Create a Lasting Impression with a Donor Appreciation Event

When simply thanking your donors isn't enough, it's time to take it to the next level with a donor appreciation event. These events are a great way to forge meaningful connections with your supporters and steward them into long-term, repeat or recurring donors. If you aren't sure where to get started, we have you covered with some key tips and things to keep in mind as you plan your event.

7 minutes read
Create a Lasting Impression with a Donor Appreciation Event

Most nonprofits thank their donors with acknowledgment letters or a donor wall. Some organizations also offer name recognition on rooms or buildings for their major donors.

Nonprofits that take this recognition to the next level with donor appreciation events will see an increase in donor retention and form stronger relationships with their supporters. Nonprofits can also take advantage of donor appreciation events to share their mission and promote programs and additional upcoming events. In this article, we’ll provide you with the benefits of hosting donor appreciation events and unique ideas to your next event a success.

What is a Donor Appreciation Event?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires nonprofits to send a tax receipt or acknowledgment after receiving a gift. Most nonprofits stop here, but this requirement alone won’t turn an event attendee or first-time gift-giver into a long-term supporter.

Donor appreciation events are events that honor donors for all of their support. They encourage loyalty and goodwill and are vital to building strong donor relationships. Smart organizations also use donor appreciation events to share their mission, show supporters how their gifts help, and encourage more participation.

Smaller nonprofits may shy away from donor appreciation because of cost concerns. While an event like this will include some expenses, it doesn’t have to be expensive. It also doesn’t need to be difficult to plan.

Use Donorbox Events to register donors for your donor appreciation event! With Donorbox Events, set as many ticket tiers as you need, including free tickets. They will also receive their tickets automatically via email. You can even ask donors for a donation on top of their ticket registration to bring in more money for your organization as well as additional information such as t-shirt size or meal preferences.

Plus, set ticket limits and deadlines so you know exactly how many people are attending your event!

Check out how Passaic County Habitat for Humanity used Donorbox Events for their volunteer appreciation event.

donor appreciation event

Get Started With Donorbox Events

5 Benefits of a Donor Appreciation Event

Donor appreciation events open the door for connections between nonprofit leadership and their supporters. By taking time to build and strengthen donor relationships, nonprofits will see several benefits.

1. Improve donor retention

It’s easier to get a second gift than to start from scratch. A donor appreciation event is the best way to encourage donors to give again because it demonstrates how much your organization appreciates your donors. The more appreciated a donor feels, the more likely they are to understand the impact of their gift – and give again.

2. Build donor relationships

During your event, your organization’s leaders, including your executive director and board members, can meet face-to-face with donors. They should share real-life stories from those who directly benefit from their gifts. Nonprofit leaders can also educate donors on how their donations impact the community and excite them with the next steps for the organization. This builds lasting donor relationships that can benefit your organization for years to come.

3. Educate supporters on your mission

Your mission is the purpose of your organization. Sharing it with donors will excite them about where their gifts go and how they make a real difference. Nonprofits can share their mission during donor appreciation events in several ways, including the following –

  • Pictures and videos
  • Interviews with experts
  • Impactful data and infographics
  • Thank-you speeches from beneficiaries and donors

4. Regain Lapsed Donors

New donors aren’t the only ones your nonprofit should target. Donor appreciation events can help you regain the attention of donors you’ve lost over the years. If you go out of your way to reconnect with these individuals at your donor appreciation event, you may be able to win them back.

Pro tip: If you’ve noticed a significant number of lapsed donors, check out our step-by-step guide to reconnect and encourage them to give again.

5. Turn one-time donors into recurring donors

Recurring donors are incredibly valuable to nonprofits because they give up to 42% more in a year than one-time donors. A donor appreciation event is an excellent chance to share this opportunity with your supporters. Connecting with donors, and sharing how recurring gifts can help your organization in the long run, will excite donors who care about your mission.

Pro tip: Check out this blog to learn more ways to turn one-time donors into recurring supporters.

5 Fun and Simple Donor Appreciation Event Ideas

Don’t let your budget hold you back. These events don’t have to be expensive galas. Instead, get creative and think of an event that best fits your donors and your nonprofit’s branding.

1. Livestreamed event

The last thing you want to do after your annual gala is host another in-person event, so why not hold one online? Livestreamed events take less effort and minimal funds to run. Your nonprofit can host a trivia contest, movie night, or other fun activity to excite and thank donors.

You can use many tools to stream your event, such as:

  • Airmeet
  • StreamYard
  • Facebook Live
  • Twitch TV
  • Zoom

Pro tip: If you’re new to live streaming, check out this easy guide on how to host a virtual event.

2. Host a dinner

If you want more face time with your donors, a dinner may be the better choice. The type of dinner will depend on what your donors might like, as well as where and when you’ll hold the event. An intimate dinner with a few major donors will look vastly different from one for all your donors.

Donor appreciation event ideas include beach parties, BBQs, wine tastings, and cocktail parties at local restaurants. Auctions and raffles can also help you build excitement and encourage people to attend.

