This is a guest post from CallHub.
You’ve gotten people to sign up or register for your event. That’s great.
But, if your event is a month or two away, how do you actually confirm that they will attend it? It’s possible that the people who signed up did it in the spur of the moment and are likely to forget about it.
This is where email nurturing comes into play.
Nurturing your nonprofit event attendees with email
By keeping your attendees engaged through strategic emails that you send at regular intervals:
- You ensure your event stays fresh on their minds, so that they actually remember to show up
- You build the foundation for a relationship with people who haven’t engaged with your nonprofit before
But knowing what kind of emails you should send and the order in which you do so may prove to be a challenge. Read on to learn more about the email nurturing process in a step-by-step approach so you know exactly what type of emails your nonprofit should send to foster relationships and increase event attendance.
Figure out what your goals are
Nonprofit emails have a decent chance of being opened and read because of the recipient’s awareness about your cause and/or their involvement with your organization. You should capitalize on this by making sure your emails are both compelling and actionable, and this can be achieved by having clear, set goals.
While your primary goal is to boost attendance at your event, you may have other goals too, such as acquiring donations from attendees or using the event to get closer to your important donors. Once you’re clear on what your exact goals are, framing and tracking your nurturing emails becomes easier.
For instance, if the event is being held to raise money for your cause, you’d include a link in your email to your ticketing page and track how many donations you actually receive to see if your goals are being met.
Or, if you want to use the event as an opportunity to bond with your loyal supporters, you’d include a personal message in your email. Your special donors should be in a separate list, so sending these emails would be simple. You can then track open and click-through rates to see whether you’re getting your desired engagement or not.
Having your goals in mind gives you a clearer idea of what your emails should include.
Email 1: save the date
Once people have signed up to your event on your website or social media, the first email you send is the ‘Save the Date’ email. Here, you’ll briefly mention the event and relevant information. For example:
- Event name and slogan (if any)
The purpose here is to give your recipients a heads up regarding your event so that they can add it to their calendars. Use an email marketing software to automatically send this email to people who have entered their basic details on your form.
In all of your “Save the Date” emails, include a compelling caption image that gives a clear indication of what the event is about, while reinforcing your brand identity.
Since this is your first email, you’d include just one main CTA—mark this date on your calendar— which can increase your open rates by upto 371%. Your other CTAs could be something you send in all your emails, such as your social media icons or a donate button.
Operation Fresh Start’s Save the Date email for their gala event is a good example to keep in mind. The graphic shows that it’s going to be a fun event, and they’ve briefly mentioned what the occasion is and when and where it will take place.
Note: Your organization would have contacts—(major donors or loyal supporters)—who haven’t specifically signed up for the event on your website. However, you’d still like for them to participate so you can strengthen your bond with them. For them, you’d send the “Save the Date” email as early as possible (a few months in advance). Here, you’d include a link to your ticketing page where they can purchase passes and early bird tickets.
Emails 2 and 3: build anticipation and nurture your targets
Now that you’ve sent the first email, your aim should be focused on ensuring people don’t forget your event. So how do you do this without coming off as too pushy? By building curiosity and a sense of anticipation around it.
Depending on how far along your event is, you should send at least two emails before sending the invite. Some of the key components you should consider including in these emails would be:
- Value proposition: This states why the recipient should be attending your event and what the expected outcomes are. If it’s a charity run, talk about how attendees would become more fit by participating and how they would contribute to spreading awareness about your cause. By mentioning the benefits involved, you’re essentially motivating your contacts to attend.
- Social Proof: This is a way of showing attendees (especially first-timers) you understand they may have some concerns about how your event is going to turn out and whether it’s worth attending. By adding social proof, you’re aiming to assuage these concerns. Include testimonials from attendees of previous events or attendee numbers from those events in your emails. You can even link out to a separate testimonial page on your website or use video testimonials in your email. Use captivating graphics and friendly images of past attendees to portray a feeling of warmth. An example would be the image below, which works because it comes off as a friendly and trustworthy message.
