Deciding that you want to hold a fundraising event and actually making that happen are two far distant ends of the same spectrum. A lot goes into planning an event, beginning with where it will be held, what the goals will be, how many people you are hoping to have and carrying on into how you will feed the people, how you will entice them, and how you will pay for everything. In the hustle and bustle of all of that activity, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re reminded that you need to also promote the fact that the event is taking place.
Take heart. I’ve gathered 22 ideas that could assist you in raising awareness about your event, and I bet other ideas will be added in the comments section, too. So, without further adieu, here we go!
1. Send a news release to local media.
That means newspapers, radio stations, television stations, and magazines. Inform them that you have an event coming up and that you’d really love to have some coverage before, during, and after. Make sure you provide as much information as you can. If they have to dig too hard, they’ll give up on you.
2. Direct Mail.
An out-of-the-box direct mail campaign can raise a lot of attention, but it should be something more than just another piece of paper people will throw away. Try to find something that relates to the cause you’re fundraising for. For example, if you are helping an organization that deals with cancer, a series of puzzle pieces that spell “hope” or “cure” could be a relevant, compelling, and ongoing direct mail series.
3. Print Advertising.
Target your local newspapers and magazines with a series of ads leading up to the event. Make sure you cover all of the important details. Think journalistic questions: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.
4. Sponsor a local e-newsletter.
Our local NPR affiliate offers a e-newsletter, and I’m sure many other local organizations around you do as well. Sponsoring their content, so long as the audience is right, can be a good way to build your credibility with those readers along with awareness.
5. Banner Ads.
Find local websites that sell banner ads at a reasonable price. Again, make sure the audience is one that would be relevant to your cause.
6. Create a Facebook Page.
Not only will a Facebook page get people talking, you can also use that space to give updates. Additionally, you can entice people to join the page by noting that all fans who attend the event will be entered into a drawing for a prize.
7. Create a Blog.
Blog posts are great ways to really dig into the details of what you are trying to do with this event. The content isn’t perhaps permanent enough or evergreen to remain on your website, but a blog, which is expected to be timely, can be a great hub for information pertaining to your cause and event.
If you have the means, create a video (or a series) that can be posted to YouTube. The videos don’t need to be Pulitzer Prize winners. In fact, it could be members of your organization talking about why they are putting on this event, what it means to them, and what they are hoping to achieve. Hearing a voice and seeing a face to go with the cause can be a big help.
A lot of places like libraries and restaurants offer bulletin board areas where flyers can be posted. This beats paying postage!
Twitter can be tricky because it seems like it would offer such good reach. Make sure you are targeting only people who could actually come and/or raise awareness of your event locally. Do Twitter searches for local tweets or find hashtags that might be relevant. Tweeting to everybody, or tweeting to the “big influencers,” won’t necessarily help you out.
11. QR Codes.
QR Codes get a bad name these days, but that’s primarily because a lot of companies have plastered them on everything without a lot of thought. QR codes can be added to the fliers, your direct mail piece, your news release, or your print advertisements with a call-to-action to “view a video about this event.” This makes the piece come to life and also draws more traffic to your videos.
12. Use Banner Ads to Drive Traffic to Your Blog.
We mentioned using banner ads above, but here’s an extra layer. Instead of just promoting your event, consider having a very simple banner ad that asks a question. For example, “Wondering how you can help…” The banner ad can link to your explanatory blog post. This will also help you understand how effective the banner ad campaign is. Your blog Analytics will help tell that story.
13. Use Ads to Promote Your Facebook Page.
Like the banner ads, your print ads can be used to drive traffic to a hub rather than to simply promote your event. Use a print ad to drive traffic to your Facebook page so that you can more easily interact with potential attendees. This again will also offer insight into how your ads are performing.
14. Use Twitter to Drive Traffic to Your Facebook Page or Blog.
Twitter can be used not just to promote the event but also to drive people to places where they can learn a lot more than what 140 characters might reveal to them.
15. Invite Fans to Create Videos.
Put a call out on your blog and/or on your Facebook page and invite some of your fans to create their own videos about why they’ll be helping support your cause. This gives them a chance to be in the spotlight and it also will let other people know that you aren’t the only one interested in the purpose of the event.
16. Create an Online Badge.
Creating a badge that people can post to their websites or blog sites (especially locally) can be sort of like billboard advertising. The badge can link to your blog site or your Facebook page so that it is easy for people to get the information they want.
17. Use the Facebook Events Application.
The “Event” application on Facebook allows you to create an event page and invite people you think would want to attend. Be careful with this app–don’t bomb all of your friends with invitation, especially if they live nowhere near where your event is going to be held. I’d also still have a separate page for your cause which can continue after the event itself is over.
18. Invite Speakers.
Maybe someone who wants to attend your event is also looking to build his/her expertise or career in a certain field. Entice people to come to your event by noting that “so and so” will be offering a brief presentation on a topic in which your audience would be interested. You win, attendees win, and your speaker wins.
Using photography to document why your fundraising is needed can be extremely powerful and it may be easier to produce than a video. Create an open Flickr page (you can link to it from your blog and/or your Facebook page) so people can scan those images.
20. Photo to Video.
If creating a video is out of your reach but you still like the idea of it, create a slide show using your photographs. Maybe talk a bit on camera at the beginning and narrate what the pictures or showing. This slide show can be linked prominently on your blog site or your Facebook page.
21. Photo Books as a Give-Away.
If your cause allows for it, giving away photo books tied to the event and your cause can be a nice souvenir for your attendees. This can also be a great way for your fans to help spread the word about your cause–people still enjoy sitting around a photo book. I don’t care what Instagram says!
22. Create Useful Partnerships.
Find a way to create win-win situations for potential partners. For example, see if a local printer would be willing to donate printing of fliers in exchange for having some branded give-aways. See if a local agency would be willing to help you with some of the marketing. See if a local restaurant would be willing to cater in exchange for all attendees being encouraged (perhaps via a gift card) to eat a meal there. The more partners you can incorporate into your efforts, the more your promotional reach will expand exponentially.
These are just 22 ways I came up with. Now it’s your turn. How have you promoted fundraising events? What worked? What didn’t? Let’s talk about it!