Winning Strategies for Marketing Online Nonprofit Events

Published on 11 Jun 2024 by Auctria

Even though nonprofit in-person events have been on the upswing over the past few years, virtual events are here to stay. In fact, research shows that 93% of event marketers intend to continue investing in virtual events in the future.

Whether you’re hosting an auction or a webinar, online events present unique challenges and advantages compared with their in-person counterparts. In this guide, we’ll break down these components and how to adapt your marketing strategies for a truly personal, memorable online event campaign.

As we dive into these strategies, consider your nonprofit’s current approaches to event marketing and how seamlessly you could implement each of these strategies given your tech resources and target audience preferences.

Convert Attendees into Ambassadors

An effective marketing concept you can use to your advantage is social proof, the idea that your target audience is more likely to take action if someone they trust has already done so. That’s where your current supporters become major players in your success. By equipping them to represent your event as ambassadors, you can bring new attention to your nonprofit and secure more RSVPs. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Personally reach out to good fits for the program. These might be your most loyal donors or those who you know have a large personal network full of potential attendees. In your outreach, highlight what’s expected of them and how they’ll benefit your event marketing.

  2. Provide them with materials. Make it as easy as possible to become an ambassador by providing promotional materials, like social media post templates, branded merchandise, and an ultimate guide on promoting your event.

  3. Incentivize participation. Sweeten the pot for your ambassadors by posing an RSVP competition. Award the ambassador who recruits the most new attendees with a small prize, such as a gift card or a quarter-zip with your nonprofit’s branding.

Since you’re promoting an online event, emphasize the importance of digital outreach. Provide a unique registration link for each ambassador to send to their network that automatically counts and attributes their sign-ups. Also, create an event microsite that ambassadors can send to people who want to learn more about your nonprofit.

The beauty of online events is their shareability. Many platforms allow you to plan your online events ahead of time, meaning you can get an event link months before the big day. Spreading this link and your registration link far and wide is key for a successful event, so make use of your network of marketing channels to make it happen. For instance, you can:

  • Distribute a QR code. Millions of people (and even Super Bowl advertisers) use QR codes to easily link to websites because they complement many content mediums. You can create custom QR codes for different marketing channels, such as print, email, and social media, to drive traffic to your event registration page. Plus, some event management and invitation software solutions can generate an automatic QR code for each event.

  • Use interactive buttons and calls to action (CTAs). Digital platforms have made creating engaging and effective fundraising CTAs easier than ever. Use CTA buttons native to social media platforms and email templates to make your event link stand out.

  • Leverage word-of-mouth. It might seem counterintuitive, but word-of-mouth and link-spreading complement each other well. For instance, if one of your team members speaks on a webinar, the host might ask if they have anything to promote, giving them the perfect chance to drop your registration link in the Zoom chat. Just ensure you always have yo

Before spreading your links, ensure your most important pages follow accessibility and user experience best practices. This could mean making your pages mobile-friendly, adding alt text to images, and creating any redirects when needed. By enacting these changes ahead of time, you can provide a seamless experience for your potential attendees and increase the likelihood they’ll sign up.

Develop a Micro-Influencer Outreach Program

No matter how much you use social media, chances are you know of a content creator with a sizable following. After all, there’s a niche for pretty much every community in the influencer marketing sphere, including your organization’s online event. Plus, this works for more than just Millennial and Gen-Z audiences. Understand these best practices to form a productive partnership with an influencer:

  • Start small. While collaborating with influencers with millions of followers is tempting, it’s not feasible for most nonprofits. However, micro-influencers within your niche are more likely to be connected with their audience and draw more qualified leads to your event.

  • Highlight how they’ll benefit. Create a compelling pitch that centers on the influencer’s brand. If you can’t pay them their normal rate, Double the Donation suggests highlighting the cause marketing benefits of being associated with a charitable cause.

  • Involve them throughout the planning process. Remember, your influencer developed a following because of their content and personality. Create collaborative content with your influencer partner that reflects their unique content brand — it’ll come across as more genuine to their followers.

  • Leverage relevant trends. Trends keep social media users’ attention, so capitalize on the extra visibility when you can. For instance, you might post a #ThrowbackThursday with photos from last year’s online event, complete with a link to this year’s.

Social media is fickle, meaning you might have to pivot your strategy quickly. Fifty & Fifty’s guide to nonprofit content marketing recommends staying on top of trends and being flexible so you can take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

Since your nonprofit likely conducts most of its marketing online anyway, it’s natural and fitting to use digital marketing channels to get the word out about your online event. As long as you focus on making authentic connections with supporters, your RSVPs can skyrocket like never before.

Special thanks to Javan Van Gronigen for the expert advice.

As Founder and Creative Director of Fifty & Fifty, Javan is the tip of the proverbial spear. Javan started his digital design career 20 years ago as Art Director for what is now one of the world’s largest digital agencies (Mirum, a JWT Company). He then moved on to Invisible Children where he was responsible for managing the team and all digital assets through the entire historic Kony 2012 campaign. At Fifty & Fifty, Javan has participated in and led every project, including 300+ websites, campaigns, and brands.