If you’ve ever organized a fundraiser, you know how much work it entails. From budgeting to finding entertainment, fundraisers often require hours of planning and sizeable upfront investments. So, when the big day rolls around, you want your community to be motivated to come together to support your cause.
You’ll need to get the word out about your fundraiser, to drive event attendance and maximize your revenue, you’ll need to get the word out about your fundraiser. The most effective way to spread awareness for your event is to build a marketing plan that maps out who you will market to, when you’ll push those messages, and how you will reach your audience.
These four strategies will help shape your marketing strategy to ensure your fundraiser garners plenty of community support:
- Choose an engaging fundraising idea.
- Leverage digital marketing.
- Personalize marketing messages.
- Partner with institutions in your community.
A robust marketing plan starts with a solid foundation. In a for-profit business, this might mean you have an exciting, unique product. For a nonprofit, this means starting with a memorable fundraising race paired with a running shoe recycling program or a shoe drive fundraiser.
1. Choose an engaging fundraising idea.
Choosing a fundraiser that excites and engages your supporters is the first step to a successful marketing campaign. The fundraising idea you choose will shape everything else in your strategy. The right fundraiser will almost market itself, while a dull, unimaginative fundraiser requires more marketing leg work.
One example of an engaging (and marketable) fundraiser is the Sneakers4Good Program. Sneakers4Funds’ guide to donating running shoes breaks down the process into the following steps:
- Step 1: Partner with a social enterprise facilitator like Sneakers4Funds.
- Step 2: Set out collection materials (provided for free) around your community.
- Step 3: Ask your community to bring their gently worn, used or new sneakers and running shoes to your collection sites.
- Step 4: Using the prepaid bags provided by Sneakers4Funds, send in your sneakers.
- Step 5: Receive a check every week you send in a bag.
Sneaker drives are one of the best (and easiest) fundraisers to kick off because they are easy to set up. These fundraisers are also easy to participate in because almost everyone has a pair of gently worn, used or new sneakers going unused in their closets. A few other ideas you could host, or even pair with this unique fundraiser include mud runs, virtual auctions, and matching gift drives.
2. Leverage digital marketing.
With the prevalence of digital media and the internet in our lives, it’s important for nonprofits to adapt to the digital age by meeting their supporters where they are: online.
Digital marketing is a highly effective way to market your fundraiser. For example, did you know that digital ads can boost your brand awareness by 80%? Take advantage of these benefits by kicking off your digital marketing strategy on various online platforms.
According to Double the Donation’s list of marketing ideas for nonprofits, nonprofit organizations should market through their websites, social media, and other general marketing channels. Here are a few tips for getting started on each of these media channels:
Websites. When marketing through a website, the first step is to develop a visually appealing, user-friendly website that your supporters want to visit and stay on. Your nonprofit’s website should serve as a central hub for your updates, resources, and other information, so making it as functional as possible is essential. Keep SEO best practices in mind to attract visitors to your site, when creating content for your website. It’ll ensure you gain website traffic and rank on the search engine results page.
Social media. Social media is all about connecting with people and building online social networks. To communicate with many people, join several different social media platforms so you can reach all of your supporters (as well as new audiences) regardless of whether they prefer Twitter or Instagram. To make your supporters’ lives easier, connect your accounts with links so followers can quickly jump from one platform to the other.
Multi-channel marketing. Similar to using multiple social media platforms to communicate with supporters, you should leverage several other media channels. For example, you could integrate your digital marketing efforts with traditional strategies like direct mail or phone calls. Or, you can lead those who receive direct mail or flyers from your organization to your website or social media accounts by placing QR codes on those marketing materials.
The impact of digital marketing can be immense, especially when it comes to conveying your nonprofit’s brand to new audiences. While some aspects of digital marketing, like social media, may require larger investments of your time to manage and maintain, these digital channels tend to be more cost-effective than something like purchasing a billboard or radio advertisement.
3. Personalize marketing messages.
These days, traditional mass marketing methods like national television ads aren’t seen as the end-all-be-all of marketing. While these tactics are still effective and work for some industries, most marketing messages are more effective when they relate directly to your audience’s preferences. In fact, over 75% of people cited being more likely to engage with brands from which they received personalized marketing messages.
Personalizing your marketing materials might sound daunting at first, especially if your organization has a large base of supporters. However, there are a few ways to get started that make it more manageable to add personalized elements to your messaging.
Consider the following personalization strategies:
Segment your audience. A segment is a subgroup of people within your broader audience who share similar characteristics. You can form these segments around anything from supporter age to the average donation amount. Once you segment your audience, customize your marketing messages according to those traits. For example, a segment of older supporters may prefer receiving messages through direct mail rather than a text message.
Appeal to your supporters’ reason to give. Each of your supporters has the interests that motivate them to engage with your organization. It’s your job to discover what those interests are and how you can use them to drive involvement with your fundraiser. For instance, if you learn that your animal rescue has a segment of supporters who love cats, you can appeal to their passion for helping cats by highlighting your percentage night fundraiser at a local cat cafe in marketing messages.
Customize marketing emails. There are many ways to personalize your approach to email marketing, including incorporating a supporter’s name in the subject line, highlighting their location, and referencing events they attended in the past. You might add a sentence like, “We remember seeing you at our mud run last year—come make memories this year too!” to encourage supporters to return to your fundraisers year after year.
Personalized marketing adds a more genuine touch to your promotion messages, making supporters feel your nonprofit truly values their contributions.
4. Partner with institutions in your community.
Building connections with people and organizations in your community is an invaluable resource. To help promote your next fundraiser, partner with institutions like elementary schools, libraries, or churches. These organizations and institutions typically have a built-in network of students, parents, or members who can help spread the word about your event to their friends and family, extending awareness far beyond your existing audience.
In addition to reaching new audiences, there are many benefits to partnering with another organization, such as:
- Sharing marketing resources like flyers
- Boosting your fundraising and marketing budget through sponsorships
- Increasing the number of available volunteers
- Building a positive reputation in your community
Be sure to choose a fundraising idea your partner organization will be happy with in which to participate. For example, sneaker drive fundraisers are great for schools as many children outgrow their running shoes quickly and are likely to have a pair or two that don’t fit. This fundraiser allows parents to part with their student’s old athletic shoes sustainably while helping support a good cause.
Reach your community with marketing to bring them together under a common cause. Whether you’re enticing them to participate with an engaging fundraiser like a sneaker drive fundraiser or reaching out to them on social media, leveraging community support for your organization can help you secure the resources to get one step closer to achieving your mission.
Special thanks to Wayne Elsey for sharing this expert advice. Wayne is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Sneakers4Funds, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.