Today we’re going to talk about time-saving tips for promoting and running your online event. I’m going to focus on nonprofits here, but really, all of us businesses can learn a thing or two from nonprofits and nonprofits can certainly learn a thing or two from businesses as well. In my belief, a good business runs with the servitude of a nonprofit, and a great nonprofit runs like a business with a big heart. So business listeners, don’t just tune this out because there are definitely some great nuggets in here for you too. Today I’m going to go over five tips that will help you save time while promoting and running your online event.
I’m going to go over these five tips:
Tip number one is to make it simple. When I say make it simple, I mean try not to overcomplicate things. One of the things that takes so much time when planning an online event is the technology behind it. So the simpler you can make it, the easier and less time consuming it’s going to be. Not to mention, less expensive.
For example, my friend Carrie Hopkins who works at Coyote Hill kept their online fundraiser very simple. Every year Coyote Hill has a pancake breakfast. However, this year, they had to take it online because of COVID-19 and spin it out really fast. What was awesome is all they did was say, hey, cook pancakes, eat them together, and then make a donation. They raised $23,250 with their online pancake breakfast this year! Last year, they only raised $7,900. That’s nearly three times as much and they didn’t even have to feed people, the people fed themselves. Super simple!
Another example is the fundraising push led by Betsy Kamara with Hillcrest Platte County. They sent out an email and they did a virtual lemonade stand. People would pour themselves a cup of $5 to cups for $10 or a whole picture for $100. Participants could even buy the whole lemon tree for $300. All Betsy did was email their database of 750 repeat donors, and they raised just over $30,000. That is amazing. You don’t have to overcomplicate it. If you don’t have a lot of time, think of a cool concept and get on out there.
I know this is totally the opposite life advice you’ve always been given but stay in your comfort zone to keep it simple. What I mean is if you’re not used to doing Facebook Lives or you’re not used to being in front of a video camera, then don’t put that in your marketing mix right now. Focus on the things you’re comfortable doing and that you’ve done time and time again that have worked. Those are the things you can do to help make it simple.
Moving on to number two is lean into your current assets. I talk about assets a lot. Assets are all the things you already have, so you’re going to use them. If you already have a Facebook group or a Facebook page, use that asset the most to promote this event. If what you have are physical mailing addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses, those are the things that you’re going to use. You don’t have to build a new asset just to promote your online event— use what you already have.
Take a look at the things you did to promote your event last year, especially if it’s something you’re moving online like the pancake breakfasts Kerry held. Last year, she probably had flyers, email, social media posts, so go out and recycle that exact same content and use it again this year. People do not know it’s the same, believe me. And sometimes, especially when it comes to art and branding an event, using that same artwork for your event, multiple years in a row can help build recognition with your audience.
There’s nothing wrong with recycling your old marketing assets. If you had a flyer designed, take a screenshot of part of the flyer and use it as the pictures for your social media posts. You don’t have to create it all from scratch. So lean into the things you have and recycle them to save yourself time.
For tip number three, you’re going to write all your emails and your social posts in bulk. All your emails, for the most part, you can write upfront. Especially if you go back to last year and see what you already wrote. Use what worked well and lean into it. Just copy those emails, use them again this year.
Now for your social posts, what I would suggest you do is go through and determine how many days you’re going to be posting and how many posts you’re going to make each day. Then from there, think about the types of posts you’re going to make. Some of these posts you can create a template for, and just fill in the blanks as you go. So for example, when we’re running our CoMoGives campaign throughout the month of December, we post a lot of status updates. Those are the best posts we do. They’re really simple. We just say, here’s where we’re at in the campaign and here’s where we’re going. So those impromptu posts are very important. But before the campaign even starts, we know exactly what that post is going to be. We don’t have to think about it when it comes to the moment. We’ve already got it written, we just have to put the numbers into the sentence and have it go out in our medium.
Number four is to automate it. Some people send out real-time personal thank you emails. I love those, the more personal you can get, the better but if you are really short on time, then consider automating those initial thank you emails.
I’m not saying don’t send them a thank you card, letter, or personalized video later. But at the moment, if you don’t have time, you can automate the initial thank you. Make sure you check off all the boxes so it can actually serve as a tax deduction letter if you have the ability to offer them a tax deduction for their contribution. You can also automate reminder emails for people that the event is happening and you can automate your social posts by scheduling them ahead of time. Well, any ones you’re not writing on the fly.
When I’m writing my personal thank you letters or putting together a personal thank you email, we use mail merge. You can mail merge from Google Sheets into Gmail, you can also mail merge from Excel into Microsoft Word. So if, as you’re going through and collecting these donations, you keep track of everybody or you have a way to export them into a spreadsheet. Then you can merge information in with your thank you letter. It saves so much time because you don’t have to type everybody’s name out or worry about if their addresses are correct. We do this for the envelopes and for the letters; it’s magical. And it makes this so much more personal because you can even add a personal note in. You can have different attachments to the emails if you’re doing it with email. So it’s very fancy, give it a whirl.
Last but not least, number five is learn from the successes of others. One of the greatest things you can do to save yourself time is to find someone else who’s done what you’re trying to do, and give them a call. Say, “Hey, what do you do? How did it work? Was it something you would do again? What would you not do again about it in the future?”
If you’re really short on time, but not short on funds, then you could have an event planner help facilitate this online event for you. You don’t necessarily have to do the whole thing on your own. You don’t have to figure out the technology if you have the ability to have someone help you. For example, one of our clients, the Community Foundation of Central Missouri recently established a COVID-19 Regional Relief Fund. And to kick off this fund, they held a virtual telethon. Since they are a super small organization, they contracted with a vendor to provide the technology, project management, and event management behind this virtual telethon. They had to invest $3,000 to this company in order for them to help with the telethon. But they received over $30,000 in donations from the telethon. So they more than paid for that and they would not have been able to do it on their own.
There’s so much you can learn by either contracting with somebody else to do the things you don’t understand or even just calling other people to see how they did stuff. I was just blown away by the success of the lemonade stand and the pancake breakfast. Just something so simple yielded so much value for that organization. So, definitely learn from the successes of others, and implement what worked for your organization.
That’s it! Those are my five tips. If you’re looking for more inspirational success stories to get started, download our free E-Book: 14 Tech-Easy Online Event Ideas for Fundraising. We did our research and gathered ideas from nonprofits who are successfully raising donations online. Now get out of here, that event is not going to plan itself.
Monica is the creative force and founder of MayeCreate. She has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with an emphasis in Economics, Education and Plant Science from the University of Missouri. Monica possesses a rare combination of design savvy and technological know-how. Her clients know this quite well. Her passion for making friends and helping businesses grow gives her the skills she needs to make sure that each client, or friend, gets the attention and service he or she deserves.
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