Most nonprofit organizations regularly host fundraising and stewardship events in their community, and for good reason! Nonprofit events don’t only drive donations, but they also offer an opportunity for your supporters to engage with the organization and develop relationships.
Your nonprofit gains valuable face-to-face time with your supporters at your events, plus you have the opportunity to further inform your community about your cause and make connections with new supporters.
However, these goals are generally only completed when your organization effectively plans and executes the event, part of which includes getting the word out to your audience. The only way to build and develop relationships with your supporters is to be sure they know about and want to attend your event.
In this guide, we’ll dive into important event promotion best practices to maximize your events’ success, including how to:
- Set goals for your event marketing strategy
- Determine who your target audience is
- Choose event marketing platforms
- Pre-write messages for various platforms
Now, let’s dive in to learn more about how to craft a successful promotion strategy for your upcoming event opportunities.
1. Set goals for your event marketing strategy
Before you can start promoting your event, you need to determine what the purpose of your strategy is. What are you trying to achieve by getting the word out about your event? Once you’ve determined this, you can start actually reaching out to your target audience, marketing your nonprofit and your event opportunities.
Some of the goals that nonprofits may work toward as a part of their event promotion include the following:
- Gain sponsorships: Sponsorships often come from companies or mid-tier to major donors at your organization. These conversations should occur long before the event itself to secure the sponsors before the event begins.
- Encourage registrations: If your main goal is to encourage registrations, you’re likely trying to create new relationships with supporters. Therefore, spreading the word about your event throughout the community will be a vital part of your promotional strategy.
- Attract donations: Often, nonprofit events are held to be fundraising opportunities. If revenue is your top priority, you might consider hosting and promoting a more donation-centered event, like an auction or gala, to prepare your audience to open up their wallets.
- Recruit volunteers: If your event relies heavily on volunteers to make the opportunity a success, you’ll need to start recruiting early in the marketing process. Begin as soon as your event details have been fleshed out, explaining your vision to past volunteers and reaching out to potential new ones as well.
Your goals will determine the rest of your nonprofit marketing strategy and help you clarify your message. For example, if you’re trying to gain sponsorships, you wouldn’t write the same message you would when asking for donations to help fund the event.
If you want to attract donations and encourage new supporters to attend the event, you might host a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign leading up to the event. However, if you rely more heavily on volunteers to run the event itself, you might instead focus your energy on recruiting and training volunteers.
2. Determine who your target audience is
You will likely have several target audiences and goals for each type of event. For example, your nonprofit may have the goal to engage your mid-to-upper-level supporters so that they continue giving for the long run. Therefore, you might promote your event’s VIP packages to these individuals and provide them with exclusive opportunities at the event itself.
Consider the following audiences that you might be trying to reach:
- In-person attendees: In-person attendees will likely be those within your organization’s community. Therefore, you might decide to hang flyers or leverage geofencing to get your message in front of locals.
- Virtual attendees: Hybrid events are here to stay, so you might decide to include a virtual element in your event. To reach this audience, consider leveraging a virtual platform like social media, virtual event software, or conferencing software to meet supporters where they’re at and make it easy to attend your event.
- Event sponsors: Generally, sponsors will be either businesses or high-net-worth individuals. General emails won’t cut it with these important communications, so your organization may decide to set up meetings to talk to decision-makers and major supporters in-person (or over Zoom).
- Event volunteers: Ask your past volunteers if they would be willing to volunteer for your organization again. You might also reach out to corporate partners to see if they’d be willing to push the opportunity with their employees. Then, ask around in the community. When recruiting volunteers, focus on finding those that care the most about your cause, so make that message the center of your marketing strategy.
- Major donors: If you’re hosting a gala or an exclusive opportunity for major supporters, it’s probably best not to spread the word of your event to any and all supporters. Instead, keep the event exclusive and only send invitations to major donors and prospects.
