How to Make In-Person Event Giving Easy and Exciting
WRITTEN BY SCOTT COUCHMAN
Are you using a fundraising thermometer at your live event, gala or dinner? If not, why not?
Making an ‘ask’ is a vital and expected part of your fundraising event, whether it’s in-person, virtual or a hybrid of both. But is your ‘ask’ also dynamic and exciting–instilling a sense of both urgency and community? No? Well, then you should add a fundraising thermometer to your event.
What is a fundraising thermometer? It can often go by a few names: progress bar, thermometer, goal updates. It’s a tool used to showcase how close you are to your campaign goal. Yet to really create something exciting for supporters to watch, you want something dynamic and engaging.
With a live fundraising thermometer your goal and the amount currently raised are shown in real-time with a donor wall featuring the names of your supporters. Donors can interact with it live, send messages to the donor wall, see their name appear and you can give them an in-the-moment shout out when they are extra generous. Now you have a real celebration, all on one projected screen.
The Ease of Texting with the Thermometer
Interacting at your event needs to be easy. What does everyone at your event probably have on them? Their cell phone. Immediately engaging with donors can be as easy as pulling out that phone and sending a text. Even though texting is almost thirty years old (the first text message sent to a cell phone was in 1992, if you can believe it), texting in this setting is still a “new” and often magical experience.
So how does this work with your live event thermometer? Guests send a text message to a five digit (or so) phone number called a “shortcode.” Then, to have their message interact with your thermometer, they start their text message with a “keyword” that you provide, and then whatever message they’d like to send. Now that the message is going to you, they can send whatever they like, such as the amount they are pledging to donate and their name or a dedication. It is that easy to now appear on and affect your event thermometer: showcase their name and add their pledged amount to the amount raised.
The immediacy of the process is addictive. It is just plain fun to see your name appear and become a part of the show. It also ups the ante on friendly competition. Liam pledged to donate $300. Well, if Liam donates $300, you know Emily’s competitive streak will make her want to donate $350. And with their names right there on screen, they can see each others’ pledge and spark that friendly rivalry.
Even though texting, as mentioned, has been around for quite some time, it is still often seen as “new,” or technology that only “the younger generation” uses. Let me tell you: it’s not. Texting is used across generations and incredibly frequently. Don’t just take it from me, you can Google those articles yourself (Google: a technology newer than texting and still used by all generations). Yet texting still feels new. Because of that, you want to make sure that you make giving as easy as you possibly can with texting.
There will always be people who don’t want to deal with technology. Therefore, you may still want to include those donor cards, and have someone at your event there to take “walk up” donations. However, the majority of people will at least be curious to try this “new” way of giving, to directly engage with your organization and have a few seconds of fame as their name appears on screen. Even those non-technical people who don’t use texting will still be joining in on the fun.
So make sure you are redundant with instructions on how to text-to-donate at your event. Give your guest speaker a script to intelligently walk your guests through it, step by step. Have them test it out before your event and have them do it live during the event so they can show how easy it is. Print out table tents with instructions and make sure every table, every bar, almost every flat surface has that tent, so people can see how easy it is and keep it top of mind. Have a slide in your presentation with the instructions, so as you start the ‘ask’ segment of your event, it is right there as part of the conversation. Have volunteers stationed around your fundraiser to help those who need it.
Lastly, have the instructions for your text-to-donate right there on the thermometer screen you’re projecting at your event. Donors can see the instructions on the projected screen while completing their text-to-donate on their phones, right in their line of sight. They hit send on their phone and a second later, their name appears on that screen. That immediate feedback is amazing. It is powerful, it is a rush, and it’s just plain fun.
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Make it even more exciting
Real time feedback cannot be beat. Your supporters interacting with you through the thermometer and immediately seeing themselves helping you get closer to your goal is exciting in itself. But what if you can do even more?
A real-time thermometer like this should include an actual thermometer or progress bar of some kind. It should also include the total amount raised, because people think and process information differently. The speaker at your event should also talk about it. The combination of graphical, numerical and auditory reinforcement will maximize the reach and engagement with your audience. It will get them excited and motivated to contribute.
People respond to deadlines. So be sure to include a countdown timer to coincide with the end of your gala. Having the seconds tick down as the bar on the thermometer increases will instill a sense of urgency. Add your speaker cheering them on with things like: “we have fifteen minutes left, can we grow another $1000 to make our goal?” Include a goal line and a deadline in your event and use it to drum up excitement and giving.
Recognize those milestones. Milestones can be hitting a certain percentage of your goal. Have the thermometer automatically celebrate when you reach the halfway point. Have it show fireworks if you make twice as much as your initial goal. Showcase and celebrate your wins. Shout and dance and get your supporters even more excited. The thermometer can be a source of joy, not only for you, but for your attendees as well.
Acknowledge your major donors. Everyone texts in that they’re donating about $100. Your thermometer is steadily increasing and reaching that goal. Then Cameron donates $750. You see their name on the donor wall, but wow, that’s huge! Single Cameron out and thank them right then and there. Have the thermometer show their name showered with hearts of your appreciation. You can even have a video play from a board member, beneficiary or someone else important to your cause from the thermometer thanking them for their contribution. With Cameron donating big, it’ll likely inspire others to do the same. Since they are texting in their donations, it’s all immediate, easy and exciting.
Growing up, your school or local nonprofit may have had fundraising thermometers or progress bars–those hand made, hand painted goals that let you know that they’re getting closer to their goals. You walk to school and excitedly look in at your class’s progress during the PTA drive. You drive by and see that the fire department is almost there and maybe you should drop some loose change in their boot as you wait for your light so you can help them get to their goal.
The thermometer and its immediacy has incredible power in fundraising. Texting a keyword to get an immediate response on a thermometer at your event is an engaging and exciting tool. So the question remains: are you taking advantage of it?
Our goal at MobileCause is to help nonprofit organizations create and manage successful digital fundraising campaigns, raise more money and retain donors longer. Request a free demo with one of our fundraising experts to learn, step by step, how MobileCause can simply help set up your campaigns while transforming your results.
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