How to Create an Event Marketing Plan for Nonprofits

Questions to consider when creating your event marketing plan

From Katrina Williams, Marketing Manager

Read Time: 7 Minutes

It was just over a month ago when the BDI team gathered with our ministry partners for Empower: Renew – a biannual fundraising, networking and fellowshipping summit. 

Like any major conference, the event marketing plan for Empower: Renew began many months before the event itself. It was a strong communications strategy, conference goals, branding and program content that laid the foundation for a strong event marketing plan. 

Unlike other marketing initiatives, your nonprofit event marketing plan needs its own thorough strategy, timeline and goal. These elements combined can solidify current partner relationships, increase customer engagement, increase brand awareness and open the doors to new business. 

In fact, 95% of marketers believe that in-person events can have a major impact on achieving their company’s primary business goals.  

But when it comes to creating an event marketing plan for your nonprofit, where do you start? What are the first steps to putting an event together? 

Today, I want to share this Hubspot article, which walks through questions that your nonprofit should consider when planning the marketing strategy for your next event. 

Download this FREE PDF to help plan your nonprofit event today: 5 P’s to Successful Event Planning

Event Marketing Plan

What are your SMART goals? What’s your budget?

SMART goals stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Keeping your goals SMART helps you avoid running with vague goals like “bring in leads.”

SMART goals have a dual purpose: to give you direction when planning and implementing your event and to help you decide whether or not your event was a success (and if it wasn’t, to know how to improve).

An example of a SMART event marketing goal would be to “grow our prospective leads list for our new product by 100 names by the end of the event.”

This goal is specific (prospective leads for only the new product), measurable (100 names), attainable and relevant (assuming the event is relevant and there are more than enough attendees to get 100 names), and timely (by the end of the event).

Note: Don’t limit your event to one single goal. You should also set intangible goals like “strengthen relationships” and “engage prospective customers,” but in terms of creative and fiscal decisions, use your SMART goals to guide you — and to measure on the back end.

Lastly, take some time to define your event marketing budget. This is crucial as it’ll likely be the deciding factor on everything from the venue to the entertainment to the website.

What’s your event’s theme, brand and schedule?

To market your event, you must know what information and content to market. Before moving further, establish your event’s name, theme, brand and purpose. Why should people attend? What will they gain? Is your event an offshoot of your company, or is it a stand-alone brand?

Next, figure out where and when your event will take place. These will likely be the most-asked questions by attendees.

Then, research and outline your event’s schedule, such as keynote speakers, workshop sessions, entertainment portions, and times to gather and network.

You don’t have to secure all of these before you start promoting your event, but you should at least have an idea of who will be there and what you’ll offer for attendees.

Who are you marketing to? How will you reach them?

Define your target audience. Who would benefit most from attending your event? What kinds of people would enjoy your workshops, learn from your speakers, and engage your sponsors?

Establishing your audience will help you target and invest in the proper marketing channels. Social media and your event website are given channels in today’s digitally-saturated market. If your event is local, consider print advertisements. Consider adding your event to an event listing website like Eventful, Hey Event, and 10times to reach more people.

Event marketing with email

Email is another popular and effective way to promote events. 39% of marketers found that email marketing tools were the greatest contributor to event success.

Email information is easy to collect at registration, and attendees check email, so they’ll easily notice updates and confirmations.

Oftentimes, companies will create separate email addresses and newsletters for their events as a way to keep communication and promotion separate from others’ marketing efforts.

This also benefits your attendees – they probably don’t want their inboxes flooded.

What’s your content creation and management plan?

Promoting your event involves a lot of information – what, when, where, why, who and how, for starters. To properly manage all this information, you must establish a viable plan to create and control it.

Because your event details likely won’t be ready all at once, you’ll be tasked with releasing, updating and changing information for months leading up to the event. Will you do this via newsletter? Who will be in charge of making sure the website is up-to-date? Will you invest in an event app so attendees have this information in their pocket at all times?

What’s your event marketing timeline?

To engage your audience, it’s best to promote your event throughout the weeks and months leading up to it. It helps to outline a promotion timeline so you know when and what to release. A timeline like this also helps pique your attendees’ curiosity as you release new names or information at different times.

It’s also wise to organize a multi-touch promotion. Include a variety (i.e., email, social media, direct mail, phone calls, print ads and paid ads) to reach the maximum number of people.

Simply getting the word out there could make a massive difference in your registrations.

How will you promote and market during the event?

Marketing your event shouldn’t stop when your event begins. Dedicate some resources to promoting your event as it’s happening. Attendees may learn something new about what’s offered, and those who didn’t register will be curious about what they’re missing.

Most companies use social media to engage people while their event is happening. 73% of businesses use social media to promote specific events and features during the event, 55% use it to post photos, and 35% use it to amplify product announcements.

Consider taking Facebook or Instagram Live Video or live-tweeting during your event.

How will you measure your event success?

In the midst of a bustling event, it’s easy to take a look around and feel good about your attendance and engagement. But is that the best way to evaluate whether your event was a success? Probably not.

Like every other marketing investment, it’s wise to set some key performance indicators (KPIs) against which to measure your event and evaluate its performance.

Here are a few common KPIs for event marketing.

Revenue and cost-to-revenue ratio

How much money did your event bring in? If your event requires a paid ticket, gross revenue is an important measure of success. How does that amount compare to what you spent on the event? This comparison will help you better understand the value of your event and the resources offered. Events are expensive, but they’re not worth going into debt for.

Attendee satisfaction

Did your attendees enjoy your event? What did they participate in and enjoy the most? “Satisfaction” may seem like an obscure metric, but understanding the opinions and perspective of your event attendees can help you better understand where your event was a success… and where you could improve. Consider building a survey to ask your attendees about their experience, takeaways, and to calculate a Net Promoter Score (NPS) for your event.

Here’s a direct quote from another expert who provided some marketing advice in a recent piece of ours, Mike Piddock of Glisser spoke at INBOUND:

“Events need to be assessed with hard metrics, rather than just ‘gut-feel’ opinions and feedback forms to rate the coffee. Measure attendee engagement, rather than simply counting who registered and who showed up, as this is a great proxy for the effectiveness of the event.”

Social media mentions/engagement

How often was your event discussed on social media? What was the general consensus around the event? Did your attendees share content that engaged non-attendees? (It’s highly likely – a 2016 study found that 98% of consumers create digital content at events, and this number has likely risen today.) In today’s digital world, social media is a great measure of event success and reach. Take a look at your event mentions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. Consider using a hashtag so you can easily track posts.

If you need any advice planning your next event, BDI can help! Please contact me with any questions you might have. And don’t forget to download our FREE PDF event guide today!

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  • Katrina Williams

    Katrina Williams, Senior Marketing Manager

    After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree at Azusa Pacific University in 2018, Katrina set out to find an agency that would not only grow her skills in writing and marketing but would serve a greater purpose to help others. It wasn’t long until she found BDI and started her professional career at the agency.

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