So, you’re planning an event for your nonprofit. You need to secure a venue, line up some entertainment, set a fundraising goal, and assemble a stellar marketing strategy.
Attendance is one of the most important key performance indicators for a nonprofit event— after all, it would be challenging to solicit funds from a bunch of empty chairs or Zoom screens. You’re probably already hitting the streets with word-of-mouth, printed mailers, and email campaigns galore to spread the word.
But is your nonprofit’s website doing all it can to drive event registrations?
At Cornershop Creative, we’ve seen firsthand what can make for a great nonprofit website. We’ve seen websites that drive registrations across the finish line, and we’ve seen those not-so-great websites that actively discourage visitors with iffy user experience (UX) design.
Needless to say, your website needs to be awesome if you want to blow your event fundraising goals out of the water. Luckily, there are a few updates that you can make to your site to get there! In this guide, we’ll cover the following three tips to drive event registrations using your nonprofit’s website:
- Nail the design of your event sign-up form.
- Encourage event registrations across your website.
- Go the extra mile with an event microsite.
With a few tweaks to your nonprofit’s website, you can make it a registration-generating machine. Let’s get started by first looking at the foundation for your online registrations strategy: your sign-up form.
Nail the design of your event sign-up form.
When we discuss increasing event registrations using your website, the biggest player is your event sign-up form. Your blog content shares information about the event and your calls-to-action tell site visitors to “sign up here.” But, your event registration form is what actually seals the deal.
With your sign-up form, the goal is to make it as easy as possible for site visitors to register and claim their spot with your event. Think of it this way: have you ever encountered a clunky form with mislabeled or too many required fields and then simply gave up halfway through? You say you’ll fill it out later… but how often does that actually happen?
For many folks, “later” means never! That’s why it’s crucial to have an event registration form with a streamlined, convenient, and pleasant UX.
If you’ve ever hosted a digital fundraiser with an online donation page, you’re probably already familiar with many event registration form best practices. To cover our bases, however, here are a handful of tips to keep in mind:
- Embed the form directly on your website. When your event registration form is embedded directly onto your website (rather than opening in a third-party page), it saves a step for event registrants and makes the process quicker overall.
- Use a clean, motivating, and clearly branded design. The visual design of your registration form should be simple, clean, and easy to understand at a quick glance — if you want to get fancy with design elements, save that for your event! The form fields, a quick description of the event itself, and a compelling photo of your mission in action are all it takes to motivate supporters to sign up for the event.
- Limit the number of required fields. Required fields are those that site visitors have to fill out before they can proceed to the next step in the registration process. It’s understandable that you want to ask for as much information as possible to learn about event guests (What are their food preferences? How did they learn about your event?), but avoid making too many fields required. Just make the need-to-know information required (think: contact details, name, etc.) and anything else optional!
- Condense the form to a single page. Avoid asking guests to click through multiple steps to register for your event, if possible. Make a registration form that’s one page with all fields easy to view and access. Remember, the goal is to make it as quick and easy as possible for guests to sign up!
- Make sure it’s mobile-friendly. According to Double the Donation’s nonprofit fundraising statistics, at least half of all nonprofit site traffic in the last year came from mobile and tablet users. Your registration form should adjust to fit the size of whatever screen the site visitors are viewing it on. Bonus points for making the form tab-friendly, so mobile users don’t need to try to zoom in on the various form fields on a smaller iPhone or Android screen!
Streamlined registration forms are the number one resource when it comes to driving registrations at your nonprofit’s next event. The rest of your strategy will center around this form, so make sure you’re setting a strong foundation by optimizing it from the start.
Encourage event registrations across your website.
It would be a shame to hand-craft a motivating, streamlined, and easy-to-use event registration form and then not have any site visitors check it out, right? Right! So, your next task is to drive traffic to your registration form from across your website and beyond.
There are a number of ways that you can overtly (and sometimes sneakily!) include shout-outs to your event and a link to your registration form across your website. A few of our favorites include:
- Bold “Register Now” buttons. Include these buttons wherever you mention your event on your website — for example, in blog posts and on your homepage. Consider making these buttons a bright color, as long as you maintain adequate color contrast between the background of your website, the button itself, and the text on the button. You can check the accessibility of your color choices using this resource!
- Call-to-action text. Whenever you mention your event on your website, include a quick sentence that directs readers to your registration form. Something along the lines of “[Event Mention]. Want to get involved? Register here!” will do the trick.
- Lightboxes. Lightboxes are a nifty tool that function as an attention-grabbing pop-up when site visitors navigate to a specific page on your website. For example, you could include a lightbox about your event that appears as soon as site visitors land on your homepage. A successful lightbox will include visually impactful imagery and very clear language around the next steps (such as registering for your event). Lightboxes may seem like more advanced website wizardry, but content management systems such as WordPress have plugins (such as WP Popup) that will help you create them.
While you want to make sure your website is doing the heavy lifting when it comes to driving traffic to your registration form, remember that you can incorporate shout-outs into your overall nonprofit outreach strategy as well.
For example, include a plug for your event and a link to the registration form across your social profiles and email marketing campaigns. You could even generate a quick QR code and include it on printed materials and direct mail. Simply Google search “QR Code Generator” to find a number of providers that will create a quick code, download the JPG or PNG image, and add it to your print-worthy communications!
Go the extra mile with an event microsite.
Have you ever planned an event, program, or campaign and felt like the marketing materials just didn’t do it justice?
Like those moments in elementary school, planning the superhero party that you were sure all of your friends would remember for years to come. But then the party store ran out of Superman-themed invites, and you had to settle for the more generic blue and red, unbranded invites. Undoubtedly less effective than the themed invites!
Or, for a more modern, but mildly less fun example, let’s say you’ve hosted a massive fundraiser campaign that showcased multiple special events. If the campaign messaging made it seem as though each event was a separate entity and the common thread of your fundraising campaign was lost along the way, that might be a good sign that the fundraising campaign would work better with its own microsite. Or similarly, maybe you have an annual event that you hold every year, but supporters seem to forget about past years when the event rolls around.
When the “identity” of the event is distinct and significant enough that you won’t want it to get lost alongside the rest of your content and messaging, you can use an event microsite to keep your event marketing fresh.
An event microsite is a website that’s created specifically for your event itself. These sites are often connected to your main website via a subdomain and are often branded to the event itself rather than using your usual organization branding.
There are a few benefits of using a microsite for your nonprofit’s event, including:
- Brand Visibility: Your microsite should generally align with your nonprofit’s overall brand (so supporters recognize that the event is associated with your organization), but you can take it a step further with event-specific branding. You can begin building a brand behind the event itself — think of Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society. While the Relay for Life event is associated with the American Cancer Society, the event itself has its own recognizable brand.
- Content: You don’t want to overload your main website with so much event-specific content that it drowns out content about regular operations. With a microsite, you can post everything you want to about the event itself, such as information about the specific part of your mission that the event will support, updates on your fundraising goals, interviews with volunteers who participate in the event, and more.
- Data: With your main website, you can track data about individuals who are generally interested in your nonprofit and mission overall. But with a microsite, you can track data about people who are interested in the event itself. Which pages did they visit? Which had the highest impact on registrations? How did individuals land on the site to begin with?
Your microsite will still need a landing page for event registrations, so the tips earlier in this guide still apply. But the microsite helps to further your event marketing by providing a dedicated web presence for your event.
Is your nonprofit’s website pulling its weight when it comes to driving registrations for your next event? If not, it’s time to make a few changes!
With these adjustments, you’ll ensure it’s easy and straightforward for site visitors to learn about your event and register. Good luck!