Auctions are engaging fundraisers that have the potential to earn your nonprofit a high return on your investment. However, they are also known for being complicated events to plan, due to several moving parts from procuring items to setting up a bidding system. With all the hard work required to plan an auction, your nonprofit’s digital marketing strategy should drive the attendance your event deserves.
Digital marketing is multi-faceted, including factors such as your brand, audience engagement, and platforms of choice. As nonprofits become increasingly media-savvy, standing out from the crowd has only become more difficult. To stay competitive, nonprofit marketing professionals will need to regularly reassess their strategies, ongoing trends, and how their current goals can be achieved in a continually shifting online climate.
To help your nonprofit develop a digital strategy for your upcoming auction, this article will explore four strategies:
- Create a dedicated event page.
- Research and leverage social media platforms.
- Personalize direct communication.
- Integrate your software.
These strategies focus on how your nonprofit can leverage various pre-existing digital platforms and tools to better position your organization online. Let’s get started.
Create a dedicated event page.
To learn more about your auction, one of the first places potential attendees will check is your website. Ensure that upon arriving at your homepage, visitors are able to quickly find details about your auction, including its date and time, location, and how to sign up.
In addition to this essential information, create a dedicated event page to improve guests’ experience by featuring other auction relevant details. This can include rules for participating in the auction (such as how to bid, if bids can be retracted, etc.), an auction catalog or previews of specific items if you don’t wish to make everything public ahead of time, and information for how to sponsor the auction for interested business partners.
To help interested parties find your event page, ensure that your website navigation is as straightforward as possible. Given the importance of your auction, you may choose to adjust your website’s navigation and calls to action in the lead-up to your auction to drive more traffic to the event page. This might include adding or changing a call-to-action to link to the event page, rather than subscribing to a newsletter or signing up to volunteer.
You can also generate more traffic to your page by leveraging search engine optimization best practices. You can improve the chances that your event page will appear on the first page of search results for relevant keywords by first brainstorming what keywords supporters are likely to search for, and then adding those keywords strategically to your event page. However, be sure to avoid keyword stuffing, as using keywords unnaturally can result in penalties from search engines.
Research and leverage social media platforms.
Social media marketing has become a core part of many nonprofit’s outreach strategies, especially for promoting events like auctions. Auctions are particularly well-suited for social media marketing strategies as nonprofits can use the incentive of winning a prize and add images of high-value items to posts to attract more attention.
Before launching your auction’s social media strategy, take the time to consider which platforms to use based on your audience. After all, if your target audience is not using the platform you choose, it doesn’t matter how theoretically effective your strategy is.
To help you assess which platforms to use, here is a breakdown of five popular platforms:
Facebook. Facebook allows for long-form posts, which give nonprofits the space to share anecdotes from beneficiaries, statistics about their initiatives, and generally emphasize why their cause matters. Facebook’s algorithm tends to prioritize posts that come from groups, so consider creating a group dedicated to your nonprofit and inviting supporters to join to receive news about your ongoing projects before your auction.
Instagram. Instagram focuses on photos and videos (called “Reels”), which can work well for an auction marketing campaign. Take photos of eye-catching and unique items and experiment with memorable hashtags that platform users are likely to search.
YouTube. Creating videos and hosting them on YouTube can benefit your nonprofit’s marketing strategy as the content you upload can be shared on both YouTube and other platforms. Produce promotional videos for your campaign, and if your nonprofit qualifies for the YouTube Nonprofit Program, you can partner with other channels to earn donations for your cause while marketing your event to a wider audience.
Twitter. Twitter has a short word limit and an algorithm that prioritizes posts that receive engagement. This can make it a difficult platform for nonprofits, whose marketing posts tend to rely on stories. If your nonprofit is interested in maintaining a Twitter account, strive to create posts that encourage responses by asking questions, sharing surprising statistics, or even experimenting with a more conversational, humorous brand voice.
TikTok. While TikTok may still feel like uncharted territory for many nonprofits, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore this massive platform’s potential. If your nonprofit is interested in connecting with younger supporters, consider creating a series of short, attention-grabbing videos for TikTok.
Running a social media marketing campaign can take a significant amount of your team’s time and effort. If you need additional help planning a campaign, researching platforms, or creating content, consider reaching out to a nonprofit marketing consulting firm for assistance.
Personalize direct communication.
In addition to using public platforms to track new supporters, market directly to your supporters who are subscribed to your email list. Getting Attention’s nonprofit marketing guide recommends using segmentation and personalization strategies to create more targeted messages, which can lead to an increased response rate.
Segmentation and personalization can help nonprofits create unique messages for each supporter, ensuring the content will more closely align with each individual’s interests while also strengthening their personal connection to your nonprofit. Here’s an overview of how to leverage these two strategies:
Segmentation. Essentially, donor segmentation is the process of identifying shared characteristics among donors, sorting supporters who share the identified characteristics into segments or groups, and adjusting your messaging strategy to align with the interests and needs of each segment. For example, during your auction marketing you might divide donors based on location. You would then create two email templates, one for donors who live close enough to easily attend an event in-person and another for those who live in remote locations. The templates would reflect these unique differences and provide directions for how to attend the event in-person or remotely.
Personalization. Once an email template has been created for a segmented group, your nonprofit can further tailor the message to the donor by adding relevant personal details based on each donor. These personalization efforts often include addressing each donor by name and referencing their history with the nonprofit such as past event attendance. It also provides updates on specific initiatives they have previously supported.
To facilitate a highly personalized email marketing campaign on a large scale, ensure your nonprofit has the right messaging tools. Many CRMs either come with or integrate with sophisticated, scalable messaging systems. Assess your current communication software to ensure it has the features you need to reach out to your supporters effectively.
Integrate your software.
For modern nonprofits, planning an event can require a number of software applications including a CRM with robust donor profiles and analytics tools, extensive and customizable communication tools, and event hosting software that facilitates various event activities.
To ensure your event’s planning, marketing, and execution stay organized, integrate your software or invest in compatible add-on applications as necessary.
Consider the example of Salesforce’s Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), a commonly used solution by nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits can expand upon the solution with several integrations and native tools created specifically to work with the CRM. DNL OmniMedia’s guide to the Salesforce NPSP walks through a few ways to expand upon the functionality of the NPSP:
- Native Salesforce apps and plugins. There are a variety of apps and plugins built specifically for Salesforce NPSP, expanding a nonprofit’s current tools or providing new features altogether, such as the ability to register event attendees or generate event tickets.
- Integrations with third-party solutions. Your nonprofit may have software applications hosted externally from your CRM, but chances are that many of these can also integrate with Salesforce NPSP, providing a smooth transfer of data. For example, if your nonprofit has a separate prospective donor database, research if you can sync it with your CRM ahead of your event to keep all of your information in one place.
Of course, Salesforce’s NPSP is not the only CRM with a range of useful integrations. For instance, highly reviewed Blackbaud integrations can assist nonprofits using any of the provider’s CRM’s to create a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. If you haven’t already, ensure that your existing marketing solutions are integrated with your CRM. If not, consider working with a consultant to connect with the solutions before hosting your auction.
Auctions can be major fundraising opportunities for your nonprofit, so ensure that you’re giving them their best chance for success by creating a thorough, modern digital marketing plan. Improve your website and software, and use these applications to reach supporters where they’re at on a more personal level.
Special thanks to Carl Diesing from DNL Omnimedia for the expert advice on building a digital plan for marketing your auction event.
Carl Diesing, Managing Director - \ Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their two children Charlie and Evelyn.