In most cases, the more people you can get to your event, the better, right? There are many different strategies to market your event. In this article we will list out some strategies that will help you decide what promotional tactics are best for your organization and how to take the next steps to make sure your whole community knows about your event!
KNOW YOUR GUESTS
The only way you can market your event effectively is by knowing who you want your guests to be. What kind of people do you want to attract? Who has attended and donated to your event in the past? Who is already connected to your cause? These factors determine your audience because they will likely attend your event year after year and invite their friends and their “spheres of influence.”
When you narrow your focus around your desired audience, you’ll be much more effective at promoting your event and getting more people to attend.
CREATE MARKETING ASSETS
Before you begin to promote your event, you’ll need to create marketing assets to print, post and send. Unfortunately, this is not a “one-and-done” process. You or a graphic designer will need to create graphics that fit a variety of channels. For example, if you want to print a postcard, you will need a graphic that fits all the information onto the correct postcard dimensions. If you’re planning to post to Instagram, you will need a square graphic, and so on.
If you are creating your own graphics and assets, you do not have to be a graphic designer to make it happen! There are several valuable tools, like Canva or Adobe Express, that will help you to create beautiful designs from their templates, and will even “magically” resize them to fit your publishing specifications.
Tune into the Elevate Your Event Podcast to hear the Handbid team talk about creating marketing collateral to fit every channel.
When you are designing your event assets, it’s important to make all the information easy to read. Use color contrast and bold, clear fonts for your main points, so that potential attendees can get all the information with a quick glance. For example, you don’t want to use a cursive font, or put yellow lettering on an orange background. People will skip right over it and may miss important details about your event.
KNOW WHERE TO REACH YOUR GUESTS
Now that you know who your audience is, you can start to figure out where they’re hanging out and how to best reach them. Then use those channels to market your event. Age, social media habits and methods that have worked in the past are all ways to determine how to reach your potential guests, but let’s look at some examples of where your audience might be, and how you can use those channels to reach them:
With roughly 2.96 billion users between the ages of 13 and 65+, Facebook is still a very effective way to get the word out about your event. There are several ways to reach people on Facebook. Here’s a breakdown:
- Facebook posts. Posting to your feed and inviting your stakeholders and supporters to do the same, is probably the easiest way to utilize Facebook to market your event, especially if it’s open to the public. When creating a post, always try to include photos or a video, and be sure to set your post’s privacy settings to “Public” so that people can share it.
- Facebook stories. The “story” feature on Facebook allows you to share video, photos, and text just like a post does, but they are only available to your audience for 24 hours. However, because of the urgency of “misisng out” on information, stories can give you the opportunity to have more eyes on your content.
- Facebook groups. Groups within Facebook are designed for specific and niche audiences. The Groups feature allows people to discuss common interests without the general public being able to see the discussion. Facebook groups can serve as a support group for the people your organization serves, or a way for like-minded professionals to share about their industry. There’s probably a Facebook group full of people who could be interested in your event. Try joining relevant groups and sharing your event where applicable. Make sure you check the rules of the group and get permission from the administrators before posting.
- Facebook events. A Facebook event is very similar to an evite. You create the event, invite people, and they have an opportunity to RSVP and ask questions. You can even notify all invitees with details and updates about the event, like added entertainment and links to ticket sales or your mobile bidding app. You can even post photos of the event in the group. With this feature, however, only the people who have a Facebook account will be able to see the event details.
While there are several new and appealing social media platforms, Facebook may give you the best ‘bang for your buck’ when it comes to versatility in promoting your event.
Owned by Facebook (or, “Meta”), more than one billion people use Instagram each month.
Instagram operates very similarly to Facebook, with one main difference: You have to post a photo or video with every single post. Let’s take a look at a few ways that Instagram can help you to get more people to attend your event:
- Instagram Posts. Similar to Facebook posts, Instagram posts can be created and shared with the general public, as long as your account is not a private account. You can post photos with details about your event in the caption, and people can repost or share to their own stories. The only difference is that Instagram will not link to your event website within the caption. However, you can use hashtags to make your event more discoverable on Instagram.
