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Three Simple Ways to Get People to Come to Your Fundraising Event

Posted Oct 05, 2012 03:05 PM
Originally posted on the NPower blog, this post covers notes from a Brown Paper Tickets workshop on event promotion. These tips are designed to help you set strategy, brainstorm tactics and brush up on your social networking to get the word out about your nonprofit event.

Originally posted on the NPower blog in June 2011, this post was written by Peg Giffels after attending a free Brown Paper Ticket workshop on event promotion. She pulled out three helpful tips from the workshop that will help you use your limited time and resources to get the word out about your next fundraising event.

Strategy Matters

The workshop kicked off with a section by Cal, from Brown Paper Tickets on how to woo the press. Which turned out to really be about how to use our limited time and resources to best promote our events to audiences that matter, using all forms of "media". Cal observed that pure PR is time consuming and not easy. Publicists invest lots of time gathering info and making friends. If you really want to woo the media, Cal’s advice is to hire a publicists or agency, both of which are expensive. So what can we do to focus our time and resources for the biggest impact?

1. Develop a Strategy

Start with a simple grid like this, and use it to guide your work. Tip: Keep your grid simple and clear, focused on your event and not overall communications.





  • Major Donors
  • Title Sponsors
  • Staff
  • It’s important and you’re important to us: Good investment, thank you, catalyst for our work, fun and engaging
  • Worthwhile
  • Care
  • Invitations, talk in person, smaller event leading up, specific/unique interactions (email, website)
  • Cultivate (coffee. Lunch, calls)
  • In person. Staff meetings, plus offsite or lunch?
  • TechFlash
  • Neighborhood blogs
  • NPR or Classic KING
  • Seattle Times

Invest most of your time here because payoff is higher


  • Friends of the org (smaller donors, volunteers, community partners, vendors, in-kind or smaller sponsors)
  • We need you. You are important to this event
  • Email, phone, newsletter, Facebook, twitter followers, other social media
  • Neighborhood blogs
  • RealChange
  • weeklies
  • Blogs in our content area

3rd Tier

  • The people who don’t know about us andare likely to come (NOT “everyone else”)
  • Come to the event
  • Community partners
  • People who need news (corporate or union or schol newsletters)
  • BLOGS - with newspapers dying, this is where it's at in media

2. Build a Social Network

Like wooing the press, social media is a time investment, but you can do it alongside your other work. What kinds of social media posts get the best response? Ask a question, foster conversations. Sarah from the BPT event promotion team recommends keeping a focus on 1st and 2nd tier audiences from the grid above. From there you will also reach the 3rd tier.

  • Think about how “your” people use social media and tailor your strategy to their interests.
  • Facilitate discussions on your social media platform about topics “off platform” on other sites. For example, bring in concrete statements reflecting current events and tie to news sites.
  • Relationship building is key. Make it a goal for your organization to become an integral part of your audiences’ online ID.

Building a loyal online audience makes event promotion easier. Promotion becomes part of the conversation and not just a one-off request.

  • Use social tools for what their best at: Facebook is like a 24-hour party conversation. Engage in the conversations ongoing and organically, then the event flows naturally. Play around a little at first to build community and engage. Then do a mix of engagement and calls to action. Twitter is a different animal - more about broad reach than a cozy chat with friends.

Bold statements get a lot of response. Just make sure it's on message, in context and at the right time. It's not a good idea to provoke just to get attention.

3. Try Some "Guerilla Marketing" Tactics

Jimmy from BPT advises mixing in some guerilla tactics to reach 3rd tier audiences who haven't heard of you. For example, handing out fliers at events or at locations frequented by the type of person who responds to your mission is a great way to make a personal connection. Posting poll fliers with a good eye-grabbing design can be effective too. Some tips for fliers:

  • Don't skimp on design. Hire a pro, or get some probono help. Artwork can transform your message and will encourage people to hang on to your fliers.
  • Create a design that prints in black and white to save on printing costs.

That's what I've got from today's workshop. Thanks again to Brown Paper Tickets, our friends and neighbors.

- Peg Giffels