Article first published in December 2016, updated June 2019
Many nonprofits host an annual event as a fundraiser. From guest speakers, walks/runs, conferences, or silent auctions, there are many types of events to help raise money. No matter what type of event you host, using email marketing is a smart tactic to get the word out. And, because sending an email invitation is easy and affordable, you won’t be cutting into the funds from your event.
In this post, we’ll share 5 tips on using email marketing to help your nonprofit pack the house for your next event.
1. Who’s invited
Before you send out any event invitations, you’ll need to know who you’re inviting to the event and why they should attend. Knowing your target audience will help you plan out your emails and what list or lists you’ll be using. Once you know who your audience is, you can segment your list (if needed) to make sure you’re including the right group of donors or attendees for your event.
Source: Really Good Emails
Most nonprofit events rely heavily on volunteers to help everything run well. Create a volunteer segment and verify you not only invite donors, but also get volunteer support as well. Understanding who needs to be at your event will make planning your event marketing strategy easier.
2. Send a save the date email.
Your organization will put in a lot of time and effort planning a fundraising event. You want the people you invite to come and enjoy it and hopefully be more involved with your cause. To help get as many attendees as possible to your event, you’ll want to give them a heads-up when it’s going to happen by sending a Save the Date email. This likely will be the first time they hear about your event, so send an email with a compelling graphic and, most importantly, the date, place, and time of your event. That way, those who are invited can make room for your event on their calendars. The sooner you can do this, the better chance you have of people being free and able to attend. If you don’t have all the details yet, include as much as you can in this first save the date email and then send more information in the actual invitation email.
Amnesty International includes a clear date and venue in their event email.
3. Use personalization.
By using data you already have about your attendees, you can personalize your event emails. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. In addition to the subject line, use a name in the body of your email to give your attendees a warm feeling about your organization. Personalization makes your email more relevant to your readers, so use any other information you may have collected over time. You can use an email signup form to collect this type of information or a CRM if you’re using it for your contact data. If you want to take personalization to the next level, try using dynamic images in your email so that different segments of your list see certain images.
4. Start inviting.
While there are different ways to invite your attendees to your event, email is more effective for reaching your donors or volunteers. Drag-and-drop email templates make it super easy to create your invitation, and, with 19.6% of event registrations coming from mobile devices, using a mobile-friendly template is key.
As you start creating your email invitation, be sure to include all the key information your attendees will need to know, such as the date, time, location, and cost. Keep the text to the point so that you’re not sending an email that’s too long, and make sure you outline the benefits of attending. Let your attendees know what great things they can expect if they come to your event, not just that it’s a fundraiser for your organization. And, if they need to register for your event, use an easy-to-click CTA button so they can do it right away.
Send out one or two reminders to your attendees once they’ve signed up, depending on how far in the future your event is. Also, send your volunteers any additional information they’ll need to work at your event, especially if it’s different from what your attendees need to know. And always include a donation CTA button in your email, so, if someone can’t attend, they can easily make a donation to your cause.
5. After the event
Once you’ve sent your email invitations and wrapped up your successful event, you’re still not quite finished.
Send follow-up emails to thank everyone who attended your event, including donors, volunteers, and your staff. Many nonprofits host the same, or similar, event each year and sending a thank you can help ensure a high turnout in the future. Your attendees would also enjoy knowing how much your event raised and how their donations will help others, so include it in your follow-up email.
Bonus points for effective nonprofit event email marketing
Marketing a nonprofit event is not at all like inviting people to a concert. In order for your event to be successful, you have to ensure that you nail your nonprofit event invitation. Here are a few other ways you can optimize your event email campaign.
Use images to help share your vision.
Images are a powerful way of conveying a message. Particularly if the cause you are championing is far from home, images help you paint a clearer picture of why you need your audience’s participation. If you have a gallery of images from past missions, link to it in the email. Doing so will enable those who are interested to get a better picture of your cause.
Source: Campaign Monitor
Next time you send out a nonprofit event invitation, make sure to include some relevant images. Great as your email copy may be, for some, a simple image is all it takes to move them to action.
Harness the power of storytelling.
Inviting people to part with their hard-earned money is no easy task. The reason is simple: People only give for a cause they feel a connection with. This is where storytelling comes to play.
Source: Campaign Monitor
By including storytelling (statistics or actual events) in your nonprofit email marketing, you create an emotional connection between your readers and your cause. Done well, storytelling can not only improve attendance, but can also help drive donations.
Craft a clear CTA.
What do you want your readers to do after reading your email? Make it very clear by crafting a clear and actionable CTA.
Source: Campaign Monitor
Here are a few CTA best practices you should remember to follow:
- Have only one call to action. While you can place your CTA in multiple places in your email, make sure, in all instances, it’s the same.
- Use a strong verb to start off your CTA copy.
- Give your readers a reason to click on your CTA. Human beings are action-driven creatures and need motivation.
For your fundraising event invitation, make it clear that you need people to attend the event or they’ll assume you’re asking for a donation.
Make it easy to register.
When designing your registration form, make sure it’s user friendly. Develop forms that are easy to fill by only requiring necessary information. You can also use drop-down lists in your form to make it easy for participants to select an option.
Source: 123 Form Builder
Forms that are long and complicated encourage high drop-off rates, resulting in fewer people attending your event.
Use a service like Eventbrite.
is a platform that helps you organize live events and experiences. You can create, share, and sell tickets for events that your target audience would be interested in.
While you can run a DIY event, it’s better to use a platform that helps you make sure that you don’t forget anything as you plan your event. If you’re afraid of losing control, you won’t. Eventbrite allows you to manage and track your event registration and ticket sales easily with real-time reporting and analytics—from any device.
Planning for events takes time and can take months of preparation to pull off successfully. Make it easier for yourself and your organization by using email marketing to reach the people you need to attend your event. And, once your event has finished, keep in touch with regular newsletters to let your donors know how much they make a difference.
For more tips on email marketing for nonprofits check out The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Nonprofits.