Marketing How Tos

The Essential Marketing Planning Guide for Your Nonprofit's Next Event

Photo of Jasmine LeBlanc Jasmine LeBlanc - April 3, 2018

While this may not be your first time planning an event for your organization, don’t forget to schedule out enough time to market your event for optimal attendance. Spreading the word about your event is necessary, and if you don’t then people are not very likely to come because they won’t know about it! To help you better plan your marketing tactics, we created a timeline and a list of tips that will help you create a buzz about your upcoming event.

Timeline

Plan your event out far enough in advance to where you will have at least 3-4 months to work on your event marketing strategy. This will allow you to have time to expand your reach as much as you can and complete everything in your marketing plan without becoming overwhelmed.

We highly recommend laying out your marketing efforts in a calendar to make sure you take care of every last detail. We’ll walk you through each month leading up to your event and discuss which marketing tactics to use and why.

Four Months Before the Event

While this is when you will be booking venues, speakers, and vendors, you can’t forget to start building up the hype for your event. Here are a few ways to get the word out:

  • Use Your Donor Persona to Build Your Marketing Strategy

When you created your donor persona, you included details of your target audience’s specific needs, habits, behaviors, concerns, and preferences. You will use these details to create a successful marketing strategy.

Consider the following factors when planning how to reach your persona:

  • How many times do we need to reach out to them before they convert?

If they’re super busy, then you may need to reach out 5-7 times in different ways before you convert them.

  • Are they detail-oriented?

If your target audience doesn’t respond well to vague details, you will need to provide detailed information about the event to convert them. An example would be to include an itinerary in an email.

  • What local brands do they already love and frequently use?

Knowing your donor persona’s likes and interests gives you insight on how you can partner with brands in your community to help draw attention to your event. You may even be able to score proceed donations from the local business!

  • Promote During or After Your Last Event

If your events are monthly or quarterly, go ahead and let your event attendees know details (date, location, time) about your upcoming event while they’re at your current one. Creating flyers or posters are helpful because they can visually remember it.

You can also promote your next event when you re-engage with your attendees through email, letter, or social media.

  • Send a Save the Date Email

You should send out save-the-date emails during this time to past event attendees and your current subscribers to inform them of your new event. The email should contain a description and a registration link if applicable.If your event doesn’t have a registration link at this point yet, create a signup page on your website where interested subscribers can submit their email addresses for more information. This will allow for more effective email marketing and remarketing advertising when registration is open.

  • Create Online and Social Advertisements

Be sure to set up any search engine or social ads plenty of time prior to your event. You want to be able to analyze your results so that you can see what’s working and tweak what’s not working.

  • Set Up a Facebook Event

Create an event page on Facebook under your organization’s name. You can add all the details about your event under this page such as description, pictures, videos, location, and a registration link. Your social media followers can mark if they are interested or if they are going.

Facebook notifies users who engage with an event page that they have an event coming up when the time gets closer to the event. Also, Facebook pushes notifications to anyone marked as interested or going whenever comments are added to the discussion feed on the event page.

Two to Three Months Before the Event

After your marketing efforts in the first month, you spread the word out about your event and maybe even got several registrations submitted. During the second and third month prior to your event, it’s time to get people who have heard about your event to fully commit. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Segment and Target Your Emails

You’ve already sent a mass, generic save-the-date email to your current subscribers in the first month. Now it’s time to tailor your emails in a way that attracts your reader’s interest. You do that by segmenting your subscribers into lists based on things they have in common.

There may be different reasons people want to come to your event, such as networking, entertainment, and donating. Find out what appeals to your audience and write compelling emails that give your readers a personalized reason to register!

  • Write Blogs About Topics Relevant to Your Event

It’s said that Bill Gates coined the phrase, “Content is king”, and who are we to disagree? Do not limit your marketing efforts to just advertisements, emails or flyers. Creating relevant blog posts around your event’s topic can give your audience insight into the reason why your organization is hosting the event in the first place.