Once you’ve identified your organization’s target audience, you can leverage your donor segments in your donor database. This way, you can be sure to reach out to the right audience member with the right message that will help you achieve a specific goal. For example, you might reach out to company leaders and small business owners with whom you already have relationships in order to ask for sponsorships at the event.
3. Choose event marketing platforms
After you’ve identified your goals and your audience, you need to determine the platforms that you’ll use to best reach those audience members. This is where the bulk of your strategy will be built. You need to determine the best ways to get your message in front of the right audience. Keep in mind that you’ll need to leverage several different platforms for each audience to add variation to the strategy and have them repeatedly see your event opportunities.
Email is like a nonprofit’s marketing bread and butter. It offers several new opportunities to get in touch with both existing and potential event participants. You can identify new prospects using data append services and leverage the existing email addresses in your donor base to reach current supporters. Use different messages depending on who you’re reaching out to over email. Major donors and first-time supporters shouldn’t receive the same message. Then, use tools like geofencing to target specific audiences by geographic location or retargeting tools to recapture those who visit your event site without registering.
Advertisements are drastically underutilized in the nonprofit sector. However, they can be incredibly useful, especially when reminding your supporters of their interests. Leverage advertisements across the internet to make sure your event information shows up in front of your supporters on numerous occasions leading up to the event.
One great use of nonprofit advertising is to retarget those who had previously shown interest in your event. If a volunteer lands on the volunteer page, but never signs up, you can make sure they see branded advertisements about volunteer opportunities as they continue wandering the internet. The same is true of your donors, sponsors, and attendees.
Social media has exceeded far past the time when we simply provided updates on our walls to be liked or commented on. Now, we can use groups, advertisements, reels, posts, and direct messages to spread the word about the opportunities your organization has to offer.
Use all of these different functions on social media, leveraging images and videos to capture and hold audience attention. Then, always link to the next action for them to take, whether that’s to sign up as an attendee, donate in support of the event, or register to be a volunteer.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great way to engage your supporters, raise money for your cause, and get the word out about your event all in one strategy. Ask those who have the strongest voices for your cause to create their own fundraising pages. These may be your event speakers, your board members, or simply well-known supporters.
As these key supporters spread the word about their fundraiser, more people will see the cause they represent, raising greater awareness about your organization. They can ask for donations while simultaneously providing the link to your registration page and encouraging others to attend the event.
4. Prewrite messages for various platforms
Your different marketing platforms should use different messages depending on the unique best practices and conventions of each channel. For instance, long-form content is generally well-placed on Facebook or over email. Meanwhile, simple one or two-sentence reminders are well-leveraged for advertisements.
Plan out your messages for each platform and each audience ahead of time. Then, when it’s time to put the message out there, all you need to do is tweak it slightly and hit “send.” Some of the strategies to consider as you write out your messages include the following:
- Leverage FOMO: FOMO (fear of missing out) is a great way to encourage people to sign up for an event. For example, try leveraging a limited-time discount. Saying, “Prices rise in March!” is a great way to encourage early registrants because they’re afraid to miss the discount.
- Use images strategically: A picture is worth a thousand words, so use them to continue marketing your organization’s event opportunities. For example, your nonprofit may include an image of supporters having a great time at the event last year or an image that reminds them of the mission they’re supporting by attending.
- Tell stories: Telling stories to remind your audience of the cause they’re supporting is key to encouraging them to get involved. Tell stories strategically, empowering those you’re helping rather than panhandling for pity from your supporters.
- Promise a good time: Find the balance between telling mission-driven stories and promising your supporters a good time. It should be clear through your marketing efforts that they will both have fun at the event and help support your nonprofit’s mission.
As you’re writing out your messages, remember that this isn’t only for the marketing leading up to the event. Also plan for post-event marketing, saying thank you to continue engaging with dedicated supporters and reminding them of the wonderful time they had with your organization.
Do you have a virtual or hybrid event coming up? Let Network for Good help!
Published: April 5, 2022