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NonProfit Event Marketing: Tips and Strategies

Successful nonprofit event marketing pros are geniuses at getting major results on a minor budget. They know how to harness the power of social media before, after and during an event to increase their event's online visibility to get more attendees and sponsors and to increase public awareness about their cause.

Many nonprofit event marketing strategies are similar to those used by for-profit events - content plans, social media schedules, influencers, email marketing, etc - but nonprofit organizations know how to find their supporters online and channel them to create buzz and action to support their cause.

7 Essential Must-Dos For NonProfit Event Marketers

1. Apply For a Google Grant
Google for Nonprofits offers free or discounted programs and grants to nonprofit organizations that meet their criteria, and offers tips and case studies for nonprofits to meet their goals using Google products. Google programs support nonprofit activities including:

  • Google Grants: access to $10,000 FREE in-kind advertising per month in Google AdWords along with many other benefits.
  • Google Earth and Maps: Help people locate community programs and resources closest to them and develop compelling data visualizations to track and share your organization’s impact. 
  • YouTube Nonprofit Program: Access exclusive resources, features and programs designed to maximize your organization's impact on YouTube.
  • Google Donation Tools: Share your story and fundraising efforts in more places online and connect with new supporters.

Free google ads? Yes please!

2. Use Facebook Events
Create a Facebook Event to promote your nonprofit's event. You can keep track of who has RSVP'd or said they are Interested. Supporters who sign up as Going or Interested to attend will receive reminders and can spread the word and invite their Facebook contacts. Facebook notifies people of local events coming up in their area.

  • Your Event Page can link to other pages with more information, to buy tickets or your cause's website.
  • After you create your Event, you can update the post, share it on different pages or social media channels, or promote it on Facebook as a paid ad.

3. Submit to Free Local Community Calendars
Local papers, magazine and online calendars want to promote local events. Submitting events to many of them is totally free. Take the time to research your local community calendars, submit them according to their guidelines and deadlines and get your event included in as many as possible.

4. Connect With Local, County and State Culture Councils & Visitor Bureaus
Your local visitor or culture bureau is an expert resource on what's happening in your community, and how to spread the word. They offer good rates for nonprofits and want to help promote cool events and cultural organizations that promote the community.

They have a huge reach and lots of great resources for nonprofit event marketers, as well as education sessions and grants you can take advantage of.

5. Choose a Catchy But Memorable Name
Your event name sets the tone. Pick a cute and clever name for your event - but not so clever people don't understand it or so unique they can't remember it! Use a title that is catchy but clear - and sometimes blunt is better!

The Delray Beach Arts Garage rebranded some of their popular events so the public could more easily understand what the event was about and now they get much higher attendance:

  • VIBE --> Jam Session
  • SHINE - -> Open Mic Night
  • ONYX --> 3rd Thursday: Art Meet Music

6. Have an Online Marketing Budget and Know Your Target Audience
Budget a little money to target the right people on social media. Yes, social media is free to use and post. But social media is very crowded, and everyone is trying to get eyeballs on their event. A small budget can go a long way on Facebook and Instagram ads - as little as $1/day can make sure your posts are seen by your target audience.

Creating client personas that break down the qualities of your target audience into clearly defined demographics. Client personas help you create content to target that specific persona, rather than a more generalized audience. Both Facebook and Instagram let you choose specific demographics when you boost a post or create an ad.

Learn more here: How to Create Client Personas for Your Target Audience

7. Get Your Fans Social
If you run events frequently or have recurring events be sure people know your social media handles and make it easy and fun for them to share your events with their friends. It’s free advertising for your nonprofit and gives your event a boost using the power of social proof.

  • Create a branded event #hashtag
  • Put a card at each seat or have event signage social media handles and #hashtags, encouraging attendees to GET SOCIAL WITH US!
  • Provide photo opportunities that people can share, such as photobooths, step and repeat backdrops, or WOW moments.

A creative but flexible plan and knowing all the resources available in your community will help your nonprofit event succeed. Never put all your marketing eggs in one basket, or rely on last year's success: your marketing strategy needs a diverse approach that takes advantage of free - or nearly free - tools that help bring attention to your cause while creating an event that your supporters want to attend.

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