- Hashtags. Hashtags are just a way to make content easier to find within the app. Think of it as a directory or filing system. Using 5 - 7 relevant hashtags may help to boost your post’s visibility. For example, relevant hashtags for a silent auction could be #silentauction #fundraiser #fundraisingevent. Hashtags can be used on Instagram or any social media platform.
- Instagram stories. Stories are like posts, but they’re only available for 24 hours. They allow you to engage with your audience in real-time, and they’re a great way to promote your event and update your audience with key announcements. Most Instagram accounts have the “link” feature for stories, where you can post a picture or video about your event, and link directly to your event or ticketing website. Doing this will allow potential guests to purchase tickets or get more information about your event in the moment, rather than having to save it for later and likely forgetting about it altogether.
TIKTOK AND REELS
While we recognize that TikTok and the “reels” feature on Instagram and Facebook are getting a lot of traction in the social media space, most of the time these pieces of content take time to get in front of the right audience, which may not be the best strategy for promoting your event. This form of content marketing takes a lot of time, creativity, and effort, and your event may be over by the time your TikTok video reaches the right people. We suggest using this feature for more “long game” content, like the overall mission of your organization, or something that will be relevant for a long period of time, versus promoting an event short term.
It is a myth that marketing is only effective in the digital realm. Direct mailings, door hangers, and flyers are not dead. There are many ways to effectively reach any audience through good, old-fashioned paper. Here are a few of them:
- Traditional Invitations. Especially if you’re hosting a gala or more formal event, creating formal invitations could be a good way to reach your audience, especially if they have attended your event in the past. Try hand-addressing each envelope for that special touch.
- Direct Mail or Door Hangers. There are companies that will help you to place door hangers, mail postcards, or create coupon book inserts to send to people within your desired geographic area. This may be a good route if you’re hoping to attract the masses to your event.
- Flyers. Create a catchy flyer with bold colors and detailed information about your event and place them in strategic areas around your event location: bulletin boards, office lobbies, or even on the inside of the bathroom stalls.
- QR Codes. The QR code made a great comeback in 2020, and you can use it to your advantage when promoting your event. You can make your own QR code with sites like QR Code Generator and get creative with how and where you place them so that people will scan and join your event!
An evite is a digital invitation that gets emailed to your potential event guests. There are many types of evites available from sites like Punchbowl or EventBrite that range from a one-page website to a fully animated invitation experience. With evites, you can upload the email addresses of the people you want to invite, manage your RSVP list, and send announcements and reminders about your event. However, you are mostly limited to the people whose email addresses you have, so reaching the public might be more challenging with this marketing tactic.
If you’re using event software like Handbid, they may have features that will help you to market your event. For instance, if your software company has a text feature, you can text last year’s guests and invite them to this year’s event. You may be able to create a landing page for your event, giving people all the information about how to join or buy tickets, and you might even be able to sell tickets using this event software.
Radio stations will sometimes promote your event for free, especially if it interests their listeners. For example, if you’re hosting a benefit concert, contact a radio station that would be most likely to play the band’s music, and ask them to mention your event on their morning show and in commercials during the weeks leading up to your event.
There are many community websites that exist solely to share information about local events. Many times they are hosted by local news stations, magazines, and even social media influencers. Most times, it’s free to post your event on their website.
Paid media can be an effective way to promote your auctions and other events, but it often requires more from your budget as well as help from an expert. Some examples of paid media include:
- Ads on social media platforms
- Search engine ads
- Ads in magazines and newspapers
- Radio and TV commercials
Some of these options can be very costly, making it difficult for most organizations to take advantage of them. However, there are programs in place that enable nonprofit organizations to use these platforms for free or at a reduced cost.
For example, Google rolled out its Google Ad Grants program in 2003 to offer eligible nonprofit organizations $10,000 per month in Google Ad credits. This means that nonprofits enrolled in the program can organize Google Ad campaigns worth up to $10,000 each month, for free. To qualify, your organization must hold 501(c)(3) status, not be a government, healthcare, or educational organization, meet Google’s website requirements, and complete the application process.
