At Winspire, we are passionate about helping nonprofits raise more money. Event promotion, particularly email marketing, plays a huge role in the outcome of any fundraiser.
Last week we looked at what makes an impactful "save the date" email invitation. Striking images, vibrant colors, concise copy and links to a website all encourage donors to mark their calendars for your annual gala, auction or tournament.
But the "save the date" is just the first step in a months-long fundraising event email campaign.
Are you simply sending weekly reminder emails that rehash the same information over and over? Or are you thinking strategically and creatively to encourage as much participation as possible from a diverse donor base?
Make the most of every message with our 9 email "must-do's" to create anticipation and increase revenue at your event.
1. Understand your audience
Writing effective email invites starts with knowing what motivates and excites your supporters. What makes your event stand out? How is your nonprofit making a difference? What do guests hope to get out of the event?
Whether your organization is well established or brand new, it never hurts to learn more about donors. The best way to collect information, is to ask! Annual events are the perfect opportunity to contact your entire database and show their input is appreciated and valued.
Keep it simple by emailing out a survey with just a few questions. Online tools like SurveyMonkey and Google Forms make survey creation and tracking a breeze. See sample questions to ask in a pre-event survey.
To boost participation, including a small incentive (like raffling off a Starbucks gift card) never fails to get a wide range of responses!
Get the most out of your email campaigns! Click here to download the free eBook, "Beginner's Guide to Email Event Promotion," with bonus content calendar to help plan and organize efforts.
2. Tailor messaging to their interests
Now that you have a better idea of your audience's interests and perception of your event, write your event fundraising emails with two goals in mind: what you want to get out of the event and, just as importantly, what attendees hope to get out of it.
Your goal is increased funds and awareness for the organization. Make it clear to attendees how they will be helping your cause, and they'll arrive ready to donate while enjoying themselves as well.
You also want to use pre-event emails to highlight how attendees will benefit. Reveal some of the most exciting items you've procured for the auction, or emphasize that donations are tax-deductible. Offer an incentive to buy tickets or register early, such as discounts, prizes and giveaways.
In addition to what all guests will receive or enjoy at the event, you can segment your database into key categories (such as prior donors versus new contacts) and target messaging accordingly. Your organization has hundreds or thousands of supporters with vastly different priorities, interests and schedules, so the more you can fine-tune your email content, the better.
3. Address each recipient by name
- Dale Carnegie, speaker and salesman
As much as we love being invited to a “special event," an invitation is even more valuable when we are called by name. Supporter Dave Smith will feel more of a personal connection from a “Dear Dave” invite than a generic “Hi there” or "Special Event: All Welcome" salutation.
Acknowledge and appreciate each supporter by sending a finely crafted email invite that greets them by name.
Email service providers like MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy to populate the first name field automatically. For more instructions on using these providers, check out our video tutorial.
Note: Don’t use names in the subject line of the email, which can flag your message to aggressive spam filters. Stick to using “you” and “your” instead (i.e. “You are invited") to keep it personal while avoiding spam.
4. Personalize the sender
In addition to naming each recipient, put a face to the "inbox ambassador" of your nonprofit.
For each email's sender, use your name and personal email address rather than a generic one like "email@example.com" or "noreply@...". People are more likely to open an email that comes from a real person. Plus they'll appreciate knowing they can hit "Reply" and reach someone who can answer their question.
Including a picture in your email signature is also a nice touch. Studies show people feel a subconcious sense of connection when they make eye contact, so inserting a small professional headshot and basic contact information in your signature helps donors feel connected and at ease.
5. Feature one specific, direct ask
All event fundraising emails should include a link to register or purchase tickets somewhere in the message, but you can feature different asks, or calls to action, leading up to the big day.
What is a call to action (CTA)? It's the whole point of your email: the desired action you want readers to take. Each email should focus on one specific CTA. If you have more than one, readers may be confused about what you want them to do and close your message without doing anything.
Turn the CTA into a closing message that compels the reader to click and complete the designated action.
Examples of specific CTAs:
- Buy Tickets / Register Today
- View Auction Items
- Buy Sponsorships
- Learn More about Our Mission
- Share on Social Media
- Donate Today
Make sure there is a large and obvious button for them to click on and follow through. For example, this CTA to download FREE silent auction display templates is big, colorful, and leaves no room for guesswork:
In an upcoming post, we'll explore ways to strategize the arc of your CTAs and determine which are most effective for your readers.
6. Take advantage of "social proof"
In the world of for-profit business marketing, "social proof" refers to our tendency to do what others are doing: think case studies, testimonials and 5-star Amazon ratings. While attendees might not have reviewed your nonprofit on Yelp (though it's certainly possible!), you can still utilize this concept to build the reputation of your event.
In your emails, reference key stakeholders and VIPs who have voiced support for your event (like politicians, sponsors, board members, honorary hosts, etc); relevant news updates (like media coverage and press releases); and noteworthy statistics from past events (like the number of attendees and funds raised).
Trusted officials and local businesses are vouching for your event. You've had notable results in the past. You're getting the attention of the local media. Social proof makes your gala, auction or golf tournament "the place to be" amongst many competing fundraising events.
As mentioned in our post on "save the dates," establish a color scheme, font and go-to graphics (like logos) for your event early on. Consistent branding from start to finish will pull your promotonal materials together and save hours of time, since you won't have to decide on those design elements in the future. In written communication, it's important to keep the voice of your nonprofit consistent as well.
When all these components work together, email invites exude your organization’s personal touch, and attendees gain a sense of what makes you unique and worthy of their support and trust.
8. Establish a countdown
The overall purpose of the email campaign is to create anticipation for your event. You want donors marking their calendars and looking forward to the big annual silent auction, 5K or bowl-a-thon.
You could simply send out a "7 Days 'Til the Gala!" email invitation, but there's all kinds of creative, unexpected ways to highlight the countdown while accomplishing another goal.
For example, if there are four weeks until the big night, send a message detailing the top four ways the funds from your event will be used. With just four days before the auction, highlight the top 4 most-talked-about items up for bidding. I've seen 5Ks and Fun Runs include training tips from the "coach" and a "countdown to the finish line" graphic in the sidebar.
With limited email space and frequency, "countdowns" need to do double duty. Create a sense of urgency while entertaining, educating and enticing potential supporters.
9. Highlight your biggest draws
Finally, pulling off a successful email campaign is a whole lot easier if you can put some "sizzle" in each message. One of the best opportunities to promote auctions and raffles is securing big-ticket items early and leveraging them throughout the campaign.
Just imagine seeing this message in your inbox: "Hope Gala Auction Announcement: Win 2 tickets to Broadway smash hit Hamilton with cast member meet-and-greet!" Wouldn't you click to find out more?
(And yes, this is a real package Winspire is offering!)
Incredible Experiences are the crown jewel of your auction catalog, and you can strategically release and advertise these items one item at a time to build momentum up to the event. You'll have multiple reasons to continue sending emails, and the enticing subject lines practically write themselves. Donors will be buzzing about the event and sharing on social media ahead of time—a key acheivement for busy people with many different engagements.
Most importantly, by giving your audience a "Sneak Peek!" of featured items, guests will start to imagine themselves enjoying the items and strategize their spending, giving a sizable boost to the night's overall revenue.
We hope this post supplies some simple, practical ways to make the most of your event email marketing campaign. Stay tuned for more posts on event promotion, email timing strategies, segmentation and more!
If you'd like more information on using incredible vacation packages on consignment in your upcoming auction (at no upfront cost to you!), schedule a call with one of our Fundraising Specialists today. To view our Top 10 best selling Experiences, click below.