How-To: Throw a Mega Thank-You Event for Major Donors
Getting face time with your high-dollar donors is a fabulous way to foster your relationships, increase future giving—and get a chance to say thank you for their substantial help saving animals’ lives.
Last July, ASPCA Partnership alumnus Austin Humane Society (AHS) held their first exclusive “Celebration of Hope” event for the members of their Heroes of Hope Club—supporters who’d donated at least $500 to the agency. At the event, AHS highlighted their work and emphasized the attendees’ role in making it possible. In order to focus solely on building relationships, AHS did not ask for donations. But even without asking, they were given a total of $850.
Want to throw your major donors an appreciation event of your own? We talked to AHS Major Gifts Officer Megan Russell and Development Manager Rachel Fogle to dig into what made their “Celebration of Hope” event such a success.
Shelters’ Edge: What was the goal of holding an event for your Heroes of Hope club?
Austin Humane Society: We wanted to continue to cultivate relationships with our closest supporters so we could strengthen our existing base and grow our number of major donors by offering incentives like this event. We had over 60 attendees, but the invitation served as a great touch point even for those who could not join us for the actual event.
SE: What’s your advice on securing a venue within your budget?
AHS: One large takeaway is to choose a venue that believes in your mission and is willing to work with you based on that support. Z’Tejas, a restaurant in downtown Austin, worked with us to build a menu, greatly discounting both the food and drink pricing to accommodate our budget. We spent a total of $2,145.48 on food, beverages, giveaways, and event invites and signage. One complimentary drink, appetizers and valet service were provided.
SE: What were some highlights of “Celebration of Hope?”
AHS: During the event we shared an update with attendees on the lives they have saved, including 179 dogs from a rescue situation in Bastrop, Texas. Frances Jonon, AHS Executive Director, gave a short speech and showed a video that showcased the Bastrop rescue and collaboration within the community.
SE: Tell us about those beautiful note cards you gave your guests!
AHS: Our marketing associate designed branded note cards that we printed and gave away in stacks of 5. Each stack had 2-3 cat cards and 2-3 dog cards and was secured with paw-printed ribbon. Our supporters are very proud to share our branding, and the note cards were an adorable gift that we received many compliments on. The guests really enjoyed the cards because they were a functional gift that enabled them to show their support of their local humane society to friends.
SE: How did this event strengthen relationships with your major donors for the future?
AHS: We spoke with a number of donors during the event who then scheduled private tours of the shelter. And we spent time with one donor who then became an active member of the Auction Committee for our largest annual fundraiser—she ended up securing one of our high-dollar live auction packages! We also sent a handwritten thank-you note to each attendee following the event.
SE: So would you throw an event like this again?
We’d love to hear from other agencies—how do you thank your major donors? Got any tips for building relationships with them? Shoot us a comment!