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7 Effective Digital Strategies for Your Next Nonprofit Event

Last updated: 01-07-2020

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7 Effective Digital Strategies for Your Next Nonprofit Event

Hosting an event is a good way to educate large groups of people about your cause, find new donors, and have a fun time while doing so! However, putting on a successful, maybe even trend-setting event is no small task– there are a ton of factors to consider to make sure everything goes on as planned!

Luckily, hosting an event is becoming an easier task as digital tools become more readily accessible. Check out a few digital strategies you can use to make sure your next event is a success:

4. Communicate with donors quickly and through multiple channels. 

7. Collect data from the event for future planning. 

Follow along for a breakdown of each strategy, and how they can positively affect your next event. 

You may be tempted to dive headfirst into the worlds of constituent relationship management and digital event planning software when beginning preparation for your event– it’s certainly exciting! However, before even considering purchasing a new set of tools, you should first evaluate your nonprofit’s software needs. As it should serve as the foundation of your whole tech toolkit, start by making sure your database is up to par. 

Just as each nonprofit is different, so are the CRM options available to help support your event planning goals. It’s important that you evaluate exactly which features your organization needs in order to find the perfect fit. According to CharityEngine’s nonprofit CRM guide, there are five considerations to make before choosing your CRM:

• Conduct a tech audit defining what technology your organization already has, the cost of owning it, and the functionality it carries. Use this to identify any holes in your current lineup.

• Prioritize your needs by considering which missing elements are most pressing. Make a list of the features that will adequately fill those needs.

• Start researching various CRM options by consulting other nonprofits that conduct similar work to yours and reading the reviews on trustworthy tech blogs. 

• Ask for a demonstration, during which you should ask many questions to make sure you’re investing wisely!

Finally, after completing your research, choose the perfect CRM.

Carefully evaluating your nonprofit’s needs and completing thorough research on the various software options will ensure that you make an investment that will benefit your nonprofit for years to come. 

During your research, you probably noticed a few key features to look for in a CRM, such as payment processing, online fundraising, and communications management abilities. 

Each of these functions will be essential for digital event planning. Choosing a CRM that offers all of these abilities will help to streamline operations. Instead of having multiple applications and spreadsheets documenting these processes, you’ll be able to handle it all within one software!

A CRM is meant to function as one centralized database that contains information on all interactions with your nonprofit. Investing in a fully-functional CRM now will help you plan better events as you generate more organized, actionable data year after year.

And if you have different systems that you prefer and like working with, opt for one that communicates well via an integration.

Donations are the driving force of nonprofit organizations, and you want to make it as easy as possible for donors to give at your event.

By choosing a management software that allows for online fundraising, you can make the donation process as easy as one-click. There are a few online fundraising features you should look for in your fundraising and event management tools:

• One-click giving. This enables donors to make repeated gifts without having to fill out their contact information each time. 

• Mobile-friendly design. Earlier this year, 48.71% of online traffic came from mobile sources such as tablets and smartphones. Since then, this number has steadily hovered around the 50% mark. Optimizing your website to appear as well-designed and functional on mobile as it does on desktop ensures no donor is deterred.

• Familiar branding. Customizing the design of your online fundraising platform to reflect the visual identity of your nonprofit helps to build donor trust.

• Automatically updated payment information. When a donor uses a new credit card to make a donation, your integrated CRM should be able to add that card to the donor’s existing record to automatically update their profile. 

• Secure processing of donations. Look for a PCI-certified provider, which means that they’ve been tested by an outside party to ensure security. Another classification to look out for is PCI-compliant, which means they’ve completed this security testing in-house. 

Reduced processing costs. Using an internal processing system rather than billing all donation and payment processing out-of-house significantly reduces the costs associated with the process. 

With more and more people using credit/debit cards to donate, employing a CRM that easily processes digital transactions is sure to be helpful to donors at your upcoming event. 

Bonus! If you’re planning to sell t-shirts, water bottles or any other type of merchandise to commemorate your event, consider saving time and money by making an online inventory available for those who weren’t able to pick it up during the event. 

The key to successful digital event planning is strong marketing in the weeks leading up to the event! Both communicating with potential attendees before the event and following up with gratitude afterward is essential for success. 

