Nonprofit Fundraising, Part 2: How to Promote Your First Successful Event

This post is the second in a series pinpointing some best practices for you to follow as you prepare for your own successful nonprofit fundraising event.

In part one of this nonprofit fundraising event series, we talked about all the things you should be thinking about as you plan your event at six months out.

Now that you’ve spent the first month preparing for your amazing fundraising event, it’s time to actually promote it. So let’s take a look at what you’ll need to be thinking about at five months out.

How to get people to attend your fundraising event

This is a two part process. The first step is to create an easy, fun and informative save the date that you’ll send to your contacts to start a buzz about your event. The second step is to follow up with an online registration form that your network can use to sign up for the event and easily share with their personal networks. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Save the date

This is your first chance to get something in front of people. You want to let them know about your event and why they should come. Keep the save the date colorful, informative but not too long. Keep in mind how you like to receive requests for donations or invites to events. This will help you keep a clean perspective and maximize your RSVP.

What information should be on your save the date?

  • First and foremost: Type of Event, Date & Location
  • As stated in my previous post- prizes, food and entertainment are important to people so make sure you highlight these areas within your save the date!
  • Thirdly, make sure you have a call to action. Ask them to add the event to their calendar (the Constant Contact event invitations allow people to do this just by clicking a link.)
  • Tell them when your event registration will be coming so they can prepare to register on your next email.
  • For events like camps, golf tourneys, fundraising campaigns etc, I suggest having the registration already attached to the save the date. This allows people that are more proactive with signing up and donating to do so. Personally, I have never been a fan of grabbing someone’s attention for these types of events and telling them to wait to say yes, when a yes might have worked initially. If you can get people to commit early, that’s great!
  • You can even include a short personal note letting people know about the cause you’re fundraising for and why they should come.

Registration form

The most important rule! - Short and sweet wins this race! Grab only the mandatory information you need from the people registering. Now, from event to event things will change and different information is important and more relevant, so keep that in mind. One of the biggest mistakes for abandoned registrations online is lengthy and confusing forms. Once again, imagine you were filling out the form.

At the very least make sure to get the first name, last name and email address from everyone (Constant Contact’s event management tool requires this information from registrants as a best practice.) Keep it simple and easy so that people will be more likely to RSVP or Register.

Things you DON’T want to do with your registration form

  • Make it wordy and confusing
  • Have too much direction (if you need to explain your registration, it’s too difficult!)
  • To assume people will share and promote for you without asking them to (be sure ask your contacts to share it with anyone they think would be interested in the event and/or cause on: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, forwarding the email, etc. This will help increase the number of attendees at your fundraiser.)

Things you DO want:

  • Simple and easy online event registration (for you and registrants)
  • Recognizable branding across your invitations, registration pages and web pages (Your image sells!)
  • A link to your registration form accessible from multiple areas (website, email, social media, direct mail)
  • Your registration form to collect the registration and fee information in one central location for easy access

The first three things allow you to gather the registration information you need while creating a smooth and easy process for registrants. When the registration process is a positive experience it creates an environment where people are happy to be a part of the event and are more likely to share. The last DO item also allows you to run your event and manage your attendees and reporting with a smooth and easy process so you can focus on more important things other than paperwork.

What about ongoing promotion? How often do I send out an email?

Now that your save the date and registration page is ready and you’ve planned for your initial send of both about 5 months out, what about follow up? Your follow-up strategy is just as important. So it’s time to set up a game plan to send out your follow-up communications.

You want to reach out, but not too much! Keep in mind people will postpone or put off your invitations and registrations until the time is right for them, so your follow-up is crucial. Use this timeline as a guide. Tip: Send your follow-up emails out on Tuesdays-Thursdays during the day, never on Mondays or Fridays and especially not weekends!

  • Send your save the date at about 5 months out at least
  • 1st Invitation should go out about a month after
  • 2nd Invitation to the non responders -2 weeks later (change the subject line, look and feel of invitation
  • 3rd invitation about a month after that (change the subject line again)
  • 4th Invitation should be sent out about a month away from the day of the event. This invitation should be extremely personal and ask people to sign up. It should also indicate that time and spots are limited. Create urgency about the time left to participate.
  • Your FINAL invitation should be sent 2 weeks before the event simply reminding people of the date of the event and that this is the last chance to register.

Best Practice Tip: To make sure your registration form is simple and easy, share it with someone you know and have them go through registration process. I would also take the time to fill out your own registration form as well. This will help you “proof” your registration to make sure you are happy with the flow. I would also repeat these steps for all of your invitations and reminder emails as well.

Some other resources you should take advantage of

  • If you give yourself enough time and avenues to have people share your registrations, such as social media, your event has potential to be in front of a lot of people without constantly reaching out to them yourself. People engaged in nonprofit events love to advertise for you, so give them an easy online platform to blog, tweet, “like.” etc…. (Use social media during lunches and evenings, when people are checking out their pages.) Once a week for a post should be fine and always ask people to not only register but to  share as well. These people are close to you and your organization so asking is powerful.
  • Use local event directories and search engine optimization (keywords that talk about your event) Constant Contact can connect you to these within the Event Marketing Product we offer. The more avenues you have for registrants to funnel in from the better!

What are the key takeaways from this post?

Keep your registration simple and keep yourself in mind when creating it. Think of your registration like a suitcase for a weekend trip. Only “pack” what you need for that particular “trip” or in other words only ask registrants the information you really need!

Keep your save the date informative but short. Paired with a short and properly branded registration page you will create an easy experience for your registrants and make it easy for them to recommend or share your fundraising event with their networks.

Action step

Start organizing your follow-up emails and set reminders to send out your registrations and invitations over the next couple of months. This is the time for you to promote and advertise your event. If you work with direct mail campaigns start sending those out with a link to your online registration. The idea is to reach as many people as possible in as many ways as are available.

Constant Contact’s online event management tool helps you keep all your registrants in ONE place. And helps you easily promote your event as well.

Do you have any questions about promoting your event? Ask them in the comments below.

Read other posts in this series

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