, the software will report your outreach and the actions donors take in response. You’ll know who you’ve contacted, when you contacted them, and if it worked in your favor so you can focus your outreach in the right direction.

  • Analytics. Is your organization reaching its goals? Your software should have all the right tracking tools and donor data to tell you. You can look over these results and see where your strategies are working and falling short. This way you can plan for your next campaign as well.

The takeaway: Using fundraising software will help you take your campaign to the next level and find more success.


With your goal of converting auction event attendees into annual fund donors in mind, we’ve given you our best 5 strategies!

Special thanks to Jeff Gordy, Co-Founder and CEO of Z2 Systems, the makers of NeonCRM for nonprofits, for these strategies!

Jeff has been working with his team for the last 12 years on building the optimal fundraising, CRM database, and marketing solution for nonprofits.

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