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How will you draw a crowd to your next gala, silent auction, golf tournament, or walk-a-thon?

No matter what kind of event your nonprofit is hosting, one of the biggest challenges event planners face is simply getting people to attend the event. In order to meet your fundraising goals, you probably have a certain number of people you need at your event.

As you market your event, use all of your communication channels to reach your audience. Your promotion strategy may include text messaging, social media, or even calling people on the phone. There are new nonprofit marketing trends all the time, but don’t miss out on good old-fashioned email. When you use it right, it can be a powerful and personal channel.

What Makes Email A Good Promotion Tool For Nonprofits?

While brands and companies of all sorts use email, it’s particularly useful for nonprofits, boasting some of the highest open and click-through rates across sectors. Email is cost-effective to send and simple to segment and personalize. This allows you to create targeted, relevant communications to connect with supporters. 

Marketers have done their research and the results on email are in:

If your previous email strategy for events has been “Send a couple emails, see who responds” you may not have found it to be very effective. An effective email campaign requires understanding your marketing landscape and supporter base. Use these five tips to get more from your email promotions and bring more supporters to your next event.

1. Build Anticipation

Your event’s success begins long before the day of the event. In addition to planning the actual event, you’ll need to plan your promotion schedule. Email can be a valuable tool for building anticipation. When planning your email promotion strategy, consider:

  • When you will announce the event.
  • When you will open registration or begin selling tickets.
  • How you want to release information over time.

You could send one email to announce the event, open registration, and give all the event details, and then send a series of follow-up emails reiterating the key points. But in order to build anticipation, and get in more touchpoints in a natural way, think about rolling out information in stages. This schedule could look like:

  1. A save the date email to soft launch the promotion.
  2. An official invitation when registration is open and tickets are on sale.
  3. A series of follow-up emails that reveal more details about the event, like entertainers, speakers, auction prizes, or things that will happen at the event.
  4. A series of reminders as the event gets closer.

This kind of marketing helps your audience by giving them things to be excited about and reminding them the event is approaching. It starts a journey, instead of simply promoting the event.

2. Personalize Each Email

We live in an age of hyper-personalized content. The emails your supporters get from brands they like and companies they interact with are honed in on their specific interests. In this context, generic messages from nonprofits feel inauthentic and cold.

Start by addressing your supporters by name. Use merge tags to insert their names into greetings and subject lines of your emails. But don’t stop there! Segmentation is key for creating a personalized experience for many people at once. Segment your email list by your supporters’ interests, involvement, and intentions with your organization. Then, you can craft your emails to appeal to them directly.

For example, you might be inviting volunteers, monthly donors, and pet adopters to your animal shelter’s annual gala. One email will not speak directly to all of these audiences. Segmenting them by their involvement allows you to talk to volunteers about their unique role at your organization, thank monthly donors for their loyalty, and introduce the pet adopters to a new way to connect with you.

No audience should have to figure out why your event is relevant to them. With successful segmentation, you’ll already have shown them why through your targeted and specific communications.

3. Clear CTA

Have you ever been frustrated to see many people open or click an event email, but then nobody actually signed up? A clear call to action (CTA) can help avoid this situation and drive a higher response rate. Make it very easy for supporters to do what you want them to by spelling it out. You may think what you want is obvious, but err on the side of being too clear.

Simple, clear CTAs include:

  • Register now!
  • Get your ticket!
  • Yes, I’m attending!
  • Save my spot!
  • RSVP today!

Feature your CTA prominently, and only ask your audience to do one thing in one email.

4. Segment Based on RSVPs

If your clear CTA is doing its job, people will respond to your email and take action. What happens next? Continuing to get emails encouraging you to buy tickets to an event when you already did compromises all that initial personalization you did at the beginning.

Instead, let your marketing automation software be your friend, and create new segments once people have RSVP’d. This lets you continue to be relevant and personal, creating separate tracks for people who are coming and people who aren’t.

You can keep building anticipation and excitement with attendees, and quit bugging people who already told you they aren’t coming. Consider adding a dedicated fundraising ask for the people who can’t attend. They may still want to support you!

5. Thanks-Yous and Follow-Up

The emails don’t end on the day of the event, they should also be part of your gratitude and follow-up strategy. Keep the momentum of your event rolling by sending a thank-you email to all who attended and reporting on the results of the event.

The follow-up email serves several purposes:

    • It celebrates your wins and your community’s generosity!
    • It closes the loop on the event, showing supporters the impact they had.
    • It prolongs the good feelings of attending the event.
    • It guides donors to the next step in their journey of connection with your nonprofit.

Overall, a good follow-up email helps build community spirit by showing each attendee that they’re an ongoing part of something important.

Let the Crowd Follow You

When you send personalized, segmented, relevant emails, you can build excitement for your event and deepen your relationship with your supporters as well as draw more people to your event and reach your fundraising goals. When you’re planning your next event, put email promotion at the top of your to-do list!

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