6 Surefire Ways to Market Your Next Fundraising Event
Nonprofit fundraising events are a staple of your funding strategy. When you create your fundraising calendar for the year or quarter, the whole thing probably revolves around a few key events.
For instance, you may have your #GivingTuesday campaign lead up to a #GivingTuesday fundraising celebration event. Or you may have holiday events on the calendar with fundraising campaigns leading up to each one. This approach of planning a campaign leading up to your event helps raise additional funds while providing a supporter stewardship opportunity.
Whether you’re fundraising for a virtual event or gathering your supporters physically together as a community, you’ll need an effective marketing strategy to ensure success.
We’ve come up with our favorite ways to market fundraising events. Here are the top five:
- Create special edition merchandise.
- Make the most of your social media presence.
- Engage supporters early.
- Appeal to supporters’ FOMO.
- Pay attention to donor segments.
Managing fundraising events is a challenge. Having an effective marketing plan in place will help boost attendance rates and make for a more successful event. Let’s dive deeper into these top 5 marketing strategies.
1. Create special edition merchandise
Selling merchandise is a great way to promote your event and raise money for your nonprofit at the same time. When supporters buy and wear your branded t-shirts, ball caps, and mugs, they become walking billboards for your nonprofit’s cause.
Special edition merchandise adds an additional level of appeal to your nonprofit’s sale of these items. When supporters know that there’s a limited time frame during which they have access to special merchandise, it creates a sense of urgency to purchase it.
To start a special edition merchandise fundraising campaign leading up to your event, follow these simple steps:
- Create your special edition design. This design should still have your nonprofit’s branding including your logo and colors. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, try hosting a contest with your supporters. Ask them to come up with the design and submit it to be reviewed. The winning individual can score a free t-shirt and you’ll have an incredible design for your merchandise!
- Promote and sell the special edition items. Sell these special edition items leading up to your event. Add them to your online store or provide links to your online order form on all marketing materials. Promote the design on social media, on your website, or on mailers. Use these platforms to spread the word about this limited time offer and get your supporters excited about it.
- Bring additional merchandise to the event. Sell online before the event as a promotion strategy. But also, make sure you have additional merchandise to bring to the event itself. Before the event starts, send out a message similar to this one: “If you forgot to order your special edition t-shirt, don’t fret! Stop by the merchandise table at our event this Saturday!”
When you design your special edition merchandise, make sure the artwork you choose stands out and is memorable. For instance, the following examples from an adoption organization show how you might incorporate bold phrasing and typography, decorative elements, or the event location into the design of your merchandise.
Selling merchandise before your event generates excitement for the event itself. Building on that excitement by creating event-specific merchandise designs amplifies the buzz and provides an additional promotional opportunity.
2. Make the most of your social media presence
Social media is not an optional marketing tool for nonprofits. Nowadays, it’s expected that organizations like yours not only have social media accounts but also use them effectively for marketing and promotional purposes.
Plus, when you use social media effectively, your organization will see a boost in event attendees and additional engagement from your supporters on these platforms. When it comes to promoting your event, your organization should post advertisements for the event itself and provide additional opportunities for your supporters to get involved with it.
For instance, consider the following strategies:
- Create an event hashtag. Invite your supporters to use your hashtag when they register for the event and share their attendance. This way, all of their followers will have a way to learn more about it. Also, when attendees post pictures after the event, encourage them to use the hashtag so that everyone can see everyone else’s photos. Your organization might be able to use some of them (with permission) to promote next year’s event!
- Link to event fundraising opportunities. Use your social media account to raise more money before the event by linking directly to your fundraising page or registration page. This provides a direct action that supporters can complete as they feel compelled by your marketing campaign.
- Post pictures from past events. If you’re hosting an annual event, post pictures from last year’s. This will remind your supporters of all of the fun they had last year. They’re sure to register again!
- Post pictures of event merchandise. Encourage supporters to engage with your event before it even starts by inviting them to purchase event-specific merchandise. Show them how it looks by posting pictures of your staff members wearing your special edition t-shirt or your executive director drinking from their branded coffee mug. Take it a step further by asking supporters to also post pictures wearing the merchandise they buy using the event hashtag!
Social media is a marketing tool that, when used correctly, can help nonprofits spread the word about any campaigns and upcoming opportunities. However, keep in mind the different opportunities presented by each platform.
On Facebook, you have a great chance to post both long-form text and images. For instance, you might post a picture of your nonprofit’s staff members wearing branded merchandise with a lengthy caption about what you’ve been doing to prepare for the event. On Instagram, you may post an image of attendees having fun at your event last year with a short caption about how you hope to see people there this year.
3. Engage supporters early
Early engagement is key for effective fundraising event marketing. Generally, nonprofits are encouraged to start fundraising their events 90-180 days before the event itself. Get your supporters engaged with the marketing and get them excited about the event.
These early engagement strategies can also help your organization boost fundraising revenue! For example, you could get supporters involved in campaigns such as:
- Peer-to-peer fundraising. Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are an excellent way to raise money leading up to your nonprofit’s event. Ask supporters to get involved by raising money on behalf of your organization. The event at the end of this campaign should be a celebration of everything the peer-to-peer campaign accomplished.
