Marketing Your Fundraising Event – 5 Creative Strategies

By John Haydon, Originally Posted Here.

Marketing your fundraising event is arguably one of the most important aspects of holding a fundraiser.

If you don’t promote your event, how will people know about it? And if no one knows about it, how will you receive donations?

Your focus must be on properly marketing your fundraising event to avoid empty seats and empty donation boxes.

Here are 5 marketing tips you can follow to promote your fundraising event:

  1. Secure sponsors
  2. Use merchandise to promote the event
  3. Pick your best features
  4. Focus on your cause
  5. Plan a fantastic follow-up strategy

Your plan to act will include measuring success through product sales, appropriate implementation of technology, and promotion of your cause. All the while, you’ll be building lifelong relationships with sponsors and supporters, creating the perfect strategy to guide you through your fundraising event.

Read on to create your marketing plan for your next event. And if you need some ideas before you start marketing, check out Double the Donation’s 61 Awesome Fundraising Ideas for inspiration.

1. Secure sponsors

Sponsors provide key funding and a great opportunity to attract a broader range of attendees.

Once you have your sponsors, you’ll want to take steps to make sure they have a good experience so they’ll partner with you in the future.

  • Be upfront about what their involvement will be. Is this a small time commitment or a large one?
  • Keep them in the loop where necessary. Your sponsors will most likely want updates on your progress, with details including the number of attendees your event expects to bring in.
  • Demonstrate your gratitude for each of your sponsors. Remember these are the people who are directly supporting you. Make sure they know you’re not taking them for granted.

Keep in mind, sponsors are a crucial component when it comes to the success of your event and nonprofit, so make sure they’re happy!

2. Use merchandise to promote the event

You can design and sell custom merchandise to create buzz for your event.

Product fundraising will kill 4 birds with one stone:

  • Raise brand awareness: Putting your logo and information on a t-shirt, water bottle, or draw-string bag will provide amazing advertising opportunities for your cause.
  • Demonstrate appreciation: Merchandise can serve as thank yous to donors!
  • Generate revenue: Selling merchandise will create more revenue, adding to your funding.
  • Advertise sponsors: Discuss with your sponsors where you’ll advertise their brand. Your most supportive sponsor should have the most advertising material. For example, their logo might be on all the signs, tents, and t-shirts whereas a lower-tier sponsor may have their logo on a water fountain.

Using merchandise is a quick and easy way to raise money and advertise your upcoming event all at once so plan to order some t-shirts!

3. Pick your best features

The interesting and attracting aspects of your fundraising idea are your best features. Be sure to focus your marketing around these points in order to attract the most attendees. But keep your cause in mind as well!

You can do all this by:

  • Write an event mission statement. You’ll want to assess what’s really important to your nonprofit and why you’re holding the event. Think about how this event is going to impact your cause. How will your event matter?
  • Marketing your big ticket item. Advertise the most exciting aspect of your event, whatever it may be. For example, if the event is a concert, advertise the most well-known band performing. Show off what will bring the most people to your event.
  • Give participants next steps to get involved. While the event approaches, you can suggest supporters join your email list, which can give them a countdown to the event and other updates to keep them interested in your nonprofit’s work. Find a way to get them involved in your nonprofit’s community.
  • Picking out your best features will draw more attendees to your event, giving both your nonprofit and your cause more exposure. This can lead to more donations and overall support, so it’s important to understand your intent and market your best-selling aspects to involve potential attendees.

4. Focus on your cause

If you focus your passion on your cause, you have the potential to attract others with similar passions, which can build lasting relationships.

Ways to display your cause and your accomplishments are as follows:

  • Slideshow: A slideshow is an easy way to show off your cause. Throw some pictures of your board from previous activities and project the slideshow onto a screen at your event.
  • Video: A step up from a slideshow, a video will be a little more engaging because it’ll require more attention at your event. You can display it similarly to a slideshow.
  • Guest speaker: Have an executive director or service recipient speak to your past support for the community and for your cause. Stay away from self-congratulatory speeches and focus on the impact in a heartfelt and genuine way.
  • Brochure: At your event, you can hand out a packet with information on your nonprofit, its history, and your cause. This way, your attendees can take the information home with them, too.

