By Josh Gold
In part 1 of this series, we explain why, despite their longstanding popularity, we believe that annual fundraising events are seeing results far below their true potential. We encourage you to read that post in full if you want to understand this issue properly.
Now we’re ready to move on to practical advice.
What can you do to give your dinner or gala that missing edge? In this post, we cover actions you can take in the period leading up to the event.
Let’s back up for a minute. Remember, the current format invites guests to contribute to your organization when they sign up to attend. The sign-up process, however, isn’t exactly thrilling – that’s a word reserved for the dinner itself. And yet, sign-up time is when almost all donations are made and ads bought, not to mention when people decide whether to attend at all.
How many nos could have been turned into yeses with a little more effort? How many small gifts could have been encouraged to grow? How many opportunities are missed when we simply trust sign-ups to take care of themselves?
It’s the twenty-first century! We have the technology to communicate not just more conveniently, but more effectively than ever before.
Here are the three areas we recommend developing to build the excitement you need:
1. Strategize your landing page
Your landing page is the online space where you send your guests to sign up, donate, buy an ad, etc. You might think that someone who clicks through to this page already knows what they plan to do – that they’ve already decided whether to give and how much. In reality, this is simply not the case. Site visitors can close the tab or back-click at any time. They can also be inspired to do more than they initially planned. Just getting them to check the landing page out isn’t a guaranteed commitment. You still need to close the deal.
So what makes a good landing page? Make it cheerful, exciting, and uncluttered. Keep visitors focused on the big picture; this means including all the details of the event, your mission statement and call to action to reinforce what this is all about.
We’ve seen landing pages that feature long, confusing donation forms. If someone clicked through eager to give immediately, this kind of thing puts a huge damper on their momentum. It’s important to give your guests options, but it’s also essential not to make their gift feel like a chore that they might prefer to get to later, if at all. More than that – it should be a wholly positive experience.
Your RSVP form should be simple yet functional. Limit yourself to under five questions plus billing information and use multiple pages if you need to space things out a little more. Make sure guests only have to submit their payment details once, whether they’re just buying a ticket to the dinner or leaving an extra donation too.
The landing page should definitely be optimized for mobile, too. You want to be as accessible as possible, giving yourself the chance to convert every last expression of interest into concrete results.
2. Smart invites (email marketing campaign)
Traditionally, every guest receives the same invitation – the same images, the same text. With this standard invite, you’re delivering the same message to every recipient. But is it what they all need to hear?
You probably won’t be shocked at this point if we tell you that there’s a better way.
Consider the fact that some people haven’t thought about you since last year. Some intend to donate but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Some have already made generous contributions.
Treating them as if they’re all at the same point in the process will result in many overtures that are impersonal and out of place. If your email doesn’t address a recipient’s true circumstances, if it’s repetitive or off-base, they’re more likely to delete it than to be intrigued or get involved. Where you’re looking to generate excitement, you’ll achieve indifference at best, irritation at worst.
What can you do instead? We recommend setting up an automated system that tracks what kinds of responses you get and sends appropriate follow-up emails. This keeps your event at the forefront of everyone’s minds, yet doesn’t annoy them with misplaced demands. Send out reminders to those who haven’t RSVP-ed; send a teaser to those who might be interested in increasing their gifts; as for those who’ve said they can’t come, ask them to donate anyway!
When you speak to people as they really are, you’re far more likely to see results!
3. Video makes everything better
You might think that as a video production company, we’d list video first.
Video makes every communication more intense and more engaging, but isn’t a goal unto itself. It’s a tool with a practical purpose. When you create your video, you need to know exactly how you’re planning on using it. In this case, you’re looking for a video that will lead guests right to the RSVP form, alight with inspiration and enthusiasm.
By implementing video, you take your landing page and email campaign from competent to compelling. You achieve a dynamic setup that, taken all together, has the potential to energize and motivate direct action in the form of clicks on that donate button.
Here’s how you do it. First, stick a reference to the video in your email header: Annual dinner – teaser inside! This drastically increases the chances that people will open the email and click through.
But don’t send the reader to YouTube! Instead, place a link that leads to the landing page. That way, in order to see the video, invitees will have to come one step closer to where you want them.
Curiosity is frequently enough to get someone to check out your video. Once they’re watching, you have a chance to remind them why they love your organization. Tell them a story about what you’ve been doing, and extend them a personal invitation to the dinner from your staff and from the people you serve. Remember from part 1, the whole point is to communicate that they’re valued and needed. This is how you rekindle their interest and direct it towards the upcoming event.
Wrapping Things Up
As you can see, these three elements aren’t really separable. They do work on their own, but each one makes the others that much more effective. The targeted emailing brings more people than ever to the landing page, where the video and simple layout make donating an easy and rewarding experience. Together, these elements are a coordinated strike that starts generating excitement and action before the fundraising event has even taken place.
Next up: The event.
Josh Gold, owner of Serio Films, has spent the past eight years working with nonprofits to grow their brands through video-based marketing. Josh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.