5 Steps to Launching a Successful Marketing Campaign for Your Benefit Event

Getting supporters to attend your non-profit’s gala is tough work, especially if it is your organization’s first year throwing an event. Budgetary constraints and time demands further complicate things.

Taking the time to properly plan your marketing campaign can help you sell tickets efficiently and stay on budget. In this post, we explore ways to structure your thinking about event marketing and suggest tactics for driving conversions.

Step 1: Define Your Scope and Objectives

It’s important to sit down and decide where you’re going with this event. Are you a national organization with broad-ranging support? Then you may want to shoot for a full statewide campaign. Chances are, however, you aren’t on that level and thus need to operate on a smaller scale – perhaps throughout your community or even just your neighborhood.

Setting the scope for your marketing campaign will help you set reasonable goals for ticket sales and focus your communication efforts. While it is obvious to you why your cause is worth supporting, be realistic about whom you will be able to convert into a supporter. Otherwise, you could end up wasting a lot of money.

Step 2: Brainstorm Marketing Activities

Awareness, Persuasion, Conversion

If you Google “marketing funnel”, you will get lots of results describing the process to generate leads and ultimately making a sale. While certain minutia may differ, most models boil down to a three stage process. First, you make people aware of your product. Second, you persuade people that your product is worth buying. And third, you convert them into a sale by getting them to sign up and submit payment.

For your gala, you can use the Awareness>Persuasion>Conversion funnel to organize your thoughts around marketing messages and tactics to employ. How will you make people aware your event is happening? How will you persuade them to attend? How will you make it easy for them to sign up once they decide to attend?

Tailor the Message to the Audience

For advanced marketeers, you can further refine things. Different segments of people may respond better to different messages and tactics. For example, you may want to encourage signups among lifelong supporters and your “heavy hitters” in a different manner than you would for new supporters (or “not-yet” supporters).

Reference the table below for some ideas and tweak it to fit your situation.

 AwarenessPersuasionConversion
Heavy Hitters-Feature event on newsletter
-Informational mailer
-Phone calls
-Social media posts
-Short video about the good work your organization is doing and the impact from their previous generosity
-Other emotional appeals about your cause
-Include SASE in mailer
-Sell tickets at other meetings for your organization
-VIP ticket offering
-Sponsorships (especially if they can't attend)
-Links to event landing page
One-Time Supporters-Postcards
-Email
-Social media posts
-Short video about the good work your organization is doing and the impact from their previous generosity
-Tease exciting auction items
-Early-bird discounts & promo codes
-Emphasize limited tickets left available
-Onsite ticket booth
-Links to event landing page
Not-Yet Supporters-Word-of-mouth campaigns
-Social media and paid search ads
-Local newspaper/radio (try to get a feature about your cause!)
-Sidewalk canvassing
-Flyers at local businesses
-Billboards
-Community calendars
-Event highlight video from last year showing how fun it is
-Tease exciting auction items
-Volunteer selling
-Early-bird discounts & promo codes
-Pre-event raffle ticket sales (winner announced at event)
-Onsite ticket booth
-Links to event landing page

Step 3: Set a “Bottom-Up” Budget

Bottom-up vs. Top-down Budgeting

Once you decide on the tactics you will employ for Step 2: Awareness, Persuasion, Conversion, build a budget for executing that plan. We recommend building a “bottom-up” budget, which means that you outline what you need to do to meet your objectives (i.e., Step 2), and then identify the costs to execute each of those actions. If the costs are prohibitively high, iterate on your planned marketing activities until you have the mix you think will maximize your net return.

The contrast to this is “top-down” budgeting, in which a certain amount of money is allocated to marketing. Then, you allocate that money to your various planned marketing activities until it’s gone. Top-down budgeting can result in over-spending (“We have some leftover budget, so let’s have a pizza party!”) or under-spending (“We’d get a really good return on those ads, but we don’t have the budget.”). Bottom-up budgeting focuses on maximizing your net return on your marketing spend which generally results in more optimal decisions.

Things to Consider

Here are some things to factor in when creating your budget:

  • Design services and video production (check out Fiverr for affordable freelancers)
  • Printing and mailing
  • Website building (Eventbrite is great for ticketing)
  • Digital marketing
  • Print marketing
  • Employee payment
  • Ticket discounts

Step 4: Build Your Creative Assets

Creative assets include any marketing material you will be sending to potential supporters. These include postcards, landing pages, digital advertisements, videos and more.

Build Assets at One Time

If possible, build as many of your creative assets at one time (before you officially launch your campaign). This will save you time in the long run. You will know where all your favorite logos, images and verbiage are stored, and you won’t have to continually re-learn your PDF editing tool! Your end products will also have a more consistent look and feel, which communicates to supporters that your gala is run by people who know what they’re doing.

Hire a Graphic Designer (It’s Cheaper Than You Think!)

Don’t hesitate to spend some money on a graphic designer. Fiverr is a marketplace to hire freelancers to make your flyer, video, landing page and other collateral. You’d be surprised with the professional set of marketing materials you can acquire for $200!

Create Urgency

When crafting communications, always stress that now is the best time to buy your ticket. You can achieve this by offering an early-bird discount or stressing that you have a limited number of tickets left (the latter is technically true for any event). People want to go to well-attended events, so give out the vibe that ticket sales are going great. After all, nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.

Step 5: Execute, Measure, Refine, Repeat

Congrats! You are ready to launch your marketing campaign. Though, your work is not done. Devise ways to measure the efficacy of each marketing tactic you employ. Then use that immediate feedback to make any adjustments to future tactics.

Some ways you can measure response is by adding a special promo code to mailers to see how many people use it, or by looking at click-through-rates on your emails and social media advertisements. You may find, for example, that using a still photo performs better on social media than a video. You could modify your future advertisements accordingly.

A word of caution: Your early marketing tactics may not achieve the measured results you are hoping for. Don’t be discouraged. Just remember the “Marketing Rule of 7” that says a prospect needs to hear your message at least 7 times before they’ll take action to buy your product. So, your early communications are just laying the groundwork for future success.

Happy marketing!

Alex McDonald is the Director of Customer Experience for TravelPledge. He is passionate about helping nonprofits exceed their auction goals.

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