One of the hardest parts to kicking off an incredible event is making sure your supporters want to get involved. You could have some truly incredible ideas for fundraising or activities, but if your supporters are not diving in, you may have additional opportunities for improvement in your engagement strategy.
Your goal should be for your events to deeply resonate with your attendees. If they don’t, then your overarching goal (whether it be stewardship or fundraising) was ineffective.
Luckily, we have 4 tried-and-true strategies to help get your supporters involved, engaged, and ready for your next event!
While planning your next event, be sure to include the following engagement strategies:
- Provide easy online event registration.
- Engage with supporters on social media.
- Offer event swag as souvenirs.
- Market your volunteer program.
Event involvement helps your organization to grow. Not only will it keep your current supporters coming back, but it can encourage new ones to get involved. Make sure you’re prepared to watch your organization evolve and grow into something even bigger and better.
The first step? Make sure you have software that will support your growth and grow with you. Event fundraising software is one great example. Once your event kicks off, you’ll need a great way to fundraise for it. But before we get too swept away in the introduction, let’s dive into our first effective engagement strategy!
1. Provide easy online event registration.
Many nonprofits find that the registration process itself is one of the most difficult engagement steps for them to fulfill. Simply obtaining the optimum number of registrants is challenging for most events.
Supporters may hear about the event, but decide not to sign up for it for one reason or another. It may be a financial reason, a personal preference, etc. It’s your job to combat these factors that led them to the decision.
The first step to combat this primary roadblock to involvement is to identify the reasons supporters don’t register. Make a list of these reasons; your list may look something like this:
- The event isn’t interesting to them.
- The event costs too much money.
- The registration process is difficult or untrustworthy.
Then, come up with ways to combat each of these hindering factors. For instance:
- The description of your event should never bore someone. Be sure to emphasize supporter and donor stewardship opportunities that will be offered at the event with descriptive language. Be sure your reader knows about the fun activities available for their entertainment.
- If the event is too expensive for some of your supporters, look into scholarship programs you might be able to offer. Or, you could set up a fundraising campaign leading up to the event to lower the cost. Try setting up a crowdfunding or peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to spread the word of the event while fundraising.
- If you want to make the registration process easier, make sure your event registration application is quick and easy. Don’t include unnecessary questions or too many fill-in-the-blanks. Be sure it’s customized to match the brand of your organization so that supporters are more inclined to trust it too.
Online registration applications provide you the contact information for your supporters to also store in your CRM for future use. Therefore, your attendees become contacts for future event marketing, increasing their chances of becoming a recurring attendee!
2. Engage with supporters on social media.
Social media is a powerful tool that is often underutilized in event planning. Sure, your organization may have a social media account, but how often to you actively use it?
Keeping an updated social media presence is the first key to unlocking this incredible resource. Instead of simply having an account, remember to regularly post updates about your organization and your overall mission. Create a regular reminder to post on each platform, or even better, set up automated updates for your social media accounts so you don’t have to think about it as much.
You need to first build up a presence on social media so that your supporters are used to seeing content there. Then, they will know to also look on these platforms for updates about your organization and your events.
Becoming more involved with your social media pages will lead your supporters to feeling more connected to your organization and anxious to get more involved with the other engagement opportunities you host.
Be sure that for at least a month leading up to your next event, your social media posts more frequently market the event and the activities associated with it.
Try different marketing strategies for your event such as:
- Make a Facebook event page to keep people updated about the event.
- Post sneak peaks about event activities on Twitter.
- Feature last year’s pictures on Instagram.
Even once you’ve promoted your event with different marketing strategies, your job isn’t done! You can still engage people during your event using various social media techniques.
Get people involved at your event from their phones by encouraging social media contests, live-stream videos, and the use of Snapchat filters. People can show their network of followers just how much fun they’re having!
For more social media tips and tricks for your nonprofit, check out Salsa’s top nonprofit social media tools for guidance.
3. Offer event swag as souvenirs.
Event swag is a great way to encourage people to keep a lasting souvenir from your event. They can hold onto that event t-shirt, water bottle, or keychain for a long time to come; and every time they look at it, they’ll think of the incredible event your organization hosted.
You can use swag in two ways to get your supporters involved in your event:
- Use swag to get supporters excited to attend the event.
- Use swag as a selling point at the event itself.
Secret option #3: Do both!
Get your supporters excited and involved before your event even starts. We recommend starting with a classic: T-shirts. Start by creating a t-shirt order form for online purchases. Then start marketing them early on your website, social media, and event page.
Offer the pre-purchased t-shirts and other swag items at a discounted rate in comparison to their event-day prices. This way, buyers will recognize that they are actually saving money by buying them early.
People who get engaged and purchase the swag items early on feel a connection to the event and are therefore more likely to attend. Plus, the swag gets them excited to see what else you have to offer in the form of activities at the event!
During the event, offer that people can buy the swag as memorabilia for the amazing time they had at the event. They will associate that item with these amazing memories. Swag also makes a great prize for winners of competitive event games, raffles, silent auctions, etc.
4. Market your volunteer program.
Supporters love helping organization they care about in any way they can. For many, that will mean attending amazing events. However, for others, this may mean they want to work those events to create a great time for others.
Volunteer stewardship is a great way to encourage volunteers to get involved with your next event. When you create a great experience for your volunteers, you’ll be sure to keep them coming back year after year.
Start your stewardship of volunteers by rewarding those who come out to help. Try offering your volunteers an event t-shirt or a free water bottle to use while their working. These swag items have practical uses too! Volunteers are more recognizable with matching t-shirts and can stay hydrated at outdoor events with the water bottle.
Offer free admission or a special opportunity for volunteers. For instance, you may reward volunteers at a 5K event with a waived registration for the next race. Or you may have special volunteer VIP passes for those who give their time to set up a battle of the bands concert. This encourages people to come out and help while ensuring they are rewarded with a good time.
Another option is to recognize different volunteers for each event you host. Gather profiles for each of your volunteers and choose a different one to feature on social media and your website each month. This “volunteer of the month” program will keep people excited to stay involved for a long time.
These are just a few of the many ways to get volunteers more involved in your event and in your organization as a whole. For more ideas on managing volunteers, check out Double the Donation’s guide on the matter.
Not only are your organization’s events a great way to raise money for your incredible mission, but they’re also a total blast to attend! Get your supporters involved and show them how much fun they can have with your organization.
Now that you’ve read through our strategies, get planning! And be ready to see your attendance, engagement, and fundraising efforts skyrocket at your next event.
Article by Gerard Tonti. Gerard Tonti is the Senior Creative Developer at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. Gerard’s marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.