How to get donors & supporters pumped about your nonprofit event

Whether you’re planning a fundraiser or a donor recognition dinner, nonprofit event planning must go beyond raising money. The best nonprofit events also emotionally charge the audience.

Name the focus.

Perhaps you’re looking to raise $100,000 via ticket sales and sponsorships, or you want to increase awareness for a certain project. Identifying the focus of the event in terms of goals-setting will help drive all the setup and promotional steps you need to take.

Frame the event.

Three-quarters of adults ages 18-34 believe that attending a live event is more impactful than taking action online.

Many young people believe in the importance of social change and want to engage with causes they believe in. By creating events that draw that audience in emotionally, you’re boosting the likelihood that they will buy tickets, invite friends, and share the event online.

Even regular donors and supporters get fatigued seeing the same workshops and dinners year after year. Get creative!

  • Community-based nonprofits might use Actionbound to create an interactive neighborhood scavenger hunt.
  • Animal rescue groups could host a dog wash party. Think how Instagrammable that would be!
  • For food-related charities, hold a foodie event: cooking classes or demos, wine and beer tastings, with a lively group dinner.
  • Literacy organizations might put on a used book drive or a used book sale, where people donate books to benefit the cause.

Animal rescue nonprofit

Set the price.

Setting a ticket price of $100 won’t work if your attendees don’t think the experience sounds worthwhile. But you need to cover your costs. Check out the quiz from Eventbrite to see if you’re pricing your events in a way that will ensure you’re meeting your financial goals.

Lay the groundwork.

Communications Strategy

An event promotion strategy has many arms: PR, email marketing, word-of-mouth, social media, donor outreach, and the like. And it’s tempting to dive in and start creating content.

Don’t do it.

This event is not being created in isolation from your overall nonprofit communications strategy. In fact, by tracking and measuring the specifics along the way, you’ll have data to study down the line when it’s time to plan the next event or fundraiser.

You’ll avoid making the same mistakes while boosting overall attendance next time around.

So before you get started, lay out a plan for how you’ll get it done. (Get all the info you need in our “Nonprofit communications strategy guide.”)

Choose the tools.

How will you collect donations, ticket sales, and contact information? This critical piece is often overlooked as, again, people jump to PR and marketing.

The easiest way to organize this process is to build a landing page on your website to direct all related traffic. That landing page should then integrate with and/or include links to the CRM form (e.g., Salesforce) or ticket-selling platform (e.g., Eventbrite) that you’re using.

While you want to keep the landing page singularly focused on the event itself, if you have other upcoming events, fundraisers, or workshops on your calendar, including them near the bottom can help with cross-promotion.

This is prime real estate. Be sure to maximize it.

Get the word out.

You now have a solid foundation and a roadmap to follow to build a content calendar and PR strategy.

How can you get attendees and supporters pumped if you’re not? And yet, a lot of nonprofit event marketing sounds dry and dull. Promotion should always include a link to the landing page and should be brief and high-energy. Get the audience pumped about what you’re doing—not just to help you meet your goals. Stress that they will have a memorable experience. 

Share it out as:

  • social media posts with a special event hashtag
  • via Facebook event and local Facebook groups
  • Instagram action button
  • press release and local outreach/invitations to bloggers, vloggers, and reporters
  • email marketing
  • mobile messaging
  • banner/call-out on homepage of website and other common areas (sidebar, footer, popup)

Get excited!

Everyone on the event planning team—from managers to volunteers—needs to be on-board with the high-energy message. Yes, we know it’s exhausting putting together a nonprofit event, but your smiling faces will go a long way to keeping the momentum going.

Be sure to engage with volunteers all along the way with pep talks. Encourage fun social media posts, like photos of the chaos of event planning and “We’re pumped!” memes on the day. (Maybe even “We’re exhausted—but thank you!” photos the day after.)

Don’t forget to send out a thank-you email to all who signed up via your landing page, with highly emotive shots from social media accounts of those who used the hashtag.

This user-generated content will build community and show the love back to those who support you.

Organized planning and creativity are the most direct conduits to ensuring increased attendance and ticket sales, as well as overall and ongoing nonprofit event success.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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