Guest post by Joshua Meyer, Director of Marketing for OneCause
As those in the nonprofit world realize, few things are as effective—or as time consuming—as fundraising events.
To make sure you maximize your fundraising ROI, a strong marketing strategy will help your nonprofit reach new donors and foster stronger relationships with supporters.
It also creates positive awareness for your virtual event – and let’s face it, with so many distractions these days, every cause needs a way to stand out!
In order for your virtual fundraiser to be a success, your online auction needs to be marketed before, during, and even after, to build donor & brand loyalty.
With this in mind, how can your nonprofit effectively market your online auction?
We’ve pulled together 3 tips to boost interest and rock your next online auction.
- Promote your Auction Across Channels.
- Leverage Mission & Impact Messaging.
- Keep Spreading the Message after your Event.
Promote Your Auction Across Channels
With most of your items procured, an item catalog set up, and logistics coming together, you’re in a good position to begin actively promoting your online auction to supporters.
The underlying idea with this type of marketing strategy is to use each of your digital outlets to generate more attention and steer potential attendees to your mobile bidding page.
You don’t have to be present on all channels to successfully promote your online auction. On the channels you choose. make sure to:
Evaluate your donor base to determine which channels would be most effective.
Repurpose previous content to promote your online auction. Work smarter not harder!
Engage with your followers to drive awareness for you cause and fundraising campaign.
Tailor your messaging to your demographic and community while also explaining your why for the campaign.
We typically see social media, email, and direct mail as the top 3 channels of event promotion for fundraisers.
Optimize Social Media
Social is the easiest and widest way to push out communications and create a visual online brand.
When it comes to promoting your online auction, involve your supporters as much as possible in your social channels.
Follow as many passionate donors who have a strong connection with your organization as you can. Invest the time daily (it doesn’t have to take forever – 30 minutes) to engage with donors you follow you and build social engagement.
Additionally, tap into ambassadors, with large networks and social clout to help you expand your online auction reach into
Here are a few tips to use social media to your advantage:
- Encourage usage of your event hashtag
- Highlight top fundraisers and tag them in posts
- Regularly check your activity streams and donor walls to highlight successes
- Ask supporters to share your content with their networks an increase visibility
- Post progress to goals, event updates and celebrate milestones!
Spread Awareness with Email Marketing
Help spread the word with email marketing. Email blasts and newsletters bring your online auction directly to your supporter’s inbox.
When it comes down to it, your email communication should provide relevant information that your audience should be well aware of for the event. This includes:
- Your Mission
- Event Details (mobile bidding site, featured auction items, event date & time, etc.)
- Your Social Media Profiles
- Mobile Bidding ‘How-Tos’
Your supporters should be primed and ready to participate!
Utilize Direct Mail
If you have budget, direct mail (postcards, flyers) can grab attention! With so many people at home these days, mail is a creative way to stand out.
Depending on the budget allocated to this event, a well-designed direct mail piece sent to several local area codes or a radio or TV slot can also be a great method.
Make sure you consider these elements of a direct mail piece & make them fit your mission:
- Design / Brand
- Mission Messaging
- Call to Action
- Sense of Urgency
While these channels might seem basic, they’re highly effective in garnering exposure, attracting supporters and bringing in new fundraisers for your cause.
Leverage Mission & Impact Messaging
In the world online, making supporters feel connected is key.
Think about it, when we feel connected to things, people and causes, we are more likely to take action, to do something – and actively fundraise for your cause. Learn more about today’s social donors in the OneCause Social Donor Study.
Make mission messaging a regular part of your virtual fundraising with these components:
Use Digital Storytelling
Digital storytelling is a powerful tool for nonprofits.
It involves leveraging a compelling narrative in a visual experience to put your donors at the heart of the story and make an emotional connection.
Here are our top tips for turning your digital storytelling dreams into reality:
Establishing your story. Even though “visual” comes first in visual storytelling, in practice, it should come second.
First, think about the story and arc out the narrative.
Consistency. The idea of consistent messaging isn’t new for nonprofits. But with the power of social media, email, text messaging, and mobile bidding, it’s even more feasible.
Video Quality. Produce a video that highlights your nonprofit’s mission with quality that is good enough that it isn’t distracting for viewers.
The goal of visual storytelling IS NOT to go and produce a Hollywood video!