Luckily, just as you can choose donor management software that offers streamlined online fundraising and payment processing, you can also choose one that can help you manage donor communications effectively.

Whether using personalized email campaigns (that automatically populate the donor’s name and other details from their engagement profile), direct mail marketing (which, when combined with digital strategies, tends to yield strong results), or automated messages (sent immediately to donors upon completion of an action)– your CRM should be able to help you accomplish it all when promoting your event. 

Another good option is to capitalize on social media marketing, whether as your primary advertising force or to supplement your more traditional methods. It’s cost-effective, easy-to-scale, and has near-immediate results!

It’s important to remember that, while your end goal may be to raise funds for your organization, another crucial reason you’re planning an event is to host a group of people. At the end of the day, you want to make sure to be a good host– and that starts with having easy-to-navigate processes for your attendees!

Look for fundraising and event planning software that includes plenty of intuitive attendee management features. Many of these processes directly affect the donor, and you want to make sure they’re optimized for a positive experience.

There are a few key components to remember to ensure the donor leaves your event with a 5-star review:

• A simplified registration process allowing you to gather all needed information without taking too much of your donor’s time. Think of this from the start and even when they arrive onsite.

• An automatic electronic ticketing system eliminating the need for paper tickets.

• A secure payment processing system so donors can feel comfortable contributing to your cause. 

While you should definitely be focused on your event’s core goal, whether that’s fundraising, gaining recognition for your nonprofit, or something else, remember that providing an excellent attendee experience is an essential part of achieving any of those goals! 

Doing so will ensure that everyone involved gains value from your event. From their check-in experience to their interaction with any donors or sponsors, make it memorable and easy!

There are approximately 1.8 million events (conventions, conferences, congresses, trade shows, exhibitions, incentive events, corporate/business meetings– the list goes on) held each year, totaling around 205 million total attendees, according to statistics from Events Industry Council.

That is a lot of events targeting a lot of attendees. You might be wondering, how can you stand out when there are so many events to compete against?

It’s easy– by narrowing the audience you’re looking to target, dividing that audience into segments, and tailoring your marketing to target them accordingly. Each of these steps can be accomplished with a bit of donor research.

Donor analytics looks at data you gather on past contributors and gives you insight on trends in your donor base, such as capacity, to give and affinity for doing so. Once you gather this information, you can use it to make decisions on how to best market and operate your event to engage your key segments. A wide range of questions regarding your event can be answered by donor analytics:

• What age range should you expect at the event? Can you tailor activities accordingly?

• How much should you charge for tickets? Event merchandise?

• Are there any opportunities for major gift donations or corporate partnerships?

• How do your donors prefer to be marketed to?

The list can go on! For more information on how these insights can help in your next event, check out DonorSearch’s guide to donor analytics. 

After your event, you should collect and store all relevant data gained through the process to use for future event planning. 

Data can be the difference between less-than-stellar attendance and a sold-out event, and your most recent event has generated a ton of it!

On the day of your event, you probably learned what worked and what didn’t–from activities offered and speakers hired to food options provided and hours of operation. In addition, data can give you valuable, quantifiable insights into who attended your event, how much they donated, and how they preferred to do so.

This information is valuable in preparing for your next event as it allows you to optimize future planning to fit the donors that you now know are also event attendees. Once again, your CRM will be an essential asset in storing and evaluating this data. 

Planning an event that will both entertain guests and help you reach your goals is no small task, but using a digital approach can certainly help!

When you begin planning for your next event, consider implementing these 7 digital strategies. Both giving you insight on your donor base and streamlining the process for all involved, these tech-based tips are sure to improve the planning of your next event. 

Guest Author Bio: Leigh Kessler is VP of Marketing and Communications at donor management software platform CharityEngine and a frequent speaker on branding, fundraising, data and technology. He is a former nationally touring headline comedian and has appeared on numerous TV shows including VH1’s “Best Week Ever”, CNN’s “Showbiz Tonight”, Discovery Channel & Sirius Radio.​ He has overseen and informed research and branding strategies for some of the most well-known brands in America. 


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