For nonprofits like yours, a solid marketing strategy is essential for sharing your story, spreading awareness about your mission, and compelling supporters to take action, whether that’s through donating, volunteering, or registering for a fundraising event.
Strategically promoting your nonprofit’s events allows you to maximize participation and, in turn, grow your fundraising potential. This is true for any type of event you might choose to host, from walk-a-thons to golf tournaments to silent and live auctions.
In this guide, we’ll walk through four tips to take your event marketing campaigns to the next level, including how to:
- Build Your Marketing Strategy Around Your Event Goals
- Understand Your Audience
- Leverage Multiple Communication Channels
- Let Supporters Know What’s in It for Them
As you consider how to incorporate these strategies into marketing your upcoming events, remember that the earlier you start promoting your fundraisers, the more signups you’re likely to get. Let supporters know about your event as soon as the date and location are finalized—you can always share more details as they become available. Let’s get started!
1. Build Your Marketing Strategy Around Your Event Goals
The first step in planning any fundraiser is goal-setting. Understanding the objectives you’re working toward from the very beginning helps keep your team on the same page and guides every part of the process, including marketing.
According to Double the Donation, some common goals for nonprofit events include:
- Spreading awareness about your mission in your community
- Engaging supporters more deeply with your organization
- Raising as much revenue for your cause as possible
Depending on which of these goals is most important to your nonprofit, you’ll want to prioritize a different aspect of your messaging when crafting your marketing strategy. If community awareness is your primary focus, ensure information about your cause is front and center in your communications. Concentrate on the event experience if supporter engagement is your main goal, and emphasize concrete examples of your funding needs if you’re trying to maximize fundraising revenue.
2. Understand Your Audience
Your event marketing messages should not only support your goals but also resonate with your organization’s target audience. For this strategy to succeed, you first need to define who that audience is.
One of the best ways to understand your nonprofit’s audience is through supporter segmentation, which is the process of dividing your supporters into groups based on shared characteristics, such as their:
- Demographics: age, location, education, family status, and wealth.
- Engagement history: amount and frequency of past donations, previous event attendance, volunteer hours, and feedback provided.
- Relevant interests and motivations for supporting your organization and attending certain types of events.
Once you’ve created your supporter segments, choose a few groups you’d like to prioritize for event outreach. Then, develop a sample supporter persona for each segment. Having an image in your mind of who your ideal participant is will help you craft marketing materials that your target audience will be receptive to.
3. Leverage Multiple Communication Channels
No matter what type of event your nonprofit is planning, it’s a best practice to develop a multi-channel marketing strategy. By leveraging multiple communication methods, you’ll create more touchpoints with your audience and expand your reach, which can ultimately lead to more event registrations.
Make sure to promote your event via the following channels:
- Your organization’s website. Create a page dedicated to your fundraising events that includes an interactive calendar, event descriptions with relevant photos, and links to your online sign-up forms.
- Email marketing. If your nonprofit sends out a monthly or quarterly newsletter, add an “Upcoming Events” section in addition to developing dedicated email campaigns for each individual event.
- Social media. Tailor your event-related posts to each social media platform your organization uses. For instance, Facebook is best suited to text-based posts, Instagram is an image-focused platform, and TikTok is designed for sharing short videos.
- Search ads. Consider placing ads on Google’s search results pages to drive traffic to the Events page on your website. To make this easier for nonprofits, the Google Ad Grants program provides eligible organizations with $10,000 of free search advertising per month that can be used to promote a variety of initiatives, including upcoming events.
Use what you learned about your target audience during segmentation, as well as data from past event marketing campaigns, to choose which of the above channels to put the most time and resources into. Let’s say you notice that many participants in last year’s 5K fundraiser signed up via social media, and your target audience for this year’s race is individuals in their 20s who are likely to use those platforms. In that case, make sure to put extra effort into developing high-quality social media content leading up to your event.
4. Let Supporters Know What’s in It for Them
Ideally, the main reason participants want to attend fundraising events is to support a good cause. But it’s also important to ensure supporters benefit from attending the event, whether that’s through taking home a physical item or simply having an enjoyable experience.
As you develop your event marketing strategy, let supporters know what they’ll get out of the event if they choose to participate. Some effective ways to do this for different types of events include:
- Releasing a catalog in advance of a live auction. According to Winspire, a well-designed live auction catalog serves as a complete guide to the event. It contains an order of events, cause-related information, and most importantly, descriptions of all of the auction items supporters can bid on. Make sure to create your catalog far enough in advance that you can link to a PDF of it in your digital marketing materials.
- Designing a special event t-shirt. Many people enjoy receiving free merchandise, so include the cost of the shirt in your event registration fee and add photos of it to all of your marketing materials. If possible, send the shirt out in advance of the event—that way, if participants wear it out in public, they’ll help spread the word and possibly encourage last-minute sign-ups.
- Creating prize-based peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. Most a-thon style events (walk-a-thons, bike-a-thons, etc.) involve a peer-to-peer campaign where participants collect donations on your nonprofit’s behalf. To foster friendly competition and attract more event registrations, advertise the prizes you’ll give the winners after the campaign in your marketing materials and include a leaderboard so participants can know how much they need to raise to win.
By demonstrating your event’s benefits to prospective participants, you’ll set it up as a win-win experience for both your nonprofit and your supporters, which can convince individuals who may be on the fence about participating to sign up.
Although marketing your organization’s events is critical on the front end, don’t forget about the back half of your communications strategy—following up with participants. Sending prompt, personalized thank-you messages not only makes supporters feel like attending the event was worthwhile but also encourages them to continue engaging with your nonprofit long-term. As you craft your marketing campaign, start thinking about your follow-up plan to ensure consistent communication with supporters before and after the event.