Research shows that asking for donations from people who have already contributed to your cause costs less than soliciting new donors.

This means that charities and non-profits must do all they can to keep attendees coming back to their fundraising events year after year.

The good news is that donor retention rates are going up amongst organisations generally. According to a recently released report by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) in the US, the median donor retention rate increased from 39% in 2012 to 43% in 2013.

Charities are cottoning on to the need to open up a two-way dialogue with their donors and really listen to what they’ve got to say. Here are 5 practical steps you can take to ensure your attendees feel valued and decide your next event is one they can’t miss…

1. Follow up soon after the event

Strike while the iron is hot, immediately after the event by sending your guests a letter or email to thank them for their support. Giving thanks is a vital step in the donor nurturing process.

Take the time to personalise it with their name at the very least. Even better, write individual messages, especially for larger donors, such as companies that took tables at your charity gala.

Let them know how things went on the night, how much money was raised and what will be done with it. Include some photos and a link to a gallery where further pictures can be viewed, which should get them clicking through to your site.

You can also provide recognition for your attendees on social media, by tagging them in posts and photos, and by including their name and weblink on your blog.

Related: 8 steps to winning repeat attendees for next year’s conference

2. Seek feedback

The post-event follow-up is also the ideal opportunity to ask for feedback from the event. Create a short survey – let’s say no more than five questions. According to SurveyMonkey, people have low tolerance for long surveys and abandonment rates increase if they take longer than 7-8 minutes.

Ask guests what the highlights of the event were, any places where there’s room for improvement, and what they’d like to see next time around.

Not only will their feedback help you shape your next event, if they give their permission, you will be able to use the positive comments in promotional material.

Eventbrite makes it easy to send out surveys through its integration with SurveyMonkey and Survmetrics. Find out more here.

As people often need to be incentivised to take the time to answer surveys, consider the possibility of teaming up with a corporate partner to offer an incentive. For example, by offering to donate an extra £1 to the cause for every survey completed.

Related: 6 ways to build a more engaged audience for your brand

3. Share impact stories

Don’t forget to keep your guests up to date on developments following the event they attended. Show them how the money raised is changing real lives by sharing success stories. Use a range of media to tell your story, including pictures and video for maximum emotional impact.

The more personal to the attendee you can make it, the better. Try to break down the results for different donation levels. For example, if a company’s overall contribution totalled £1,000 and that enabled your organisation to buy an electric wheelchair/enough bricks for a school building/feed 10 dogs for a year, be sure to tell them.

Feeling that they are making a tangible difference plays a major part in the decision to continue supporting. In addition, recording and sharing these results gives potential new donors, board members and grant administrators assurances their contributions are well spent.

Related: 15 unusual, fantastic fundraising event ideas

4. Give former guests the VIP treatment

Recognition is an important tool for loyalty, so when it comes to sending out the invitations to your event, recognise those who have attended before. Consider handwritten invites with a personal message and/or giving them a special offer.

Steer away from discounting tickets – the money is for a good cause and it could damage the ‘feel good’ factor, so instead opt for added benefits. This could be guaranteeing them a better seat, access to an exclusive area or the chance to meet with celebrity guests/speakers.

Encourage them to take pride in their on-going support of your cause by giving them a branded badge or T-shirt promoting their status as a repeat attendee. Consider using different colours to signify the length of their commitment. This will also have the effect of inspiring others.

Related: 5 ways to make fundraising fun with games

5. Keep innovating

People will tire of attending the same old event year in and year out, so be sure to add new features and attractions each time.

Remember when you sent out the feedback questionnaire after your last event? What suggestions did the attendees make for improvements? If you implement any of these, be sure to communicate why you’ve made the changes. For example: “You told us you wanted a venue with easier access, so this year we’ve moved to xxx.”

If something you did last year was really popular and you’re doing it again, explain how you’re making it even better this time. For example: “So many of you took part in our fancy dress competition, that this year we’re adding two new categories.”

Clear communication of your event’s features will help build excitement and show your former attendees there will be plenty of new things to discover.

Be sure to make use of Eventbrite’s ‘See Who’s Going’ feature, so past guests can see if people they met last year have signed up again, which could help influence their decision.

Related: Your guide to planning a successful fundraising event

Conclusion

Ensuring you maintain great communication with your attendees – and recognise and reward their support – is the best way to keep them loyal.

But, ultimately, it’s the quality of the event itself that will make sure they keep coming back for more. If you can surpass their expectations and provide a truly memorable experience, it won’t be hard to convince them to buy their ticket next time.

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