This is the second installment of a series about successful event planning for nonprofits originally published in Canadian Fundraiser eNews in September 2010.
Event Success: Practical Promotion Tips
By Stacy Dyer
Fundraising events – like ‘a-thons, tournaments, and races – can help build community support for nonprofits and causes. While planning a successful ‘a-thon may seem like a daunting task, preparation goes a long way. Last month, we looked at practical tips to help you get started with event planning.
Now that you’re organized, let’s focus on strategies and tools for publicizing your fundraiser. Use these promotional tips to maximize engagement and tap into the power of social networking to ensure your next event is a fundraising success.
Get on Calendars Early
You’ll need the participation of your organization’s supporters and donors, if your ‘a-thon event is to be successful. As soon as the event date is confirmed, mention it in any communication you send to donors. If “thank you” confirmation letters or emails are automatically generated, update the templates with your event’s information.
Send out save-the-date postcards several months in advance of your event. Submit your schedule to community calendars published by newspapers and television and radio stations. Include any deadlines for registration or entry, as well the event date. Also, submit your event to local Chambers of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureaus.
Technology Tip: If your fundraiser is tied to a specific event date, use the Events applications on Facebook and LinkedIn, or www.eventbrite.com, to schedule your event and invite your fans to attend it. Consider listing your event on upcoming.yahoo.com, www.eventful.com, or www.charityhappenings.org (for large cities).
Exploit Free Publicity Opportunities
Maximize free publicity opportunities for both your event and your nonprofit. Submit public service announcements (PSA) about your event to local television and radio stations.
Make connections in the local media. Ask reporters from the community or lifestyle sections of area newspapers and business journals to cover your event as a story. Make yourself available for media interviews, and be prepared to discuss how your event supports your organization’s mission.
Technology Tip: Want to make it easier for donors to find your organization on the Web? Try applying to Google Grants, which provides free Google AdWords (PPC or “pay per click”) advertising for nonprofit organizations. Learn more at http://www.google.com/grants/index.html
Reach Out to Supporters Online
Your supporters are probably already among the estimated 46% of American adults now using social networking websites, such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn. (Amanda Lenhart, The Democratization of Social Media, presentation given on October 8, 2009) Enable your participants, supporters, and donors to become donation engines by giving them tools that easily share information about your event on their own personal networks. Encourage supporters to continue the conversation.
Remember the Rule of Threes
Remember the time-tested marketing theory known as the “Rule of Threes.” A person must hear about your event three times before they will remember it and possibly take action. You’ll need to speak to the community about your event many times to ensure that people hear it enough to drive them to take action.
Technology Tip: Use social media channels, such as twitter.com to publish status updates and enable others to share the message on your behalf. Provide “share” buttons that send links to popular networks automatically on your event registration and donation forms.
Reach a Wide Audience Using Multi-Channel Communication
Different people prefer different communication methods – email, phone, text message, etc. Keep this in mind when you create your publicity plan. Utilize as many channels as you can, including traditional direct mail, email, social media, newspapers, and radio or television, to help get your message out.
Technology Tip: Keep your donor and participant databases in-house so that you can own the relationship and keep in touch with these supporters. Don’t be tempted to outsource your fundraising efforts. By maintaining control over your own data, you can incur fewer fees and help ensure that your donor list remains up-to-date.
Use Story-Telling to Make Personal Connections
Help supporters make a connection between their donation and the cause it will support through individual stories. Studies show that human empathy tends to diminish as we are asked to help a larger and larger group of people in need. Give your community personal, individual stories that demonstrate why your mission is important.
Technology Tip: When supporters are moved by your compelling story, don’t rely on donors to click on multiple links to get back to a generic form on your website. Give your supporters personalized donation forms, so they can ask friends and family for donations directly on their social networking or personal websites. Create mini fundraising pages and forms that include images, video and other compelling content.
Motivate Donors by Clearly Communicating Results
Donors want to see evidence of the difference they’re making. Make a habit of regularly updating your supporters on program results, project status, and fundraising progress so they feel more connected to your mission. (And, don’t forget to do this using multiple channels – direct mail, social networking sites, etc.)
Technology Tip: Use online “thermometers” to show your financial goal and the amount of donations received. Seeing your organization get closer to your goal will keep participants and donors motivated and excited.
Promoting your next event doesn’t have to require a massive budget to be successful. Take advantage of existing networks, publicity opportunities in local media, participant fundraising, and powerful story telling to create buzz and encourage community engagement.
Now that we’ve covered planning and promotional activities, we’ll look at tips and best practices for executing on those plans in the final installment of this series. We’ll learn how to create an exceptional experience for participants and supporters, both during and after the event.