Share Impact Videos
Create compelling messages from those you’ve served and connect your online auction to your mission by bringing your cause to life with video messaging.
Embed your video to your homepage for maximum views and engagement.
To drive online engagement to your cause and event, impact videos can ignite the social media fire that you need to boost interest.
Who doesn’t stop to watch a video when they’re scrolling on social media?
Take advantage of your top supporters and schedule short video interviews for them to share a story about why they believe in the nonprofit’s cause.
These types of videos will turn into marketing gold that can be used long after the event wraps up!
Shine a Spotlight on Past Auctions
The most successful events are those able to keep the focus on fundraising.
This applies not only to the night’s agenda, but throughout your promotional strategy.
Why make your mission central to promotion?
The more specifically you can demonstrate impact, the more informed and prepared guests will be to give.
A part of making your mission be at the center of your promotion includes what you were able to do in previous years for your mission.
- Highlight your most successful past auctions
- Showcase what made them successful
- Share personal impact stories
- Challenge your donors to go above and beyond for your mission again
Keep Spreading the Message after your Event
The days and weeks immediately following an event present a huge opportunity for additional fundraising and further donor engagement.
Post-event marketing is an art in and of itself and, if done right, can build lasting donor relationships. Here are a few things to remember:
Follow Up with Virtual Attendees
Fundraiser attendees and donors love being recognized for their time and actions.
Whether through an email, handwritten notes, phone calls, or even a gift, a small token of appreciation and thanks can make a big difference.
The type of follow-up communication really depends on what an event team is trying to accomplish with the new donors and contacts on their list.
For example, if your goal is to collect feedback to improve next year’s event, follow-up emails also offer an excellent place for attendees to provide feedback via a survey.
For nonprofit event teams, sending this follow-up communication immediately after an event—or at least within the following few days—is key to forging strong relationships with donors.
Share the Impact of the Auction
Supporters love coming to fundraisers and nonprofit events to help raise money for a good cause.
Nonprofit event marketers can let these individuals know how well an event performed by sharing the results of a fundraiser.
Once this information is publicly announced, attendees and donors can:
- Share this success with their networks
- Drive even more interest for subsequent events
- Ensure past attendees feel as though they participated in a truly impactful event
Media outlets, news teams, and PR companies can help share your success with larger groups, building awareness and visibility for a nonprofit organization as a whole as well as its upcoming events.
Start Marketing for Next Year
No matter how a nonprofit event marketing team communicates with past attendees and new potential donors, it’s important to include information on the next event or fundraiser in your post event marketing efforts.
The best way to make sure upcoming events or other important giving periods like Giving Tuesday and year-end giving are top-of-mind for past attendees is to include a ‘save the date’ link to an event page.
These event pages (or Online Giving Centers) can include:
- A timeline of all upcoming events and how to register
- Photos and videos from past events
- A place to purchase tickets to upcoming events
- Ways to donate to a specific cause without attending an event
- Sponsorship opportunities and inquiry sections
The best way to get started promoting a large-scale nonprofit event is to eliminate any downtime between promotions!
BONUS CONTENT: Your Online Auction Marketing Checklist
- The Online Giving Center and RSVP link has been setup, or a launch date for the site has been determined and ready for an email blast.
- All social channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) have been established and our social handles appear on all marketing content.
- We have ample signage and content promoting our follow-up events.
- All of our event promos and invites have been scheduled or mailed.
- We have a clear schedule in place for the day of the event.
- We have someone assigned to manage social accounts throughout the evening to ensure 100% coverage online.
- The follow-up process is in place and ready to go after the event.
- Our social media team posted all pictures and videos from the event online, and we’ve tagged attendees whenever possible.
- We posted the results of our fundraiser on our website, social pages, and anywhere else audiences can engage with our organization.
In the digital age, marketing provides you with an excellent chance to engage with the public and your supporters, builds your brand, and contributes to your fundraising success.
All in all—promotion for your online auction is well worth your time.
Use this resource as a way to boost interest in your nonprofit and online auction and see your fundraising results positively reflect the investment in marketing.
About the author: Joshua Meyer brings over 14 years of fundraising, volunteer management, and marketing experience to his current role as the Director of Marketing for OneCause. Currently, as a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Josh manages all of the firm’s marketing efforts. He has a passion for helping to create positive change and loves that his current role allows him to help nonprofits engage new donors and achieve their fundraising goals.