The Evolving Role of Events In Fundraising Sustainability

Our AVP of Strategic Initiatives Jessica Miller spends her fall aggregating data and findings from webinars, conferences, and industry communications. Here are some key takeaways from this year to maximize the returns on engagement you can plan for in 2024.



A study conducted by BWF found that donors who are friends with other donors have at least four times higher lifetime giving and have giving behaviors that are more resilient to economic uncertainty. Numerous studies (like this one from Yale University or this study from the National Library of Medicine) scientifically support that sharing an experience with another person amplifies one’s own experience. Through shared experiences, events create a measurable sense of belonging and community, enhancing long-term commitment from donors and thereby increasing fundraising sustainability.

Giving USA data on 2022 giving revealed that sense of belonging and donor experience matter more than ever before, renewing emphasis on donor journeys and donor relations. During the pandemic, in-person connection was limited and, as a result, present-day pipelines are limited too. At the hands of a virtual and digital environment, connection, engagement, and belonging were compromised for many, and the effects are seen in each phase of the cultivation cycle. Connecting at events can help restore stalled relationships and, done right, aid in the restoration of pipelines by scaling qualification, cultivation, and stewardship.

Despite all of this, the Sustainable Giving Report cites that events have taken a performance hit as compared to previous years. But why?



Moviegoers dress in pink to make box office history for Barbie. The Van Gogh Experience sells out city after city. “Swifties” exchange friendship bracelets on the Eras Tour. Sphere in Las Vegas forever changes the concert-going experience. What does this say about attendee expectations? Our guests want to be immersed in content and have the chance to be more participatory in their experiences. To compel an attendee to “leave the house”, your event must offer something they can’t get at home.

Here are some questions to ask when creating can’t-miss events that center around the attendee experience:


  • Authenticity – Do the message and content celebrate the mission of the institution and communicate it in a way that feels genuine? Will the attendees feel connection with tenants they find familiar?


  • Representation – Will attendees see their unique voice and perspective represented? Will they understand why it is important that they, specifically, are in the room? Will they feel valued for their unique role as a member of your community?


  • Immersion – Does the event transport the attendee somewhere they could not otherwise be? (A place, a time, a location, a new perspective.) Will they feel attending was a
    value-add for them?


  • Interactivity – Are attendees invited to participate in the content, program, or experience? What opportunities does the event provide for attendees to interact with each other? Will they know how they had an impact on the experience simply by attending


  • Purpose – Does each element of the event serve a purpose? Will attendees understand the thought behind each intention?





Jessica Miller spent nearly a decade in higher education advancement where she helped institutions like the University of Florida and Rutgers University operationalize communications and fundraising strategies for multi-billion-dollar comprehensive campaigns. At Level5, Jess leverages her expert execution, creative eye, and higher education insight to build collaborative partnerships and create strategic roadmaps for initiatives of all scopes and scales.

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