Once you’re enrolled in the program, your nonprofit will need to maintain compliance with Google’s guidelines to retain access to the ad credits. Additionally, do your best to use the full $10,000 in ads each month as they do not roll over. For help in these areas, consider working with an agency specialized in Google Ads.
While we believe that email, social media, and word of mouth are effective and necessary ways to promote your event, sending a text message is currently the fastest way to reach your donor base. As you shop for event software, check for a text feature. This way, you’ll be able to send messages to past supporters and current guests with information about your event and giving campaigns. Give them a call to action by asking them to send the link to your event website to their friends!
WHEN TO START PROMOTING YOUR EVENT
Your event promotion timeline will depend on your location, demographics, and how people have responded to your events in the past. We host an event every year, and it never fails that people will register at the very last minute. However, a good best practice is to start marketing your event six to eight weeks out. Create a timeline of which channels you’ll start with, plan out the frequency of your messaging, and measure your progress along the way.
SEND FREQUENT REMINDERS ABOUT YOUR EVENT
With every event comes a certain amount of attrition. Some events see a higher guest dropoff than others, depending on what type of event you’re hosting. Usually, when there’s a fee associated with attending the event, you will see a higher attendance rate. In any case, it’s important to send frequent and consistent reminders about the details of your event so that it stays top of mind for your guests.
Event reminders can include snippets about entertainment, announcements about silent auction items, and a countdown to the event itself. Create a sense of urgency around these messages, like, “Just 5 more days to register!” or, “3 more days until the big day!” Remind your guests how important their individual participation is to helping you achieve your fundraising goals.
USE THE POWER OF STORYTELLING
You have a higher likelihood of getting more people to attend your event if they feel emotionally connected to it. Life is busy, people’s schedules are packed, and many organizations are competing for the same donor dollars and attendance. People need to know WHY they should attend YOUR event. You can do this by using the power of story. Tell people what will happen, or who will benefit from their attendance and donation to your cause. Invite one of your organization’s beneficiaries to speak or send a letter to your audience, explaining why donor support is important to them, and how your potential attendees can make a difference.
Use visuals to tell the story behind your cause, and create urgency around support for this event. For example, use language like, “every ___ minutes, someone is affected by <insert the problem your organization solves>.
Post photos of the people you serve on social media (with their permission, of course), telling your audience about their story and how your organization is helping them to overcome a challenge they’re facing.
When people understand and feel connected to the “why” behind your event and how they can make a difference, you’ll have a much easier time getting them to attend.
ASK KEY SUPPORTERS TO SHARE YOUR EVENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Word-of-mouth is still an effective way to market, and now the power of social media can take it to a whole new level. Make a post on your social media channels, and then text or email your supporters, asking them to share your post. It costs them nothing and takes less than ten seconds to do. The more sets of eyes you have on your event information, the more likely you are to increase your guest list.
REPEAT YOUR MESSAGE
Even if you choose multiple avenues to promote your event (and we think you definitely should), you are going to have to send your message several times. People need repetition and reminders about your event. It’s said that people need to see a message seven times before they take action. You should never assume that people see your message or your post the first time you publish it. In fact, the average engagement rate for social media is about one to five percent. That means that if you have 1,000 followers on any given social media account, only 10-50 people will see it. Don’t let that discourage you. Instead, let it be a reminder that you need to make yourself sound like a broken record and post as often as possible so that more people will see your message and information.
Promoting your fundraising event is crucial for its success. Diversify your strategy by using multiple channels like those listed above. It's important to tailor your promotional efforts to your audience, choose the right platforms, and create compelling content that resonates with your supporters. Additionally, creating a sense of urgency and scarcity can help drive ticket sales and donations. Remember to track your progress and adjust your strategy as needed to maximize your impact. With the right approach, you can generate excitement and enthusiasm for your fundraising event and reach your goals.
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