Events will happen again. Maybe not next week or next month, but eventually you’ll be planning and promoting and gathering people together in person to support your cause again, so if you do have the luxury of time right now, there are things you can do to make good use of it.
There’s no time like the present to evaluate your event planning and promotion process. When you’re ready to open the doors again, you’ll have more people coming through them than ever before.
Develop a solid promotional strategy.
When your nonprofit first decides on an idea for a fundraising event, give yourself enough time to promote it. Too many organizations shoot themselves in the foot by trying to turn a great event idea around too quickly. While most of us aren’t in a time crunch now for planning things like in-person events, it’s a good rule of thumb to start thinking about a publicity campaign at least six months in advance and begin promoting your event about two months in advance.
Before you promote it, though, you’ll want to consider long term goals: How does your event fit in the bigger picture of accomplishing your mission? How can it help you reach those goals? Then develop a unique angle for your event and understand how to market this angle to your target audience.
Once you’ve got that all figured out, it’s time to put your promotion plan into action. And, the best way to do that is with an integrated marketing strategy. This means you want to fire on all cylinders to raise awareness for your event and drive registrations. Use all your marketing tools, and get them moving in the same direction so that, eventually, your intended audience is all moving in the right direction: straight to your event.
Integrate printed pieces into your marketing strategy.
Nonprofits have used traditional advertising methods for generations, and they still remain effective today. These include direct mail postcards, print and sign advertisements, brochures, newsletters—anything you can see and touch in the real world. Pro tip: You don’t have to provide every detail, but do think “5 Ws”—who, what, when, where and why. These are the must-knows and will whet people’s appetites without overwhelming them.
Just be sure that when you’re pushing out printed promotions for your event, you’re driving your audience back to your online presence. For example, on a printed flyer or postcard, include a call to action at the bottom like, “Help us continue the fight against breast cancer by visiting nonprofitsite.org/fight” with a link to a landing page on your website. By encouraging different media to work hand in hand, you’ll increase the effectiveness of each.
Add a social media strategy to the mix.
This is important: If your nonprofit organization does not already have a strong social media strategy, do not attempt to start one through this event. Waiting to start to build a solid social media presence correctly is a better option than attempting to start one, maintaining it for a few weeks and later letting it fall into disarray. For information on how to grow your audience, check out our Social Media 101 and Social Media 102 webinars.
If your NPO already has a social media presence, this serves as an excellent (and free) way to promote your event provided your audience is engaged and paying attention. Share event information as needed at a regular cadence leading up to your event, and ask your most loyal brand evangelists to repost and reshare it to expand your reach.
Social media is excellent for revealing a little information at a time. This maintains a level of mystery and keeps attendees interested. Like other marketing platforms, develop a clear calendar for social media to avoid overwhelming constituents with too many posts or leaving them without information for long. Have fun and keep it lighthearted—and try to engage people, stir up some excitement and get them ready to attend.
Capitalize your event marketing strategy with email marketing.
If used properly, email messages can be your most invaluable tool for event promotion. First, be sure you have an updated and accurate list of potential attendees and donors’ email addresses in order to effectively communicate with the right audience, not one from 10 years ago.
Then, plan out your email communication. Keep the first email general—attendees should learn about the event and save the date on their calendar, but not get too overwhelmed with details. As the event approaches, continue to send out regular emails to your list to provide more details and generate excitement and interest. Keep them informed about new developments, news and interesting details about your upcoming event.
Most importantly, always drive email recipients back to your website. Include a call to action at the bottom of each email asking them to register, sign up, donate, volunteer, buy tickets—whatever relevant action you want them to take. But keep it to one: Too many calls to action lowers conversion.
Finalize your marketing strategy with signage and promo items.
Don’t forget about these! If your event needs signage, that’s something you can take care of early on so you’re not scrambling the week before. And if you plan on giving out branded swag at your event, be sure it fits the theme, look and feel of all the promotional assets you used to drive registrations. Keeping a cohesive design and consistent message is the best way to stay on people’s minds, long after you’ve shut the doors on your event.
Speaking of shutting doors, when your event is over, don’t turn off the lights until next year. Next year matters, and there’s a lot you can learn from one event to make the next an even more successful one. People value consistency, so when this event has come to a close, it’s not too early to begin building the hype for next year’s.
One way to make sure future fundraising events succeed is through post-event evaluation. Send out emails or social media posts to constituents asking for feedback on your event to see how you can improve for next year. When donors feel heard, they’re more likely to continue a relationship with you, which includes more events, more donations, and so on. You can even ask attendees how they heard about this year’s event so you know how to market specifically for next year.
By using strategic integrated marketing, your nonprofit can successfully promote its mission, attract more attendees and raise money for its cause.
And the great news is, you don’t have to do this all alone. Firespring is here to help. We have experts in multimedia marketing, advertising, digital promotions and managing events, both online and in print. If we can help you with any or all of the above marketing tools we mentioned, including a nonprofit website that’s designed to engage and convert, we’re all hands on deck and ready to serve. Give us a shout at 877.447.8941 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.