For nonprofit organizations, in-person fundraising events are still one of the most fruitful tactics for bringing in donations. Income from ticket sales and registration fees are just the beginning; once supporters are gathered together for a cause, you have ideal opportunities to gain additional donations through on-site auctions, raffles, contests, and other activities. But first you must bring people in the door.
If you’ve ever felt like driving attendance to your fundraisers is an uphill battle, you’re not alone. In a 2016 survey of event planners by TicketPrinting.com, the No. 1 answer to the question “What are your top event-related challenges?” was promotion and outreach.
The good news is that, with a little creativity and advance preparation, you can generate tremendous buzz around your event and meet — or even exceed — your attendance goals. The even better news is that some of the most effective promotion strategies will cost you little or nothing at all.
To help you get started, we put together a list of 10 low- or no-cost tips for making your next fundraiser a rousing success.
- Choose your event and your date wisely. Select a type of event that has worked well in the past or that is likely to appeal to your supporter base, such as
- Formal gala
- Luncheon or dinner featuring a celebrity guest speaker
- Golf tournament
- 5K fun run or walk
- Casino night
- Send a press release to local media sources about the event and let them know that your executive director is available for interviews.
- Post regularly about your event on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks, and create a custom hashtag to get a conversation started among your supporters.
- Launch a creative email campaign to drive attendance among your organization’s current supporters, especially those who have attended fundraisers in the past.
- Send out silicone wristbands to all who register in advance, and encourage them to share selfies on Facebook and Instagram showing off their wristbands.
- Share photos or videos of behind-the-scenes preparations for the event; for example, shoot a Facebook Live video of your team unboxing the polo shirts for your golf tournament.
- Set up a booth at a local community event or trade show related to your cause and give away branded “goodie bags,” filled with SWAG each containing a promotional pen, a lollipop or pack of mints, a silicone wristband, and a postcard with details about the event.
- Host a pre-event “press day” to build buzz among local media, and remember to invite bloggers who cover local happenings.
- Reach out to partner organizations or groups who support complementary causes and ask them to promote your event among their communities.
- During the event, encourage attendees to post about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Their posts may reach supporters who could not attend the event but still wish to donate.