Have you read our blog before? Then you already know you need to go surround sound with all your fundraising communications. So, of course, your event outreach is no different!
And if you’re new to our blog, welcome! 😊
If you work in nonprofit development, you know your messages need to reach donors in the right way and at the right time. And going surround sound means building a strategy that uses multiple channels to share a cohesive message with donors over time.
Are you hosting a fundraising event this year? Whether it’s a fancy gala, a more casual dinner, or a bowl-a-thon, you’ll need an effective communications strategy.
And of course, every nonprofit is unique and has different needs. So, every tip here may not apply.
In the meantime, here are some ideas that can help you go surround sound with each phase of your event outreach.
The first wave.
Let’s start by keeping things simple. Even if this is your first time working at a nonprofit, you can think about some of the messages you received ahead of a wedding, graduation party, or other high-profile event.
The first step will be the same! You need to send an initial Save the Date notice to all potential attendees. We recommend sending your Save the Date as an email. This will help save your budget for the invitation itself and other direct mail pieces.
Then, start going surround sound by following that email up with a more formal direct mail invitation. But don’t forget to connect the dots between these messages with effective event branding! It should be immediately clear that your email Save the Date and direct mail invitation are talking about the same event.
You should follow up your Save the Date email and direct mail invitation with another “heads up” email to round out the first phase of your event outreach. This is just a simple check-in to make sure potential attendees know they’re invited to your event.
This seems like a minor part of your event outreach. But it’s an important step that can have a real impact on event attendance. So don’t skip it!
The lead up.
You can’t go silent between your first wave of communications and the day of your event. It’s important to keep registrants and potential attendees in the loop as you get closer to the big day.
Use your data to segment your audience into two groups, those who are registered and potential attendees who have yet to RSVP. Then, personalize the next step of your event outreach for each group.
Registered attendees will receive an email to remind them about your upcoming event. Non-attendees should receive a last chance to register email. Send these messages about a week ahead of your event.
You should also reach out to registered attendees one more time the day before the event. Send them one more email letting them know that you’re excited to see them tomorrow. And share any last-minute details about the event itself they may need to know.
Don’t stop there!
Truly going surround sound is no easy task. But the organizations that go above and beyond to do so often see higher engagement and better results!
So, how else can you reach your audience with your event outreach?
Text messaging is rapidly becoming a preferred way for nonprofits to engage with their donors. And this can be especially powerful if you’ve already planned to use a text-to-give campaign at your event itself.
Consider sending that “heads up” email as a text message instead. This opens another channel for you to engage donors and reminds them to check their inboxes or mailboxes.
We all know someone with a thousand unread emails. And sending a text is a great way to get their attention and stand out.
Are you looking to reach new potential attendees or raise awareness for your event? Then you may look at adding social media to your surround sound strategy. Running a targeted social ad can help you reach new potential attendees in your area with interests similar to your nonprofit’s goals.
Even if you don’t secure many new attendees, you may get a few to sign up for your mailing list. And you will have raised some awareness for your cause and given your nonprofit some additional visibility!
READ MORE: How to rise above the noise.
After your event.
We probably don’t have to say this, but you can’t cut off contact once your event is over!
You will need to use your data to make your messages feel relevant. So, split your segment of registered attendees again. This time, make an audience for those who attended and a second for those who were registered but did not make it.
Send a thank you email to your attendees and let them know the impact your event, and those who attended, are having on your mission. Include figures about how much was raised, even if they are not finalized. And add photos from the event to bring everything together.
Then, let registered non-attendees know that you missed them! Tell them you understand that life can get in the way and you hope to see them next time. You can also share how the event is advancing your goals and invite them to engage with you in other ways.
Ready to go surround sound?
Campaigns that use direct mail and at least one digital communication have an average 118 percent higher response rate compared to those that use direct mail only, according to Nonprofits Source.
So, you’re going to need to use more than one channel for your event outreach to connect with donors, get them excited, and in the door!
But this is just scratching the surface of what goes into an effective event outreach strategy. There are many more things to consider, including how to build your event brand, how to engage with donors on the day of the event, and how to build an effective follow up that engages event attendees over time.