- X days to go!: Send this email a couple of weeks to a few days before your event to enforce a sense of anticipation. Include some fun videos and pictures of your volunteers working behind the scenes to show your attendees that you’re super excited to host them.
Email 4: the formal invitation
You’ve built up the event and now it’s time for the formal invitation. Make sure you personalize your invite so your attendees feel that you value them as individuals. Use the invitee’s name in the subject line as well, because personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. Create a neat and well-designed template that looks captivating and includes the necessary details, such as event venue and time.
Keep it short and briefly talk about what the event is going to achieve, what the itinerary looks like, and what attendees can expect by being present. If you have guest speakers, mention their names too and what they’ll be talking about. Include RSVP CTAs so that you get an estimate of how many people will be there.
A good example of a formal email invite would be for a gala dinner. Here, the design of the invite is elegant, and the event name and purpose are clearly mentioned. The venue, date, time, and attire are specified too, so that recipients are adequately prepared to attend the event.
Email 5: event reminder
This is the final email you should send just a day or two before the event to remind your attendees of the important details: time, location, and anything else they’d need to know before attending. You can even suggest different routes they can take—bus or subway routes—so that they’ll be at the venue well ahead of time.
If your nonprofit uses a text messaging software, you should certainly schedule text messages in advance to complement your email reminders. Since SMS has a super-high open rate of 98%, you can be assured that people are going to be read them. You can text all the necessary event details. Examine this sample SMS:
“Hey Jon, the big day is tomorrow! Our ‘Save the Children’ charity ball is happening at the Town Hall on the 21st of October at 221B Baker Street. If you’re coming by bus or subway, please check out www.savechildren/events.ly to figure out which route to take. We can’t wait to see you tomorrow, Jon—it’s going to be great.”
Post-event email 1: thank you and survey
After your event is over, you should send a thank you email to your attendees as a token of appreciation. This is a nice gesture on your part and will help them feel that the time they spent was worth it.
This would also likely motivate them to come to your future events. An example of a well-composed thank you email is shown in the screenshot below, where UNICEF has clearly outlined the recipient’s importance for the cause.
An effective way to track all your emails is to include a short survey in your post-event email. You can include an NPS (net promoter score) survey, which asks attendees how likely they are to recommend your future events to their friends. You can also link out to a survey using tools like Survey Monkey or Typeform to learn more about their opinion about the event. This shows attendees that you value them, and is an important nurturing strategy.
Post-event email 2: impact
While the previous email would be sent immediately (one or two days) after the event, the impact email would be sent a little later, depending on the type of event you had. If it was a fundraiser, you’d mention how much money was raised and how it benefited your campaign.
Whatever the event was for, use storytelling to portray its impact. This essentially tells recipients: thanks a lot for your contribution. We were able to achieve so much and you played an important role in it!
Being the last nurturing email, it is an important step, as it figuratively completes the circle:
- A person signed up for your event
- They understood what the event was about through a series of nurturing emails
- They then received a formal invitation and a reminder
- They were thanked for attending
- They understood the part they played in achieving an important goal
This validates their decision to attend and makes them feel glad that they were present.
Your emails can do wonders when it comes to increasing attendance and nurturing your participants. Plan and space out your emails according to the number of people who are attending, when the event is going to take place, and what its scope is. Once the event is over, make sure to nurture them further through email newsletters so that they become advocates of your cause and start donating to your organization down the line.
Shaunak Wanikar is part of the Marketing team at CallHub, a cloud telephony company which connects campaigns with their supporters through its voice and SMS software. He helps deliver compelling content which bridges knowledge gaps for nonprofit organizations, political campaigns, advocacy groups, and businesses. An engineering graduate, Shaunak is passionate about seeing the world improve through the medium of technology. Movies, football, and books keep him sane.