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Lisa Habersack
by Lisa Habersack

How to Promote Your Nonprofit Events for (Nearly) Free

Your nonprofit invests weeks, sometimes even months, of
staff time, energy, and financial resources in hosting your events. Whether
your event is primarily for fundraising, increasing the visibility of your work
in the community, serving your beneficiaries, or all of the above, the last
thing you want is empty chairs at tables and unmet attendance targets.

The best events can fail because nonprofits weren’t
strategic about promoting them. Don’t let this happen to you! Learn no-cost and
low-cost ways to promote your next gala, fun run, art show, or other important nonprofit
event below.

Must-have information to promote your event:

Show your audience the vibe they can expect by giving your event a
memorable title. Whether formal or fun, the title of your event will set your tone
from the start.

Help potential guests understand why the event is taking place—are
you trying to raise the last few thousand dollars to get you to the top of an
important goal? Are you simply celebrating a significant accomplishment? Having
a clear purpose gives participants a sense of urgency in attending.

Is the event free? Do guests need to buy tickets
in advance? Make sure that the specifics are clear so there are no

Why should guests attend? Sure, they know they’re helping a great
cause, but you’ll need to sweeten the deal with benefits like live music, guest
appearances, or sponsored giveaways. Even the chance to hear from individuals
supported by your organization can draw participants in if they’ve donated in
the past.

This one sounds simple, but it’s surprising how many event
promotions leave the date and time mixed in with other information and
difficult to spot.

Consider using these free and nearly free strategies for event marketing:

1. Social Media:

Whether your event is for 50 people for 500,

is a great place to start your promotion. By marketing your event on
social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you meet your audience
where they are already spending time each day.

around your event by posting a short (30 seconds or
less) video that gets people interested. Depending on the tone of your event,
it could be fun, serious, or somewhere in between. Ask a question that will be
answered at your event. The idea behind the video is that if it’s well-done,
your followers will be more likely to share it, expanding the reach of the post
to their friends and networks.

in order to reach more people.
You’ll want to target your ad to relevant local areas, demographics, and
interest areas to increase its likelihood of resulting in real registrations
for your event.

where you can offer key details like when/where
and allow guests to create a reminder on their calendars as the event date
nears. They can also invite their friends!

2. Local media partnerships:

With all the focus on social media these
days, it’s easy to forget about more traditional forms of advertising for
nonprofits. Local media can include:

- Regional newspapers

- City/state magazines

- Local news and radio stations

- Online community blotters like Patch.com

Promoting your event in local media
doesn’t have to come from paid advertisements. Consider these key ways to
leverage local media for free:

who are always
looking for contacts for their next story. Reach out and introduce yourself and
your organization. Be sure to follow up and invite the writer to your event,
but remember—there must be a compelling angle other than fundraising. Be

• Submit
your event
to the community section of your local newspaper

for free advertising through sponsorship of
your event. Smaller radio stations with listening audiences who are interested
in the work that you do may be most interested in this type of partnership. Be
sure not to invite a station with any questionable content as every partner you
have reflects on your legitimacy and credibility in the field.

3. Word of

In the world of sales, it’s common knowledge that your existing customers
are the most likely group to buy from you again. Similarly, for nonprofits,
your existing supporters are most likely to be your best advocates. They know
who you are, believe in your work, and feel allegiance to you since they have
already donated in the past. Here are a few ways to leverage them through word
of mouth:

Ask volunteers, high-dollar sponsors, or other key groups to
sell a certain number of tickets or bring a certain number of guests to your
next event. Not only will they be willing to help out (a prize to those who
achieve the challenge wouldn’t hurt), but people who are unfamiliar with your
work are much more likely to attend your event at the invite of a friend rather
than a ‘cold invite’ online.

Do any fans of your work have fans of their own? They don’t
have to be celebrities to be influencers. Maybe your colleague’s college-age
son or daughter has thousands of Instagram followers, or perhaps a teacher who
often volunteers in your workshops runs a popular education blog. If you don’t
already know a local influencer, reach out to an individual who you think would
care about your work.

- Athletes from local sports teams

- Bloggers who write about issues relevant to your

- Executives from your organization with a strong
digital presence

- People from your community with interesting
stories or a recent ‘claim to fame’

By inviting influencers to attend, you gain built-in advertisers and
champions of your event and organization. If the influencers is unfamiliar with
your organization, consider paying for their event participation with an
agreement of online promotion and event coverage in return.

4. Google

. Did you know that you can use
Google Grants to market your next nonprofit event? Be sure to keep these tips
in mind:

Remember, no one is likely searching
for “fundraising events,” but they might be searching for “youth art
workshops.” Think through which relevant thematic keywords you can use to get
potential guests interested.

Google Grants enables you to target the audience
who will see your ad when they search for appropriate keywords. Don’t forget to
segment your ad appropriately in order to get the best results.

Rather than increasing general interest in your
organization, you want people to register and attend your event. This means
you’ll need to be more thoughtful in creating a compelling landing page that
makes your event sound so important and exciting that the viewer can’t say no.
Be sure to make the ‘register’ button large and visible at all times.

Side note: Ever heard of Google's nonprofit program?

Did you know Google provides nonprofits with $10,000 per month in free advertising credit? This program is known as Google Grants and it's available to almost every 501c3 nonprofit organization. Learn how we can help you get the most out of the Google Grant program. Click below to get started!
There's a smarter way to do Google Grants.

Lisa Habersack

Lisa Habersack
Lisa is an award-winning social impact storyteller with 10 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector. She helps nonprofits—ranging from start-ups to international development agencies—tell stories that inspire, engage, and connect. Learn more at www.lisahabersack.com.

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