The OAF Blog

Special events – building prospective new supporters

December 10, 2012

Supporters of arts organizations commit support in a number of different ways:

  • Purchasing tickets/subscriptions and attending regular arts programs


  • Volunteer support to the organization’s activities and administration


  • Financial support through annual campaigns, special events, and special purpose campaigns


Prospective New Supporters

Maintaining current records and information about supporter’s can be complicated and requires both dedicated staff resources, and often access to donor management software. I’ve heard many a discussion about the benefits of special / gala events. The gross proceeds often are large, which is wonderful. The costs and time required to plan, organize and execute leave arts administrators questioning whether this is a cost effective way to raise funds for the organization.  Michael Kaiser, head of the Kennedy Centre for the Arts in Washington, offers a non-financial perspective on the benefits of gala/special events that relates to attracting prospective new supporters to your organization.

Michael suggests that special events are excellent ways to create ‘prospecting opportunities’. Your current supporters purchase tickets or a table and bring their friends as guests. By attending the event as a guest, they become familiar with your organization and arts mission/programs. The host typically considers their guests to be people who are likely to support the organization. Following up with all guests is  an easy way to attract new donations, subscribers or volunteers.



Our experience tells us that donors who already give to an organization are the easiest group to raise gifts and donations from. The Kennedy Centre characterizes these donors as “LYBNTY” – someone who gave Last Year But Not This Year”. Their donation is recent and you can reasonably expect that they will support you again. Donors who fall into this category can become a primary list of prospects to attend your next special event. It is a much more fertile group than the “SYBNTYS” – Some Year But Not This Year.

Tracking your donors and their frequency of support is an effective tool to where you place your resources. We can’t reach out personally to every donor or prospective donor. A simple tactic of reaching out to your organization’s ‘LYBNTS’, can save time and result in positive results for your organization.



To read Michael Kaiser’s post, follow the attached link:



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