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Building an events section can seem intimidating and well, it is and it isn’t. It’s not life or death, but if you get it wrong, small children may cry. (I’ll honor you with that story later.) Anyway- If you are revamping your event section, you don't like how it works right now, or you're updating your whole website, you’re in the right place. Because I’m going to dissect it for you today.

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Monica Maye Pitts
Monica Maye Pitts Chief Creative Officer

Dos and Don’ts of an Events Section – Website Planning Series Part 4

 

Building an events section can seem intimidating and well, it is and it isn’t. It’s not life or death, but if you get it wrong, small children may cry. (I’ll honor you with that story later.)

Anyway-

If you are revamping your event section, you don’t like how it works right now, or you’re updating your whole website, you’re in the right place.  Because I’m going to dissect it for you today.

Some website events sections can be straightforward, and others much more complex. It all depends on how much you need to share and what types of events you have to promote your nonprofit.

Generally, we categorize events into three different types:

  1. Long-standing annual events
  2. Recurring events 
  3. One-off events 

Long-standing annual events are things that happen every year like galas, fundraisers and golf tournaments. Even if this is the first year they’re happening, they fall in this section if you plan to do them annually.

Then you have recurring events, which are things like meetings, discussions, talks and regular educational events like lunch and learns. 

Finally, you have one-off events. These are smaller fundraisers or events with partner organizations that you don’t do as often and aren’t staple events for your organization. 

Many events, one page

Regardless of what types of events you have, you’re going to have the main events page on your website and a button at the top of the navigation that says Events. When you click on Events, you should go to a page with every single one of the events you’re promoting on it. 

 

You don’t want people to have to hunt for your events on your website.

Put them all on one main events page where they’re easy to find. This page should be detailed enough that your audience can find what they need, but not so detailed that it’s overwhelming or boring. 

 

Find Your Format

There are so many ways to format your events page. You can use a calendar, a grid, a list, but whatever you choose, there are some rules to follow whenever we’re formatting this page.

DO Format Your Events Intelligently

If you have a lot of events all the time, a calendar will work great for you. However, if you set up a calendar and there are large gaps between events, it will only show events happening in the given time window…so they’ll miss all the cool things you have planned the following month.

DO Give Your Events a Clear Title

Make sure each event has a clear descriptive title. Not what your organization calls it internally, but what the general public should know it as. If it is a series of talks, you might want to put your series name along with the event title so people know what it is.

DO Include the When and Where

Your event date may be specific, or it might be a date range. If you have something going on over multiple days, you’ll need to include the time, including AM/PM and your timezone, because we live online now and can attend events from anywhere. 

DON’T Use Generic Titles on Your Website

 For example, if you have a gala, and you call it Rainbows and Roses, don’t just use that as the title. No one knows what Rainbows and Roses is.

Make it easy on yourself and your audience, and add just a little something simple, like the Rainbows and Roses Gala

DON’T Allow Your Event Page to Look Empty

If you don’t have more than four to six events a month, don’t use calendar format. An empty looking calendar makes it appear that you aren’t very active, when in fact, you have excellent events coming up. They just might be next month.

Instead, put them in a list or grid format. By doing so, you’ll have an individual event, then the next individual event, then the next event, all in date order without having the blank space.

DON’T Forget about Time Zones 

If your audience is in multiple time zones – then displaying time zones is your friend. However, if you only serve an audience within your same time zone, don’t worry about it. 

 

Pause here, take a breath. 

The dos and don’ts of your events section require some conversation about programming. So, repeat after me: Programming is not scary. It’s awesome.

 

Ok, now let’s get back to it. 

 

DO (optional) Include Sorting and Filtering. 

If your organization has many events, you may have some additional functionality on your main events page. For example, you might want to allow people to sort and filter by event type or even search.

What’s the difference between sort and filter?

Sort: Showing all of one specific thing, like all the events in March or all committee meetings.

Filter: Picking multiple categories on top of one another, like viewing all the committee meetings in March. 

The way those are programmed is different. It’s not always as easy to filter as it is to sort. Adding sorting or filtering is a conversation you should have with your programmer if you need that functionality. 

 

And that’s it on programming – for now. We’ll come back to it later. 

If you don’t need filtering or sorting, you can just provide a link for each event to go to the next page to learn more information.

 

DO Use Event Information Consistently Across Your Website

At the top of each individual events page, put all the same stuff from the main events page: 

  • Title
  • Date 
  • Time
  • Location

The purpose of these pages is to provide all the information someone might need about your event. They are chock full of all the things that they need to know, in an organized fashion, not just slapping it on a page. 

You’ll want to include a map of location or link to the online event if it’s free. If your event is not free, you’re going to add that link. 

 

The most important piece for the single event page is the sign-up. DON’T Forget the Sign-up.

There are three different ways that you can handle event signups on your website:

  1.  You have an email form on your website. It can have payment associated with it, or not all depends on the event and what you need, 
  2. You can have an event plugin that allows signups. 
  3. You can have people go to another site. Maybe they sign up on Eventbrite, Zoom or whatever webinar platform you’re using. 

