5 Best Practices for Event Email Marketing (Guest Post)

You’re laying the groundwork for your next nonprofit event. You’re planning how you’ll set up the venue (or virtual event space), acquiring auction items, and creating the event schedule. There’s only one element missing from your event plans: how are you going to get people to attend? 

Your next auction or gala might be your most exciting one yet, with unique experiences up for grabs or impactful speakers on the schedule. But your event won’t be successful if you can’t encourage supporters to sign up and get involved. 

This is where email marketing comes to the rescue! Email marketing allows you to cut through the digital clutter and speak directly to your audience. You can craft an email series leading up to your next event that builds excitement and motivates your audience to engage.

As you create your event email marketing plan, use these best practices: 

  1. Use your data to determine who your audience is.
  2. Segment your audience to craft personalized communications. 
  3. Design your messages with mobile screens in mind.
  4. Optimize your visuals.
  5. Thank participants after the event. 

Keep in mind that if your email audience isn’t as strong as you’d like it to be, you have a few options for building your subscriber base. You can pursue organic audience-building activities such as including an email newsletter sign-up page on your website or promoting your newsletter via social media. You can also partner with a database marketing firm to gain access to custom marketing lists that include individuals with a proven interest in your offerings.

Using both strategies in tandem allows you to grow your audience at a faster rate ahead of your next event. With this in mind, let’s dive in!

1. Use your data to determine who your audience is.

Before you start reaching out to prospective event attendees, you must understand who your audience members are and what motivates them. The foundation of your data marketing strategy is the supporter data you collect throughout various interactions. 

There are two types of data you should collect:

  • In-house data is the information your organization has collected on its audience members over time. This includes contact information, communication preferences, social media interactions, email sign-ups, and more.
  • Third-party data is information collected from third-party sources that helps fill gaps in your database. Third-party data can tell you information about a certain audience members’ homeowner status, interests, and marital status, for instance. 

When you learn more about your audience, you also gain access to clues about which audience members will be most interested in your event. Parse through your in-house data to determine which supporters attended your previous events, for example. Or, use third-party data to determine local audience members who are interested in philanthropic giving and invite them to the occasion. 

As AccuData’s digital marketing guide explains, you can use a service like Web Visitor Intel to determine who is visiting your event website or landing page and what they’re doing when they arrive on the site. Using Web Visitor Intel involves embedding a custom line of code into your website and using it to collect visitor data.

You can then use this web visitor data to adjust your email outreach. For instance, if your most popular event-related website pages are your event calendar and FAQs page, you can promote those pages more heavily in your email marketing campaign. This ensures that you’re putting the information that supporters are most interested in front and center. 

2. Segment your audience to craft personalized communications. 

Supporter segmentation is the process of grouping your audience members based on shared characteristics. Segmentation allows you to refine your audience and communicate with each group in ways that resonate with them. 

When it comes to event marketing, consider segmenting your audience based on these characteristics for the greatest outreach success:

  • Demographics: Group your audience members based on age or geographic location. Then, tailor your email outreach to each group, such as sending driving directions to your nearby supporters and the livestream link to attendees who live farther away. 
  • Interests: Your audience is made up of donors, volunteers, and advocates who all engage with your organization for different reasons. Some may be interested in hearing about volunteer opportunities, while others like to stay in the know regarding current events happening in your cause area. By dividing your audience based on interests, you can send different kinds of promotional emails that resonate with each group. For instance, you can send out a call for event volunteers to your volunteer segment or provide information on your fundraising purpose and goals to your donors. 
  • Engagement level: Segment your audience based on the frequency of their involvement in the past. Divide your audience into groups of those who’ve participated in your events in the past and those who haven’t. Then, you can send reminder emails to past attendees along the lines of “We loved seeing you last year, and we’re so excited for this year’s new and improved event!” To those who haven’t attended before, send information about the purpose of the event and any related fundraising goals to provide the background information they need.

Segmentation allows you to send audience members information that’s most relevant to them, which they’re more likely to engage with. This practice saves your team time and facilitates a more targeted marketing approach. Plus, your supporters will appreciate your efforts to appeal to their interests and preferences. 