The idea behind your event is to raise awareness about your cause, so be sure to display your efforts so attendees know your organization’s mind and heart are in the right place. This will gain authority for your nonprofit as well.

5. Plan a fantastic follow-up strategy

Thank everyone within 3 days of your event. This includes attendees, donors, fundraisers, and anyone that contributed to your cause. Follow this advice on how to Make Your Donor Feel Like a Hero. You can send thank you emails or letters, or to be even more personal with a phone call.

Your donors will want to know how they’ve positively impacted your nonprofit. You can easily do this through your emailed newsletter. Let them know how much you raised and update them on your cause.

Your follow-up strategy is key for donor retention. You should look into sending out surveys to further gauge the results of your event. With the feedback from these surveys, you can learn what you should do to improve when planning your next event.

Now that you know how to perfectly market your next event through these 5 steps, it’s up to you to take action and hold a successful fundraiser.

About The Author

John Haydon is one of the most sought-after nonprofit digital marketing experts, with a sincere passion for changing the world. He has spoken at the Nonprofit Technology Conference, New England Federation of Human Societies, New Media Expo, BBCon, Social Media 4 Nonprofits, AFP New Jersey, and several others. John is also the author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies and Facebook Marketing All-In-One (Wiley) and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, Social Media Examiner, and Social Media Today.

5 Simple Steps to Build a Better Event

5 Simple Steps to Build a Better Event

By A.J. Steinberg

Sometimes bad events happen to good organizations. Yes, it’s true.  Even the best nonprofits sometimes miss the mark when it comes to creating successful fundraisers.

After an event flops, executive directors and board members scratch their heads trying to figure out how things got so off track. They wonder what steps could have been taken to better engage guests and raise those much-needed funds.

We can all empathize with these organizations. No one wants their event to have unsold tickets, lackluster stage programs or disappointed guests. We all want to raise money and build strong community bonds, especially after all the time and resources expended in the planning and execution of these events.

As a nonprofit event planner with 20 years of experience, I know the secret to successful events isn’t an overinflated budget, a ridiculously large silent auction or an overly-long stage program.

The secret to successful events is building it right!

By starting your event planning with these five simple steps, you will be laying a strong foundation that will grow into an event of which your organization can be proud.

5 Simple Steps to Building a Better Event

 1.  Define your event’s goals – This critical first step is often overlooked because organizations consider events simply a way to raise funds. Don’t sell your event short! There are five goals you should target for your event. They are:

  • To raise funds
  • To raise awareness
  • To promote a new program
  • A call to action
  • Community appreciation

Once you have identified your event’s goals, write them down! Let your entire team know what your objectives are for the event.

2.  Identify your target demographic – Who is going to come to your event? You need to figure out specific characteristics of your desired guests so that you can create an event that appeals directly to them. Here is what to consider:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Income
  • Personal Interests

3.  Choose a date and location that are convenient Unless your support base is scattered along a broad geographic swath, find a venue for your event that is convenient for your targeted guests. Also, choose a date for your event that doesn’t overlap with other community happenings that could compete for ticket sales. Check your online school, community and religious calendars to ensure you aren’t choosing a date that has obvious conflicts.

4.  Choose a realistic ticket price – Carefully consider what your supporters and target demographic can afford. Analyze what you are offering them – overcharging is a real turnoff for event goers.

My rule of thumb is that ticket sales should pay for the event’s hard costs such as food and beverage, venue fees, and rentals. If your target demographic can’t afford $250 per head, then consider a lower priced venue and event.

5.  Use an event committee Your event committee is a crucial component to ensure your event’s success. The committee not only helps you with the work associated with the planning, but they bring invaluable contacts and resources for your event. Each committee member has an army of friends, relatives and colleagues – all keen to be supportive in any way they can. Committee members round up auction donations, help solicit sponsorships and are key to boosting your ticket sales.