 

How to choose the right one

To pick the right event sign-up system for you, start by looking at what you already have. If you have a robust CRM or donor management software, figure out if it will do what you want because it will probably be the most integrated solution. 

Some organizations make use of a premade event plugin on their website. These plugins often format events pages for you, which can be handy and give you a nice user interface. However, it can also feel inflexible because you may want the page to look or work a certain way the plugin doesn’t allow.

We do all of our event sign ups using a form, which affords us a lot of flexibility. But what it doesn’t do is send reminder emails. That can take a lot of time to do yourself.  

When you use another site for event sign-up, usually they send those reminder emails for you as part of that system. That can be really, really convenient.

 

There are some questions you can ask yourself to understand what’s right for you. 

  • What does the viewer need to do? 
  • Do they need to be able to sign up for multiple events at once? 
  • Do they need to be able to pay? 
  • Do we need to be able to cap the number of signups? 
  • How do you need to use the information after the person signs up? 
  • So does this need to integrate with another platform? 
  • Does it need to send information to your CRM? 
  • Do you need to use it to send those reminders? 
  • Do you need to send confirmations? 
  • Do you need it in a spreadsheet so that you can use the information later? 

 

Once you decide how people will sign up, add the event description, who to contact, event sponsors, testimonials, and things you will need for the event if it’s going to be a class or webinar. 

 

DON’T Leave Old Events on Your Website

All of your individual or single events pages for recurring and one-off events need to expire automatically, which you can do with a plug-in. You’ll put in your date and information for the event to display until that date hits, and then the website automatically removes it from public view. 

You’ll still be able to see it in the administrative portal of your website. It just won’t be seen on the public side.

While It’s not a bad idea to leave events up for a few days after they happen, don’t leave them up for a long time. 

 

DO Treat Long-Standing Events Differently

The events you do every year start to build up a brand of their own. They are staples for your organization, and we want them in the same place on your website all the time. 

It’s good to have these events on your site at all times. Then you can continue to celebrate your long standing events all year long. To thank sponsors, showcase photos from past events, thank your planning committee, and provide information on becoming a sponsor.  At certain times of year you may just share the basic information and save the date then transition it to the date and time of this year’s event, until the event happens. Then update it with the save the date for next year. 

 

 DO Put Long-Standing Events on Your Website as Pages

Recurring and one-off events are usually put into your website more in a much more modular format. In WordPress, they’re called posts. And those posts are set to expire or removed from the site once the event is finished. But we just talked about how for long standing events you want to leave that information up year round. If you created a new post for your event each year and keep all those past years’ event posts floating around in Google land bad things can happen.

 

~ Storytime ~

Every year, we go to an event as a family our local symphony society puts on called the Symphony of Toys. When my daughters were young they thought it was so amazing because they got to get all dressed up, go to the theater, hear the symphony, and donate a toy to enter.  

Unfortunately, the organization did not have expiring events on their website or set their events up as a new post each year, never removing the past year’s event post. 

When I Googled that event, the first event that showed up on the page was the Symphony of Toys from two years ago, but I didn’t know it was from two years ago. 

So, I got my little girls all dressed up and all ready to go to the concert and pumped up. And you know what, there wasn’t a show that day. I had sad children and no show. There was crying, and it was terrible.

That is what happens, my friends. If they had had this set up as a page, the first thing that would have shown up on Google is that page. And I would have found the correct information. 

 

Now to happier things, like processes!

 

DO Streamline Your Process

You’re going to want to streamline your approach to updating those items. And streamlining uses programming.

Different plugins can help you do this for your website if you’re working on it on your own. 

What you need is a system that allows you to add an event on the events page and check a box, to tell it to show up on the home page, and the recurring events page, and wherever else you need it to. So when event details change you can change them in one place and have it reflected anywhere the event is referenced throughout the site. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a management nightmare. I could tell you horror stories about that but I shall refrain…

 

DO Get a Professional, if Needed

If you’re working with a developer, they should be able to help you get this done. Beware, though, if they tell you that you have to enter the information multiple times, that is your opportunity to shake your head and say that doesn’t make sense. Isn’t there a different way that we can do it? 

 

To recap

  1. DO Set Up and Maintain Your Events Section With Current, Detailed Information
  2. DON’T Make Kids Cry by Building Your Site Incorrectly

 

And that’s it!

If you have any questions or want us to check your events section, let us know in the Nonprofit Marketing with Purpose Facebook group. Make a post, leave your URL, and we’ll give you an honest-to-goodness review for free. 

Now that your event section is in order, our next installment of the website planning series, part 5, will cover how to format your services pages to make them the most effective.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, for a rich yet easily digestible list of things you should have on every page of a perfect nonprofit website, check out our free checklist titled… (can you guess?):

Pefect Nonprofit Website Checklist!

— You can click on the title, or it can also be found below in the Related Resources section.

Related Resources

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