For many nonprofits, spring marks the time for annual galas, golf tournaments and other signature fundraising events. The season marks not only major fundraising milestones, but added face time with donors, volunteers and community partners. Unfortunately, it is also an incredibly competitive time of year for raising the funds that are key to increasing your impact with so many nonprofits seeking support from their stakeholders. Here are some tips for making your cause stand out from the crowd and ensuring your event marketing is generating optimal ROI:
- – Be social
- – Be creative
- – Be resourceful
- – Go virtual
- – Think visually
Social media is a powerful tool for engaging attendees during nonprofit fundraising events. Through social media marketing, nonprofits can share their mission far beyond the walls of a ballroom or the 18th hole. It is also a great way for those attending your signature event to share their experience – and enthusiasm for your cause – with their own online communities. Whether you create a hashtag for your event, put a live stream of social media updates on a big screen during the event or incentivize social sharing through contests and giveaways, make sure developing a dedicated social media strategy/campaign for your signature events is part of the event planning process.
Galas and golf tournaments are proven models for fundraising success. That said, there is a critical need to differentiate your ball or tournament from the competition. And, when I say competition, I don’t just mean causes with a similar mission. I also mean causes located in a similar geographic area, holding their event(s) during a similar time period and/or soliciting a similar audience. Bottom line: you need to create an event experience that people want to be a part of, and the marketing materials that appropriately convey the importance of being part of something ‘big.’
With finite budgets a reality for most nonprofits, finding ways to extend reach and optimize impact at low or no cost is a critical component of the event marketing process. When planning your event, consider the in-kind resources, on-staff resources and volunteer resources available to help you make a big splash. When it comes time to market your event, tap in to membership associations, community partners and other networks of influencers who can help share electronic invitations and social media marketing updates to get the word out about your event.
With so many causes competing for time on people’s calendars this time of the year, identifying opportunities for stakeholders to virtually participate in events and lend support is key to optimizing event ROI. Whether you create a complementary online fundraising campaign that runs during the weeks leading up to your event and integrates email marketing and social media marketing to secure donations, offer exclusive online auction items or find a corporate partner to do a post-event matching program that challenges those who couldn’t make your event in-person to help reach a milestone, be creative, be compelling and make sure your messages are relevant.
The marketing value of events lasts far beyond the 4 hours guests spend in a ballroom or the 8 hours they spend out on the course. Ask yourself, what marketing assets can I collect during the event that will propel fundraising, expand reach and increase awareness after my event passes? Something as simple as a photo booth – stocked with cause-centric props and customizable signage noting why your cause is critical– or a video booth where attendees can record messages of hope and inspiration can help to refresh your bank of marketing assets with new and relevant content for the months ahead. It can also provide key marketing assets for helping to sell your next annual event.
While the process of planning, coordinating and executing a signature event can be overwhelming at times, ensuring there is a clearly-defined marketing strategy in place for pre-, during and post-event is key to generating measurable ROI, be it funds raised, new donors secured or volunteers acquired. Whether your signature fundraiser for the year has recently passed or is fast-approaching, take the time to identify how marketing can help increase your event ROI in 2015 and beyond.