Making Nonprofit Event Marketing a Priority Can Have a Major Effect on your Event Success
2020 was the year of virtual events, and reports show that as 2022 continues, many nonprofits plan to continue hosting virtual and hybrid events even as they shift back to primarily in-person
gatherings. Of course, just because you’re offering the same kinds of events as last year, doesn’t mean you should repeat the same nonprofit event marketing campaigns.
Rethinking your nonprofit marketing strategy to get attendees excited may seem unnecessary and time-consuming. However, generating excitement should be one of your nonprofit event marketing campaign’s top priorities, and it can be hard to do that if the majority of your messages are repeated from last year. Instead, try getting creative with how you drum up excitement to get your events the audience they deserve.
To inspire new methods for revamping your nonprofit’s marketing strategy, this guide will dive into four event marketing strategies designed to increase excitement:
1. Take a multi-channel marketing approach
2. Add incentives
3. Sell branded merchandise
4. Host a peer-to-peer campaign
Remember that different audiences of supporters will get excited about different things. When considering how you can apply these tips to your events, keep your unique audiences in mind and tailor each strategy to fit their definition of excitement. Let’s get started.
1. Take a multi-channel nonprofit event marketing approach
Chances are that not all of your supporters use the same communication channels, and your potential attendees can only get excited about an event that they know is happening. As part of
your event marketing plan, research what communication channels and platforms your supporters use frequently and take a multi-channel approach that incorporates those channels.
In addition to attracting a wider audience, marketing on multiple channels allows you to build multiple touchpoints with supporters since they’ll encounter several of your marketing messages on different platforms. This can help build a sense of momentum and present multiple calls to action, one of which they might act on after seeing the others. This process of creating multiple touchpoints that build off one another might look something like this:
- Your supporter sees a post on social media about your upcoming event.
- They receive your monthly newsletter email and notice a promotional message for the event, complete with photos from your previous event to show the types of activities they can expect.
- Then, they receive a personalized invitation in the mail with your event’s time, its date, and a link to your registration page.
This approach continually increases anticipation while also gradually becoming more personal and direct, making supporters feel like they are being addressed. This can be especially effective for supporters who attended a previous event as you can reference past details in direct messages to hype up your upcoming event. Use your event software to take note of which supporters attended what events and how they attended (in-person or virtually) to create the most personalized appeals possible.
For in-person and community events, nonprofits can also leverage local communication channels to attract supporters who live nearby. For example, you might ask a local paper to run an ad for your event or reach out to any local business sponsors and ask them to help promote it.
2. Add incentives
Events are an opportunity for your nonprofit to fundraise, but they’re also for supporters to have a few hours of fun. This means that while your nonprofit event marketing materials should reference the cause the event is raising money for, focus on the elements of fun and highlight tangible incentives for attending.
For example, many nonprofits host events that provide guests with incentives like:
- Winnable prizes. Prizes through raffles, as a reward for fundraising, or for completing activities at your event can help persuade guests to attend and stay until the end of your
event to hear the winner. This can be especially effective for engaging guests during a virtual event. While remote attendees may not be able to participate in physical games, they can still enjoy raffles, drawings, or any other game with a prize that doesn’t require in-person attendance.
- Event exclusive items. Events are exciting because guests have to be there at a specific time on a specific date to participate. This limited time frame and sense of exclusivity can generate just enough FOMO to convince attendees who might be on the fence about coming. Adding items for sale and prizes that guests can only get at your event will increase these feelings. If you’re not sure what your nonprofit can offer, there are a variety of guides online listing potential prizes nonprofits can offer.
- Engaging activities. What will guests actually do at your event? Often, nonprofit events are a prime opportunity to socialize with members of your community and build connections, and creating structured activities will give guests something to talk about and bond over. These activities will vary wildly depending on your event type, from races to formal dancing and dining.
Once you know what type of event you’re running, figure out how its incentives and nonprofit event marketing can play to its strengths. For example, you might sell event-exclusive t-shirts and water bottles at your annual 5K with the year printed on them. For a formal gala, you might take lots of pictures of the venue to emphasize its beauty and add messages expressing that it’s even better in person.
3. Sell branded merchandise
Selling exclusive branded merchandise can help create a sense of community for those who attend your event and act as a reminder of the great time they had after it’s over.
If you’re unsure how to design and sell event merchandise that your guests will actually want to buy, then try following these tips:
- Create an eye-catching design. Your merchandise designs should attract your guests’ attention at a single glance. Try using contrasting colors to create bold patterns or go minimal with a few slick, stripped-down graphics that represent your cause. Remember, the more stylish your merchandise is, the more likely your supporters are to wear it in public, getting more eyes on your nonprofit even after your event.
- Ensure items are event appropriate. Ideally, guests will be able to buy merchandise at your event and then put it to use almost immediately. This approach makes your merchandise more valuable as attendees will see its practical use. Multiple guests all using your branded merchandise can make for a strong photo opportunity that can be used to sell other merchandise and promote your next event.
- Add the event name and date. There are a few ways to make a piece of merchandise feel exclusive and unique, and adding the specific name and date of the event is one of them. Whenever an attendee looks at the merchandise they bought, they’ll be able to remember the event, when it happened, and how much they enjoyed it. Additionally, some attendees may enjoy being able to collect a new piece of merchandise with the date on it when they attend consecutive events for several years.
If your event is hybrid or virtual, you can still sell event-exclusive merchandise with a bit of creativity. For example, you might make merchandise available for limited purchase during your live stream or send guests exclusive t-shirts or tote bags in the mail when they register to attend virtually.
4. Host a peer-to-peer campaign
One of the most effective marketing tools is word-of-mouth. Potential guests are used to seeing several promotional messages a day trying to persuade them that a specific product is unique or
exciting. To make your next event stand out, know that your audience is far more likely to trust a recommendation from someone they know personally than a message they happen to see
Your nonprofit can leverage word-of-mouth marketing and drive event attendance by hosting a peer-to-peer campaign. Peer-to-peer campaigns for events are run like normal peer-to-peer fundraisers but with the added twist of volunteers also encouraging their friends and family to register to attend your event to mark the end of the campaign.
To host your event’s peer-to-peer campaign, your nonprofit will need to follow these three essential steps:
- Recruit volunteers. Peer-to-peer campaign volunteers will usually have a prior relationship with your nonprofit, and this allows them to speak from personal experience about your organization’s mission Consider putting up recruitment notices to attract both new volunteers and looking to your supporter database for long-term supporters who might be interested in joining.
- Provide volunteers with tools to run their campaigns. Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns require equipping your volunteers with their own online campaign page. Prior to your campaign, hold an onboarding session where you can help volunteers get their pages set up and answer any questions they might have about how to promote your event.
- Support volunteers throughout their campaigns. Staying motivated from the beginning to the end of your campaign can be a challenge. Regularly check in with volunteers to provide support, assist them with any problems they may be encountering, and thank them for all of their hard work so far.
After your campaign, the last thing to do will be to host your event. During the event, take the time to thank and honor your peer-to-peer volunteers. Some nonprofits even create prizes for peer-to-peer volunteers who manage to raise the most, attract the most event attendees, or achieve any number of other accomplishments.
Events are meant to be a few hours of fun celebrating your nonprofit and all of your attendees. Consider what makes your supporters excited, whether it’s prizes they can win, activities they can participate in, or the opportunity to support a friend or family member. Then, emphasize that in your marketing to stir up excitement and drive attendance.