COVID-19 has completely disrupted the nonprofit world. Your go-to way of raising money is off the table, forcing you to pivot to virtual.
It’s normal to feel anxious about this change. What if no one shows up? How will your community be impacted if your organization doesn’t reach its fundraising goals?
We’ll be real with you—if you don’t strategically market your virtual fundraiser, your donors aren’t going to (virtually) show up to give and your organization’s bottom line will suffer. Your community is counting on your organization to provide the resources and programs to survive.
When you develop a virtual event marketing strategy, you can feel confident knowing that you will inspire donors to register and raise the funds needed to serve your community.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to market your virtual fundraiser with confidence and ease. We’ll show you why marketing your virtual event is important. And we will walk you through a step-by-step process to build your event marketing strategy.
Let’s dive in!
What is a virtual event marketing strategy? 🤨
In a nutshell, a virtual event marketing strategy is your plan of action to increase awareness of your event and get community supporters and donors to register. Your strategy contains your organization’s value proposition, event theme, brand messaging and talking points, visual identity, and plan for email and social communications. Most importantly, having a strategy is key to achieving high registration and attendee numbers, and to reaching your fundraising goals.
What does a virtual event marketing strategy do? 🚀
Setting a strategy for your event helps clarify your objectives and map out your marketing plan. Your virtual event marketing strategy will help you:
- Set your goals and objectives - When you are clear on your registration and fundraising goals, you can set your key performance indicators (KPIs) for social and email, which will help indicate whether you’re on track for achieving your goals.
- Develop brand messaging and talking points - Every marketing campaign is the practice of repetition. Developing your talking points in your marketing strategy will help you clarify your message and be consistent with messaging.
- Design your visual identity - Your visual identity will help you stand out from other events, build trust with your online supporters, and will remind audience members of your brand.
- Plan your email and social communications - Say goodbye to wondering what to post this week. Your event marketing strategy will help you determine your content calendar and plan out all email and social media posts from the beginning.
When you develop a virtual event marketing strategy, you’ll rest easy knowing you have a solid strategy to help your organization reach its fundraising goals.
6 steps to developing your virtual event marketing strategy 🤚
Determine your campaign objectives ✅
Every great marketing campaign begins with identifying your campaign objectives.
For virtual events, your objectives are likely related to registration numbers, dollars raised, or new supporters.
Campaign objectives to set:
- Fundraising Goal - How much money do you need to raise with this event?
- Registration Goal - How many people do you need to attend to reach your fundraising goal?
- New Supporters Goal - How many new supporters or donors do you want to reach with this event?
Develop a powerful event theme 🔌
With your objectives determined, your next step in developing your virtual event marketing strategy is to identify an event theme. Whether a fundraiser, networking event, or celebration, event themes have the power to set the tone, draw a crowd, and help you stand out from the thousands of other virtual events out there.
Your event theme should unify your objectives, relate to your current hardships or programming, and call your community to take action. Most importantly, it should be something that makes your donors and community members feel something.
If you find your team getting stuck on developing a theme, reach out to a few donors to ask why they support your organization. This can help you understand their motivating factors for donating. We did exactly this when we were working with the Children of Armenia Fund. When the donor was asked why she supports the organization, she said “I love COAF because you move mountains for the children in Armenia.”
This one sentence led us to develop the theme of “Moving Mountains for Armenia.” During a global pandemic and civil unrest in Armenia, this event theme unified the Armenian community to raise over $4.5 million for COAF.
“We really needed a team with creative energy to spearhead our marketing efforts with two of our virtual fundraisers. Marketing Mission was brought on board to create our virtual event theme, social media campaign, and eblasts. With over 3000 viewers and $4.5 million raised, our virtual events were a success thanks to their team.” — Danielle, Children of Armenia Fund
Write your event communication guide ✍️
With your event theme determined, your next step is to bring it to life through copywriting. With every campaign, write an overarching story theme with supplemental talking points. You’ll use these talking points to write your email and social media copy.
Your talking points should address the problem you’re solving, position your organization as the guide to solving this problem, and call your audience to action to join you.