- Early auctions or raffles. If you’re hosting a charity auction or a raffle at your event, try providing early online access to these aspects of the event so that your supporters can get involved as soon as possible. This will drive fundraising revenue while promoting the event.
- Early bird specials. Early bird specials and discounts encourage supporters to get involved early. For instance, you may provide a limited-time 10% discount on event registration for the first week after registration opens up. Or, you may provide a free event t-shirt for your first 50 registrants.
Early engagement leads to early registration for your nonprofit’s fundraising event, which creates even more opportunities to promote the event. For example, you might say, “Our annual charity auction is almost at capacity! Register today so you don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to show your support.”
4. Appeal to supporters’ FOMO
Your marketing campaign should transition the thought process of your supporters from, “Wow, that event looks fun” to “I need to sign up for this event, now.” This is only a slightly different mindset, but it’s that slight difference that drives additional registrations.
In order to take your marketing to this next level, you need to appeal to supporters’ FOMO (or, their fear of missing out).
You may use this strategy so that supporters are afraid of missing out on an incredible experience, the chance to make an impact, or on a limited-time chance to save money.
Consider the following strategies to use FOMO to your advantage:
- In order to create FOMO of an incredible experience, you need to do more than tell donors how much fund they will have at your event. You need to show them what the event will be like. Videos from previous events can give supporters an accurate picture of what the event will be like. Make sure that any videos and photos you use for promotion feature the demographic of people you want to reach so that they relate to those who attend.
- The opportunity to make an impact is another way to use FOMO in your promotion strategies for the fundraising aspect of your fundraising event. In this case, you may include a fundraising thermometer on your fundraising page. This way, supporters see a visual representation of the impact they could make toward helping you reach your goal. If they decide to give, they’ll also get the instant gratification of seeing their impact right away.
- Let’s say your organization implements an early bird special for your event registration. Those who register within the first week of the registration opening will receive a 10% discount on the registration fee. Include a countdown on the website to show how much time is left for the discount. This creates urgency as supporters are afraid of missing out on the sale.
FOMO is a powerful tool used in marketing. Keep in mind that it should be done tastefully and in a natural way. Unnaturally trying to create a sense of FOMO could be viewed as inauthentic and turn supporters away from your brand.
5. Pay attention to donor segments.
As you market your nonprofit’s fundraising event, keep in mind the general audience you want to reach with each channel you’re using for outreach. Pay attention to the general demographics of the audience you want to reach, what that audience has responded well to in the past, and the ways they’ll respond best for this event. This is a great time to employ your organization’s donor segmentation.
For instance, create segments in your donor database based on:
- How supporters prefer to be communicated with. If you’ve sent out a survey in the past asking supporters how they want to be communicated with, use those responses in your event marketing. Supporters are much more likely to register and think highly of your organization if they see you’re taking their preferences into account.
- Supporters’ methods of giving. If supporters prefer to give via your online donation form, encourage them to give using this method in support of your event. Or, if they prefer giving via text message, create a specialized text-to-give campaign for this event and provide the number to those who like giving using this method.
- Past event attendance. Create a segment that specifically reaches your supporters who have attended your events in the past. This segment allows you to remind your supporters of the fun they had in other events to encourage them to attend another one.
Donor segments are very valuable to get the best response from those that your nonprofit reaches out to. If you use donor preferences to more accurately target preferred marketing channels, you’ll see higher email open and click-through rates, higher social media engagement levels, and more repeat event attendees.
6. Offer more than one way to get involved in fundraising.
In the lead-up to your fundraising event, offer your supporters different ways to get involved. The people in your community have different interests and will respond to your organization’s efforts in different ways. Include different opportunities to get involved in your marketing efforts, and you’ll be able to increase the population of people engaged in your event!
- Corporate philanthropy: this option is great for those who want to financially support your nonprofit further but aren’t able to contribute more of their own money. In your marketing materials, educate your supporters about the most popular corporate philanthropy programs: matching gifts and volunteer grants. Give your supporters a way to look up their own eligibility and submit a matching gift!
- Volunteering: Many people would rather give their time and energy to a nonprofit. On your website, make it easy for your supporters to sign up for additional information about volunteering their skills to your nonprofit. For example, if someone has graphic design skills, ask them to help design your event collateral!
- In-kind donations: This type of donation is anything that is a non-cash donation: like time, energy, food, or supplies. Think about what would be helpful for your big day: do you need tables and chairs for a sit-down dinner, or bottled water and stopwatches for a charity race?
Get creative about providing engagement opportunities to your supporters outside of attending your event and donating to your cause. They’ll appreciate the extra opportunities to support your organization in a way that meets their needs, and your organization will benefit from the increased engagement.
Fundraising events are cornerstones of your annual or quarterly fundraising strategies. Make sure your nonprofit is using the best marketing strategies to engage with your audience and encourage higher attendance rates. Good luck!