When you start your event out right by following these five steps, the ensuing planning process will be easier and have greater success. As I like to say, “If you build it, they will come. But, if you build it right, they will bring their friends!”

Learn more from A.J., register for her upcoming live webinar How to Plan a Super Successful Special Event – A Step by Step Guide

About the Author

A.J. Steinberg, founder of Queen Bee Fundraising, has been creating outstanding special events since 1999.

In 2015 A.J. created Queen Bee Fundraising which focuses on the art of nonprofit special event management.  Along with producing nonprofit events, A.J. teaches volunteers and professionals the strategies for producing successful fundraising events, along with guidance on how to successfully lead volunteer committees to achieve their goals.

A.J. works with a broad spectrum of nonprofit clients including The Jane Goodall Institute, Cystic Fibrosis, BreatheLA and Union Rescue Mission, A.J. is a leader in the field of committee-based fundraising.

4 Steps towards LOVING Special Events

By A.J. Steinberg

It’s hard to believe, but some nonprofit professionals don’t really love hosting special events.  In fact, lots of folks seem downright ambivalent, at best.

Does that sound like you?

No worries. You’re probably just suffering from event burnout – an ailment common among nonprofit organizations.
Event burnout isn’t your fault. The issue lies in everyone’s high expectations for special events coupled with dizzyingly tight budgets. You can see how a nonprofit professional could blow a gasket. The pressure is enormous.

Here’s the typical scene:

Your board wants you to produce an entertaining event so their friends can have fun. The CFO wants you to pull in stratospheric sums that will be the savior of next year’s budget. The ED needs an event to touch the guests’ hearts. To top it all off, you are expected to work with a committee of volunteers who have absolutely no training in either event planning or fundraising.

Just thinking about all that can give you hives!

Step away from the stress for a moment, put the unrealistic expectations aside, and consider the upsides of what you can accomplish with this event.

  • Energize your board by giving them a simple plan for soliciting donations and selling tickets. Watch them light up as they realize how many great assets they have at their fingertips. Most boards just need a little prompting and some easy-to-follow protocols.
  • Work with your CFO to create realistic monetary goals, figuring out ways to augment the event’s revenue stream. Let your committee brainstorm on connections they can bring to the table. It’s amazing the amount of auction donations, sponsorships and ticket sales they can drum up with a little help identifying their potential contacts.
  • Work closely with your ED to ensure she knows the event’s goals and understands your strategy for both revenue and guest engagement. Bring her to a committee meeting so she can strengthen relationships with your volunteers. Take time every couple of weeks to meet and discuss how the process is progressing, giving her confidence in your planning abilities.
  • Choose event committee members wisely, as they are the key ingredient in your recipe for success. These volunteers will bring in donations, help with sponsorships and sell a boatload of tickets. Competent committees will also take much of the event production workload off your shoulders.

 Truly, the best part of hosting an event is building and strengthening relationships.  

  • A well-run event brings pride to board members, and encourages future enthusiastic participation
  • Your organization’s staff feels satisfied by their experience working as a team
  • Your volunteers feel appreciated and excited to work with you on future events
  • Your guests have heightened awareness of your organization’s mission, and look forward to participating in more meaningful ways

And don’t forget, your event also made money. A well-organized event can make a delicious profit.

Special events can definitely be sweet. When else can you have the undivided attention of hundreds of good-hearted folks for your call to action? This isn’t an internet video, this is real life, baby! And real life is where meaningful relationships are born.

Sure, there will be hard work and some headaches during the planning process. But you didn’t become a nonprofit professional because it was easy. You chose this work because you could make a genuine difference in the lives of people and communities.

There’s no better pathway to achieving that goal than special events.

Now is the time to pull it together and face your next event with a positive “can do” attitude.  Join me in singing the praises of special events, because we both know their hard-earned, sweet success makes it all worthwhile.

Learn more about fundraising events with my upcoming webinars.

About the Author

A.J. Steinberg, founder of Queen Bee Fundraising, has been creating outstanding special events since 1999.