- Problem: The pandemic has skyrocketed housing insecurity and its disproportionate impact on communities of color.
- Solution: We must step forward, in bold and unified ways
- Relief: Build equity faster than this pandemic is tearing it down.
- Register now
Bringing that together, you get a powerful theme description:
This pandemic has skyrocketed housing insecurity and its disproportionate impact on communities of color. The King County housing community needs us all to step forward, in bold and unified ways, to build equity faster than this pandemic is tearing it down.
Sounds a little better than “sign up for our virtual fundraiser!” doesn’t it?
Design your visual brand 🖼
When your event’s visual design doesn’t reflect the value of your organization, you leave money on the table. With a beautiful event brand that represents the value of your impact, you’ll stand out from other virtual events competing for your donor’s attention and raise the funds you need to continue living out your mission. In fundraising, branding is even more essential because visual cues prompt emotional connections that drive people to donate.
You’ll want to reflect this aesthetic across your entire event, including the following elements:
- Custom brand identity, including event logo, colors, typography, and textures
- Graphics for your website, social media, and email
- Live-stream graphics for titles, nameplates, donor recognition, and impact goals
- Customizable peer-to-peer fundraising captain instruction guide template
- Printable or digital thank you card design for attendees
Here’s an example of a few brands that have done this really well with their Givebutter campaigns.
With a beautiful visual event brand that helps you stand out in a crowded marketplace, word of mouth starts to spread like never before. You get higher donor engagement and increased donations because people are proud to be part of the work you are doing.
Even better, they are even prouder to introduce others to your organization.
Write your email campaign 💻
Your marketing plan is coming together! You have set your campaign objectives, developed a theme, wrote your talking points, and designed your visual brand. Now you just have to create your promotion campaign to encourage people to register and sign up!
Your email marketing campaign is a must for virtual events. If done right, nonprofit email marketing will help you connect with your audience, raise awareness of the event, and eventually convert people into attendees, donors, and engaged constituents.
For virtual events, we recommend sending the following emails:
Here’s the outline for your campaign:
- Save the date with a calendar invite
- Registration announcement
- Problem and solution
- Event program highlights
- 1-week registration reminder
- 24-hour countdown
- Attendees only: day of email with instructions on how to watch and donate
- Thank you
Use our 7 plug & play emails for virtual events to plan your entire campaign in one sitting.
Social media checklist 👍
Once you’ve developed your event talking points and used them to write your email campaigns, you can use that copy to develop your social media posts. Below, we’ve outlined your step-by-step instructions for setting your social media campaign.
Social media calendar
Start your social media campaign approximately 6-8 weeks before your event. This will ensure your audience has plenty of time to learn about your event and register. We recommend posting weekly and aligning your post content with your email schedule above.
Here’s a sample outline for your campaign:
- Save the date + Facebook event promotion
- Registration announcement
- Problem and solution
- Event program highlight(s) (create individual social media posts for each program piece)
- 1-week registration reminder
- 24-hour countdown
- Thank you and dollars raised.
Create your Facebook event
Create a Facebook event and link to your registration website so people can discover your event in their suggested events on Facebook.
You’ll want to share your event from your Facebook page as well.
Leveraging relationships with influencers can be another great strategy to increase awareness of your event. Use influencers as table captains and ask them to advocate and post on your behalf.
Over to you 👇
With the right marketing strategy in place, you’ll get your supporters tuned in to your virtual event and excited to support the amazing work you’re doing in your community. Here’s to you raising the funds needed to serve your community. We’re rooting for you.
Commit (Call-to-Action) 📢
Free Download: Download these 7 plug and play emails to promote your virtual fundraiser.
Don’t go it alone! With a custom virtual event marketing strategy built just for you, you can feel confident you’ll promote your event to the right people and raise the funds you need to continue living out your mission. Get started today.
Author: Kayla Hauge and Cody Hays with Marketing Mission
Givebutter made a $100 donation to Kayla and Cody's campaign of choice, Marketing Mission, for this guest blog.
Cody Hays helps organizations grow their impact through creative, data-driven digital marketing.