Paula HultmanWe know from experience that fundraising events are a team effort. Teams work best when people get to know one another as this fosters positive collaboration. So, with this in mind, each month one of our employees will tell their story here. We hope you enjoy meeting members of Team360. This month, meet Paula Hultman whose passion is inspiring participants to register for an event, and building relationships with them as they fundraise and train:

You have planned a memorable event. Sites and permits are secured. Signage is ready. Volunteers are in place. Music is queued. After all of your preparation, your event’s success now hinges on one thing – your participants’ experience. Have you attended to their pre-event needs with the same attention to detail that went into your event production?

As customer service professionals, our team is on the front lines with event participants as soon as they register. In the months or weeks leading up to their event, we are their fundraising coaches, their training advisors, and their problem solvers. Our objective is to make sure their pre-event preparation is as positive as their on-event experience.

Whether you support participants via website, email or phone communications, here are the 10 guidelines – in 3 words each – for handling participants with care:

  1. Welcome them immediately. A heartfelt email welcome is the most efficient and immediate means of communicating with new registrants, acknowledging that you care about them. Thank them for making your event and your cause a priority.
  2. Provide a roadmap. Now that they have registered, let them know what you want them to do next – be it fundraising, training, or recruiting others. Your website should be easily navigable by your participants, and donors should find it intuitive when making a donation.
  3. Know your stuff. Your fundraising coaches are the cheerleaders and the Wikipedia of your event! Provide thorough training in event knowledge and customer service, and have and internal resources that support your team of event “experts”.
  4. Make fundraising easy. Many participants are new to fundraising. Provide the tools they need to get started. Offer sample fundraising templates that can be easily personalized. Provide a variety of fundraising suggestions – from fundraising posts on social media to fundraising party ideas.
  5. Keep them connected. Create a communication plan that regularly provides information and inspiration. A monthly newsletter featuring a staff member or rock-star participant, a fundraising suggestion, a training tip and important dates will keep folks engaged – and focused on your mission. 
  6. Anticipate future needs. When responding to participant’s calls and email, think beyond their initial question. Offer additional information that will address a potential question down the road. For example, if a participant asks for the address to submit a check donation, let them know the turnaround for that donation to post to their fundraising account – and direct them to the self-help FAQs on your website for future questions.
  7. Offer fundraising perks. Participants love “stuff”, and many will step up to a fundraising challenge. Consider your budget and plan accordingly. Offer a $10 gift card to the first 100 participants who add 10 online donations within a certain window of time. If your CRM platform allows it, even a special icon on their fundraising page will inspire some to make the extra effort to send out a fundraising ask! Relatively small investments in rewards can offer a satisfying fundraising revenue return.
  8. Thank them often. Take every opportunity in phone and written communication to let participants know how much you appreciate their efforts. Thank them for their fundraising, for their time, and for their commitment in every interaction.
  9. Exceed their expectations. Excellent customer service is essential to a participant’s experience. Make it a priority in each interaction to go above and beyond. We use the “don’t drop the football” metaphor at Event 360. Don’t point someone to the answer – take them there.
  10. Ask their opinion. Every customer has an opinion, and while it is not always what we want to hear, it is invaluable in assessing your participants’ experience. In your post-event survey (you DO have one, don’t you?), include questions about your pre-event support. Analyze the feedback to determine future staff training needs, and most effective communication methods.

Event participants are your customers, and as such they respond with loyalty when well cared for. Investing in a robust pre-event support and communication plan will be rewarded with participant retention, increased fundraising revenue and a positive overall event experience.

As National Sales and Service Manager with Event 360, Paula Hultman combines her years of participant and fundraising experience with her commitment to exceeding customers’ expectations in every interaction. Paula lives in Southern California with her husband of 38 years, and hosts an annual fundraising event at her home that raises close to $9000 each year.

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