In 2015 A.J. created Queen Bee Fundraising which focuses on the art of nonprofit special event management.  Along with producing nonprofit events, A.J. teaches volunteers and professionals the strategies for producing successful fundraising events, along with guidance on how to successfully lead volunteer committees to achieve their goals.

A.J. works with a broad spectrum of nonprofit clients including The Jane Goodall Institute, Cystic Fibrosis, BreatheLA and Union Rescue Mission, A.J. is a leader in the field of committee-based fundraising.

How To Banish Empty Seat Syndrome

By A.J. Steinberg

Have you ever suffered the pain and embarrassment of empty-seat syndrome. You know…that horrible experience of staring at a half-full venue when your event hasn’t sold nearly as many tickets as expected.

There’s no reason for your event to languish from lackluster ticket sales. As a nonprofit event planner with over twenty-years of experience, I have found some simple ways to avoid this event malady.Here are the top five ways to get your guest list filled without making yourself crazy:

1. Choose A Realistic Ticket Price: Carefully consider what your supporters and target demographic can afford. Analyze what you are offering them – overcharging is a real turnoff for event goers.

General rule of thumb is that ticket prices should cover the hard costs – venue, food, beverage and rentals –  of producing your event.

2. Make Your Event Irresistible: No one is all that excited about attending the same old event year after year. To sell tickets you must freshen up your event and make it enticing to those who may be bored of the same-old program.

Consider adding a theme to your event and build expectations with a clever invitation. Come up with a tag line and logo that engages your supporters’ attention. This doesn’t cost extra money and does a lot to sell tickets.

Using creativity when creating an event goes a long way to generating interest and ticket sales, and won’t add an extra dime to your event budget!

3. Honor an Influencer: Whether they are wealthy donors or strong champions of your organization’s mission, saluting a person or corporation does much to sell tickets.

When honoring a corporation, you set the stage for that company to purchase tables and ad space in your tribute program. Corporations have earmarked funds for their upper level management to attend charitable events, and honoring their business ensures they will want the tables filled when they come onstage to accept their award. Similarly, honoring an influential individual brings their social circle into play when creating your invitation list.

 People are proud of their achievements and want to have friends, family and colleagues on hand to witness the tribute.

4. Use a Volunteer Event Committee to Plan Your Event: Using dedicated individuals with strong social circles to help with your event planning not only lightens your staff’s work load, but also extends the reach of your mailing list.

When people put time and effort into a project they have “skin in the game” and are far more likely to open their address books and share contacts for your invitation list. These volunteers also encourage their friends and family to attend their event just as they have supported events of those same folks in the past.

All the effort your committee puts into the event’s planning makes them determined for the event to be a success.

5. Use Social Media Effectively to Build Excitement: Don’t be afraid to delve into the world of social media when it comes to promoting your event. Facebook and Twitter will build excitement as you post updates for your auctions and stage program.

Online calendars and “What’s Happening” websites are excellent way of capturing the attention of those who are looking for something to do on the day of your event.

It is important to remember that most tickets are sold either immediately after receiving an event invitation, or two weeks prior to the actual event. Don’t panic if you have a sales slump between those time periods – continue to be enthusiastic and promote the heck out of your event. If folks don’t know about the event, they can’t buy tickets!

Learn more about fundraising events with my next webinar How to Sell Tickets and Fill Seats at your Fundraising Events – A Step by Step Guide

About the Author

A.J. Steinberg, founder of Queen Bee Fundraising, has been creating outstanding special events since 1999.

In 2015 A.J. created Queen Bee Fundraising which focuses on the art of nonprofit special event management.  Along with producing nonprofit events, A.J. teaches volunteers and professionals the strategies for producing successful fundraising events, along with guidance on how to successfully lead volunteer committees to achieve their goals.

A.J. works with a broad spectrum of nonprofit clients including The Jane Goodall Institute, Cystic Fibrosis, BreatheLA and Union Rescue Mission, A.J. is a leader in the field of committee-based fundraising.

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