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Donor Participation Project Resources

Events Should Spark Abundance to Boost Giving

The setting of an event makes a big difference in donors’ willingness and capacity to give.

According to fundraising expert Dr. Russell James, events that evoke feelings of abundance tend to lead donors to more generous gifts.

On the other hand, events that highlight scarcity by emphasizing frugality or lack of resources can have the opposite effect.

Fundraisers should keep this psychological principle in mind when planning donor events. An opulent venue, high-quality catering, and an overall lavish experience will put donors in an abundance mindset. This sense of having more than enough makes people feel inclined to share with others.

Events in barebones, sparse environments, however, can make donors feel like they have fewer resources to spare, resulting in lower gifts. The impact of an event’s setting goes beyond the overall experience.

Even subtle cues about the types of gifts being asked for and received can shape donors’ mindsets.

For example, sharing stories of major donors who have given stock or real estate at an event helps reframe how attendees think about their own capacity for giving.

Hearing about these valuable, non-cash gifts activates donors’ sense of wealth as being relevant and available for charitable donations.

Organizations who make a habit of asking for and receiving gifts of appreciated assets, in particular, tend to see much higher long-term donor retention and larger gifts.

Of course, not every event requires an extravagant ballroom and tales of million-dollar gifts. But event planners should be mindful of achieving the right balance of abundance and approachability for their donors.

The setting itself, as well as the types of giving showcased, provide subtle clues to help attendees visualize their own potential for generosity at higher levels. With the proper framing, events can be powerful tools for expanding donors’ views of what they are capable of contributing to the causes they care about.

View the full recording of this Donor Participation Project session with Dr. James in our Resource Library.

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