In fact, nonprofit organizations can use events for a host of reasons, ranging from a primary source of revenue, such as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2019 and providing millions to support the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation mission, to a key focal point of your communication efforts, to a simple relationship builder.
Whatever the goal of the event, always think about events as a way of bringing your organization, mission, and brand to life in three-dimensions.
When viewed this way, several crucial ingredients need to be part of your marketing strategy, either overall or based on timing relative to the event. Let’s dig in.
What Every Event Needs
Compelling event. Obviously your event needs to be compelling and, frankly, awesome. If it’s not, go back to the drawing board and raise the bar. How will you stand out among your competition, which these days includes the trendy restaurant in town and the entirety of the Internet?
Brand and graphic identity. It’s natural to want to start selling tickets or, if there is no charge, inviting guests, but before you dive in, think branding. An unknown event poses a risk for audience members and sponsors. People’s time and sponsors’ dollars are valuable, and neither wants to waste these resources on dicey events.
Organizations that invest in a graphic identity and a compelling brand positioning make it easier for guests and sponsors to say, “yes.” You mitigate risk, at least on a perceptual level.
Eventgoer journey. What kind of experience do you want your attendees to have? And what do you need to do, say, and show throughout the eventgoer’s journey to create that effect?
What To Do Before the Event
Ignite influencers. Build the buzz among the influencers in your community so they help drive traffic to you.
Build social proof. Show us the people who attend the event. Photos tell a story that you cannot. Engage audiences on social media in a natural and organic way so people can connect before and after the event.
Focus on value. In the course of sharing the key details (place, date, time, cost, what will happen etc.) about your event, communicate what’s in it for the attendee, not what’s in it for you.
Build an audience. Implement a plan to encourage the influencers in your audience to attract their friends and colleagues. Having table captains at a gala, for example, who know exactly the right people to invite, can help quickly build a great audience for your event.
What To Do After the Event
Marketing your event and organization is where the really sophisticated marketers rise to the top. Too often, organizations run through the finish line from producing the event and then fall into a heap. Pace yourself with one more effort (which can be automated).
Rinse, lather, and repeat. What is important to do before the event is just as important afterwards. Engage influencers to let them know how things went, how many people attended, how much money was raised, and send photos so readers/viewers can ogle the fashion statements made.
Personalize. After the event is the perfect time for personal outreach. Everyone there raised his/her hand and expressed interest in your mission. Go meet them, talk to them, find out if they had fun, learn more about them, and figure out together how to further engage them.
Nonprofit events are lots of work and a great demand on your staff members’ time and energy. All of that goes to waste if you don’t leverage everything you have so that your events become important assets for your organization.