Check out how this organization hosted a meal with well-known local chefs to encourage more attendance to their benefit dinner.

donor appreciation event ideas

Launch Your Donor Appreciation Event

3. Awards ceremony

Another in-person donor appreciation event you can host is an awards ceremony. The main benefit of these events is the chance for external publicity. Local media may be interested in how businesses and individuals in your community have made a difference. You can use an awards ceremony to share stories from these donors and those who benefitted from their gifts with a larger audience.

4. Tours of your location

Nonprofits looking for something a little different can share their appreciation with a location or facility tour. Most new donors don’t know much about your organization. By inviting these donors to tour your location, you can show them exactly how their gifts make a difference.

Pro tip: You’ll want to invite long-term donors and volunteers on this tour to share their excitement about your nonprofit and its mission.

5. Meet and greets

Another easy way to build and strengthen relationships with donors is to connect them with others with similar interests. Your meet and greet might simply be a gathering of your donors, or it could be billed as a local networking event. You might even introduce donors to some of your beneficiaries or invite them to meet your hard-working staff or volunteers.

3 Mistakes to Avoid for an Effective Donor Appreciation Event Invitation

Before sending out your invitations, take a look at the following mistakes to avoid when hosting a donor appreciation event.

1. Sending a general invite

The last thing a donor wants is to receive another nameless invite to an event. Personalized invitations are vital for donor appreciation events – and they aren’t hard to do.

Donorbox provides a donor management system where nonprofits can collect donor information, add important dates and communication notes, and segment donors to strengthen connections. This helps make all your outreach more targeted and personalized – especially your donor appreciation event invitations.

2. Not offering an easy way to register and donate

Whether you send out a printed invite or an e-vite, it’s important to add an easy way for your attendees to register for tickets and make a donation, if they desire.

Using Donorbox Events for your donor appreciation event registration makes this super easy for your donors. Simply share your event page with a link or a QR code (a free QR code is generated for every event!). Then your donors can register, answer any questions, and even make a donation – all on your Events page.

3. Forgetting a call to action

Your donor appreciation event invite isn’t the place to ask for more gifts. However, you should still include a powerful call to action – in this case, that they should attend your event.

Your donor appreciation event invitation is still an opportunity to forge a deeper connection with your donors, so encouraging them to participate is an important call to action.

4 Tips to Make a Lasting Impression on Donors on the Event Day

The type of donor appreciation event you hold isn’t as important as what you share with those in attendance. The following tips will help you make a lasting impression on donors.

1. Thank donors early and often

Find as many ways as possible to thank donors and volunteers throughout your event. Some ways you can do this include:

  • Thank you signs and banners
  • Speeches from your board, staff, and beneficiaries
  • Donor walls
  • Volunteer and Donor awards

2. Invite speakers and special guests

Donors appreciate your gratefulness, but they will likely want something else from your event. Most donors want more information on how their gifts make an impact, and why your nonprofit is different from the rest. One of the most impactful ways to share these details is with speakers from your organization and other experts in the field.

Impact details from experts and nonprofit leadership can help ensure trustworthiness in your organization.

3. Offer unique experiences

Personalized experiences for your donors will help create a unique atmosphere that excites and encourages donors to act. Unique experiences include a look behind the scenes at your organization and VIP access to your nonprofit’s other events.

4. Make it family-friendly

If it makes sense for your nonprofit, a family-friendly event is a great way to encourage more participation and create meaningful relationships with your donors. Plus, you’ll get to inspire the next generation of philanthropists!

Just be sure to include activities that people of all ages can enjoy, such as games or live music.

Final Thoughts

Donor appreciation events should be a consistent part of your fundraising calendar to effectively steward your donors and show them gratitude.

Current donors are much easier to solicit than new donors. Nonprofits that do their due diligence in thanking donors and forming relationships will see a difference in their revenue. And donor appreciation events don’t have to cost a lot! Smaller organizations can also host virtual fundraisers and donor thank-a-thons that don‘t cost anything.

Donorbox has the tools you need to help with every step of the donor cultivation process, including acknowledgment and retention. From powerful event ticketing, streamlined donation forms, peer-to-peer fundraising, and more, Donorbox can help you boost your donations and forge strong connections with your donors.

Check out the rest of our Nonprofit Blog for tips to help nonprofits of all sizes. Subscribe to our newsletter for a curated collection of blogs delivered to your inbox every month.


Avatar photo

Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

  • linkedin
  • url

Join the fundraising movement!

Subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive the latest blogs, news, and more in your inbox.

Take your donor experience to the next level!
Join the 50,000+ nonprofits already raising funds online.
Join Our Newsletter
Get a monthly curated round-up of our best posts and feature updates. (You can unsubscribe anytime.)
Join Our Newsletter
Get a monthly curated round-up of our best posts and feature updates. (You can unsubscribe anytime.)
Join a 30min Demo to see how Donorbox can help you reach your fundraising goals!
Join a 30min Live Demo to see how Donorbox can help you reach your fundraising goals!