How to Promote a Nonprofit Event [Timeline & Checklist]

People won’t attend your event if they don’t know (a) it’s happening or (b) how cool it will be. Learning how to promote a nonprofit event correctly is key to getting people in the seats without irritating your supporters.

It’s not necessarily the most complicated strategy, but it takes planning to ensure all of the pieces go out in the right way and at the right time to keep potential attendees interested and encourage registrations.

I’ll walk through how to promote a nonprofit event in a fairly standard way that you can add to or adjust based on what you know about your audience. Shoutouts to the cool kids on nonprofit marketing teams who love marketing strategies, timelines and checklists with all your hearts — This post is for you.

How to Promote a Nonprofit Event

Assuming your event is public and open to all, let all of your regular channels know about your upcoming event, such as your website, email list, social media accounts and blog.

While these channels cover your digital marketing efforts, you may also wish to send out print materials for your event (depending on your audience and their communication preferences). If you do opt to send out physical mailings, make sure that the design and messaging is cohesive with your digital marketing and overall branding. The timing of those pieces should also match up with any digital or email invites and communications.

Create Website Content

Across all of your promotions, it’s helpful to have a central place to send attendees on your website. Ideally, they’d be able to register for the event directly on your event page. If you have an event system built into your site, you can create an event (and event page) within it. Otherwise, you’ll need to create (or update) a page for the event that fits logically within your website structure, likely within an “Events” or “Get Involved” section.

Think through the content you’ll need on your site ahead of time, using actions (like purchasing tickets or inquiring about sponsorship) as a guideline. Depending on the event and potential actions you’d like visitors on your site to take, you may need an extra page or two under the main event page. For example, if you’d like to have sponsors show their interest or give through your site, your page structure might look like this:

  • Annual Gala
    • Become a Sponsor
    • Purchase Tickets

Check out this post for more tips, best practices and examples of nonprofit event landing pages.

Add Calls to Action

Once you have your landing page, use contextual links or more designed-out calls to action (if your website has that functionality) to drive visitors to the event landing page from other pages on your website and encourage more registrations. You could also consider using website pop-ups to drive people to your event landing page.

Email Your List

You have one free pass to email your entire list about your upcoming event. After that, email communications should be segmented based on interaction with that first email or other segmentation capabilities that you have through your email service provider, such as special emails to donors, past attendees or sponsors.

Email segmentation is especially useful for events. It helps ensure that you don’t bug your entire list with information that’s really only meant for a piece of it. You wouldn’t want to send an attendee from last year’s event the same email you’d send a potential sponsor. Or send an email invite for a local event to people that don’t live in the same state or country.

Email Amount and Frequency

For a standard big event, such as an annual gala, send out your announcement or “save the date” email a few months in advance and follow up with those who show interest with two to five subsequent emails to encourage registration and tease cool happenings at your event. If you can, remove those who already registered from this list.

Match the frequency of your event promotion emails with your typical email communications. If you send out weekly or daily emails, it’s easier to pepper more promotional event emails into your regular communications. You’ll also want to time these keeping any other emails that you need to send in mind so that they don’t go out all at once. Try to space out the send time for each event email by at least two weeks.

Email Content Ideas

The announcement email should include standard event details, like time, date, location, general description and a link to register. But you can have a little fun with the follow-up emails. 

  • Introduce a guest speaker and highlight their accomplishments or connection to your cause
  • Tease items available for auction or raffles
  • Include photos and testimonials from past events
  • Warn about increases in price, registration deadlines or availability

Post on Social Media

Don’t forget about social! Create a Facebook event and post about it on your organization’s Facebook page. If you use other social media sites, like Twitter or Instagram, you can post there as well.

Social Media Timing and Frequency

As with email communications, work event promotions into your regular posting schedule. It shouldn’t be the only thing you’re posting about during this time period, but rather peppered into your typical schedule. To plan out the timing, it’s helpful to create a social media calendar.

Social Media Content Ideas

Within each social media post, link to the landing page for the event on your website. Posts on social media can also align with your email communications.

  • Countdown to your event or registration deadlines
  • Photos and quotes from previous events
  • Introduce speakers with photos and ties to your cause
  • Highlight big-ticket auction items or an online auction

Use Your Blog

The blog is a great way to keep your event top of mind for supporters. For smaller or one-off events (those events that you don’t plan to repeat every year), you might even use a blog post as your event’s landing page. Or, you could supplement the landing page with posts that dive into additional details about the event, like guest speakers or award honorees. You can always  link to these posts in supplemental email communications.

After the event ends, post on the blog about how it went with photos and fundraising results. Check out these blog post ideas centered around event promotion and recaps.

A Timeline & Checklist for the Cool Kids

Want to pull off the strategy for each of the channels listed above? Download our event promotion timeline and checklist. You’ll be able to customize it with the details for your event and your nonprofit’s audience. Don’t start from scratch for your next event promotion plan.

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Working Event Promotions Into Your Strategy

Don’t use one of these channels? Cut it. Use something all the time that we didn’t mention here? Work it in (and let us know in the comments). Learning how to promote nonprofit events is similar to learning to promote anything else at your nonprofit. Create a promotional strategy that you can use and update over time based on your findings. It should also be accounted for in your overall marketing strategy.

Review the Results

It’s tough to adjust your plan for next time around without digging into what pieces worked well and what could use some more thought next time around. Measuring campaign results doesn’t need to be overwhelming or take a ton of time. After the event, pull the data that you can for each of the promotional pieces you used to make notes and observations for things you may want to do differently.

Event promotion might seem simple from the outset, but working it into other communications in a way that doesn’t frustrate or bombard your supporters can get complicated quickly. Hopefully, this strategy gives you a place to start as you think about weaving in promotions with all of the other moving pieces.

How do you promote your nonprofit’s events? Do you use other channels or strategies? Let’s plan together in the comments.