Advice for Nonprofits on Events and Marketing

The current decade has been rough on many non-profit organizations around the world.

Job losses and declines in many business sectors mean there are fewer donations and fewer volunteers. 

Not only that, but non-profits stage events, called fundraisers, to raise money for their projects. It has become increasingly difficult to hold events like these. In many cases, local laws even make it illegal to stage large gatherings at which donors open their wallets.

If you are in charge of a non-profit charity, it is important to know these laws. And, if you are going to have in-person events, know how to handle them safely.

The KVA Plan was designed specifically to help companies and volunteer groups manage their events and meetings in a safe way. For that reason, every non-profit group should carefully consider adopting the KVA Plan.

Marketing fundraisers and educational events

Nonprofit organizations often do not know how to properly market their events and programs. It has never been more important for nonprofits to articulate their intentions in advance of soliciting media coverage or posting to social media.

If you manage a nonprofit organization, don’t waste time and resources on events that will bring in little money. It’s also a good time to avoid staging parties or fundraisers that don’t have any clear alignment with your mission. 

Let’s say, for example, that your mission is to foster community gardens and tree planting. You don’t need to have a booth where you sell hard liquor at the local rock music festival. Your clients and donors will have a hard time seeing how participation in that event is aligned with gardens and trees. 

The following questions are meant to help nonprofits formulate their goals for an event and maximize their marketing efforts.

  1. What is the official title of this event or program? 

This title needs to be consistent across any brochures, merchandise, signs, and logos that already exist relevant to the event.

Titles are very important. A good, catchy title grabs the reader’s attention and makes him want to attend your event. Rather than creating a title like, “St. Louis Environmental Film Festival,” consider a title like “Sharks, Hawks, and Butterflies: A St. Louis Film Festival.” In general, titles need to be nine words or fewer to be effective. 

  1. When will this event take place? 

Be sure that all literature and internet posts concerning the event include calendar date, day of the week, and beginning time and end time. If there’s a schedule of events, please indicate when every new event will start. If there’s a “before party” or a “meet and greet,” please indicate the times of that so as to include the people who don’t have time for preliminary events but want to attend the main event. 

Nonprofits need to time their events with great care. It’s a bad idea to stage an important fundraiser on the same day as another popular community event. For example, if the local and highly popular Strawberry Fair always takes place on the first weekend in June, you will want to schedule your fundraiser for another date. 

  1. Where will this event take place? 

When determining a place to have the event, it’s a good idea to choose some place that is central, not far away and hard to get to.

In advertising their events, nonprofits need to be as specific as possible, especially if the event is in a rural area. Please give the street address and a nearby landmark–for example, “across the street from the Hilton.” If it’s a rural location, indicate where it is in relationship to the nearest interstate, what exit, whether there will be parking, and how much parking costs if there’s a charge. If it is accessible by public transportation, you should indicate that. You can use to determine whether there is a convenient bus or train line nearby.

  1. Who, on your nonprofit staff, is most qualified to give an interview on this subject? Please provide that person’s name and mobile phone number on all the literature that goes out concerning your event.

Nonprofits are sometimes unprepared for the media coverage they have solicited. If a local news radio or television station thinks your event is interesting, they will want to conduct an interview. This interview is likely to be sought in advance of the event. It’s important for charity organizations to know why they are throwing this particular event and be able to articulate the value of the event to the community.

  1. If there will be an expert at this event, provide that person’s full name and contact information on press releases. Please make sure that person knows he or she may be asked for an interview.
  1. Is there a client or instructor participating in this event who would be willing to give a short interview over the phone or in person? 
  1. What is the purpose of this class,  event, or other media-worthy thing? (When writing about purpose, explain how this relates to community needs, global needs, and the specific purpose of your nonprofit. Think global poverty, think climate change, think about the poorest neighborhoods where you live, think crime rates.)
  1. What all will happen during this event or class? What will people learn? Please be specific, and don’t leave anything out. If, for instance, there will be live music, include that in the description and give the name of the band. Same thing if there will be local beer or anything else that might seal the deal on participation. If there will be an expert giving instruction, give the name of that expert. 
  1. Finish this sentence: “At the end of this  event, people who participated will leave with . . .”

In conclusion, we live in a world where nonprofit groups need to be very careful about what kinds of events they stage. Before staging a fundraiser or other gathering, be sure to think through all the above questions. Brainstorm these questions with your staff and volunteers. Keep track of the answers and arrive at a consensus. Doing so will help you stage events that are aligned with your mission and don’t waste valuable resources. 

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