3. Design your messages with mobile screens in mind.

According to a study by EmailMonday, more email is read on mobile devices than desktop computers, with about 42% of emails being opened on mobile phones. This means you must take a “mobile-first” approach to your email design to ensure that your content can be viewed on smaller screens. 

Optimize your emails for mobile viewing by incorporating the following tips:

  • Choose a responsive design that automatically adjusts to various screen sizes. Use an email template that features a mobile-responsive design and be sure to check the mobile version of your messages before sending them to ensure there aren’t any formatting issues. 
  • Keep your subject and content brief. Since phone screens are significantly smaller than laptop or desktop screens, your subject lines should be kept brief so they can be read from recipients’ inboxes. A good rule of thumb is to ensure your subjects aren’t longer than 35 characters. The content within the email should also be succinct — mobile viewers want to get all the information they need in just a few seconds so they can keep scrolling. 
  • Make your CTA buttons pop. On mobile devices, your event marketing content is competing with a variety of other notifications, from news updates to social media alerts. Therefore, your email content needs to capture recipients’ attention right away and let them know what you want them to do. Your call to action buttons should be large and motivational, telling supporters to “Register Now” or “Give to Support the Cause.” Choose a color for your button that pops against the background so supporters can’t miss it.

Luckily, the same tips that make your emails look good on mobile devices also improve their appearance on desktop and laptop computers as well. Brevity and clear-cut design elements improve the look of email content on any platform. No matter how supporters view your event promotion emails, they’ll appreciate having a streamlined, simplified message that doesn’t take long to interpret. 

4. Optimize your visuals.

You’ll bore your email audience if you only send emails that consist of long text blocks. Your emails should include exciting visual elements that give recipients a sneak peek at what they can expect from your event. 

For instance, if you’re hosting a charity auction, you should include a look at some of the items that attendees will be able to bid on. When attendees see they have the chance to win a tropical vacation or a golf excursion, they’ll be more inclined to attend your event and try to win valuable prizes. 

In addition to images of your auction items, you should also include photos that connect your auction’s purpose to your organization’s greater mission. So, if your annual auction funds a community after-school program for kids, you can include images of kids enjoying the program’s activities (with their parents’ permission). This helps remind audience members what the event is all about and can influence them to get involved. 

You don’t have to include both event previews and impact images in the same email — in fact, it’s recommended that you don’t. Re:Charity’s multichannel marketing guide suggests just including one or two images rather than cluttering your email with too many visual elements. 

Including a couple of strong, evocative images can be more memorable than a collage, which might distract or confuse recipients.

5. Thank participants after the event. 

Your digital engagement campaign isn’t over when your event concludes. Bring your marketing efforts full circle by following up with attendees and sponsors after the event and thanking them for their participation.

Ensure your thank you messages: 

  • Include personalization. Whether you’re reaching out to sponsors, event attendees, or donors, be sure to address your thank you letters with recipients’ preferred names. This makes the messages feel more genuine as participants feel acknowledged for their specific contributions. 
  • Ask for feedback. Show your supporters that you appreciate their opinions by asking for feedback on your event. Send a short survey via email that asks about aspects such as participants’ overall satisfaction and any recommendations they have for future improvements. 
  • Leave the door open for future engagement. Once your event concludes, it’s time to start thinking about how you can retain the supporters who just attended, sponsored, or donated. Let them know about what your organization will be doing next and how they can stay involved. 

In addition, ensure your post-event emails summarize the results of your event. Share your fundraising results, the number of supporters who attended, and what you’ll be able to accomplish due to this support. This lets attendees know that their contributions were appreciated and that their funds are being put to good use.

With these strategies in your pocket, you’ll be able to craft a better event email marketing campaign that’s relevant and appealing to your supporters. You can keep your virtual, in-person, or hybrid event front-of-mind for supporters. Good luck!

Gabrielle Perham

Gabrielle is the Director of Marketing for AccuData Integrated Marketing. She joined the organization in 2017 and possesses more than 15 years of experience in strategic marketing, branding, communications, and digital marketing. She earned a B.S. in Marketing and an M.B.A in Marketing Management from the University of Tampa.