For example, if you are a dog rescue hosting an adoption event, you can increase awareness and understanding by writing blog posts about adoption success stories or highlight the dogs who will be available at the event.

Just make sure your content is valuable to your audience. When your reader has this extra knowledge about your cause, then they will have a better understanding about your event.

  • Analyze the Results of Online and Social Advertisements

Now that your online ads for your event have had time to collect data, review it and make changes accordingly. Continue using the ads that performed well and tweak the ads that didn’t to optimize at regular intervals.

One Month Before the Event

In the month leading up to your event, you’ll need to give your marketing efforts one last push to make sure people who are interested in your event submit their registration.

  • Post reminders on social media

You should create posts on all of your social media accounts that urge your followers to sign up for your event. Remember that Facebook event you created in the first month? You can post multiple updates to the event page to build excitement leading up to the event. Users who are marked as interested or going will receive notifications. This can help drive more conversions.

Need an idea for what to post? Try repurposing some of your blog post content into videos. It’s a new way for your audience to digest your content, plus, it will be relevant to your upcoming event.

  • Send out final emails

You’ll send out a couple of types of final emails. First, send out event reminder emails to those who are currently registered. Provide them with specific event details such as an itinerary or parking instructions. Think of things they’d like to know ahead of time to make their event experience exceptional.

Another email to send is a last chance to register email to those who haven’t converted from your previous announcements. Create a separate list and send a message that creates a sense of urgency for the reader to submit their registration. Be sure to relate the event back to the reader and tell them why they need to come.

  • Remarket your ads to past website visitors

If you have a paid Google AdWords account, you can use display network ads to remarket to people who have shown interest in your event. This means that users who have visited your website, but didn’t register for your event will see your ad again. You can create new ads with more information and urgent wording to help convert them into event attendees.

4 Tips to Successfully Market Your Event

These tips are for you to use throughout your event marketing timeline whenever necessary. They will help you stay on track and entice your audience to register for your event!

1. Set Your Event’s Goal

This should be an internal event goal for your organization. Is it to raise a certain amount of funds? Or to have a certain amount of attendees? Whatever it is, make sure it is a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely). Make sure all of your event marketing efforts work toward meeting this goal.

2. Give People Good Reasons to Attend Your Event

While the reasons may seem obvious to you, the event planner, it may not be clear to your audience. Any time you create marketing content for your event, you need to write out exactly why your target audience should attend. If it’s to raise money for your cause, let them know specifically how their attendance will benefit your cause. Also, advertise any perks they may receive by attending. If you did partner with local brands for your event, be sure to let your audience know to amplify their interest.

3. Create a Catchy Hashtag for Social Media

Your hashtag should be short, include your event name or organization name, and be easy to remember. Do a quick search on your social media channels to make sure that the hashtag you want to use doesn’t have other posts under it. Any time you create social posts about the event use your hashtag.

During the event, inform your attendees to share photos on social media using that hashtag. This is a great move because if your attendees share their experience from the event with their followers, you are increasing awareness about your organization! You can also re-engage with your event attendees afterwards through social media by liking and commenting on their photos on social media that are using the hashtags.

Note: Hashtags are more effective and popular on Instagram and Twitter than on Facebook.

4. Provide an Early Bird Registration Incentive

If your event requires a ticket purchase, incentivize your target audience to register for your event quickly by offering an “early bird” discount. Inform them that there is a deadline on this deal and that afterwards the tickets will be regular price.

If your event doesn’t require a ticket purchase or it’s not in your budget to lower ticket prices, you can come up with other creative incentives. An example would be that the first 50 ticket purchases will receive a free prize. You can ask your sponsors to donate cool prizes for this tactic. Either way, you are creating a buzz about your event and will encourage people to sign up for your event promptly!


By incorporating these tips and using an event marketing timeline you will improve your event promotion to your target audience. Use the event marketing timeline as a guide to help keep you on track and adjust it as necessary to make it work for you.

If you work for a nonprofit and want to increase attendance at your next event, click below to download our free eBook that will guide you through event marketing best practices to throw your best event yet!