Non-profit event planning comes with several challenges, the biggest being how to spread the word with limited to no funds available for advertising.
Over the years, I have done a lot of event advertising with limited funds, increasing attendance and awareness by using a combination of free resources at my disposal as well as the limited marketing budget made available to me.
The goal of this article is to open your organization up to a world of free resources out there and how you can take advantage of them to help you grow awareness and attendance at your next event.
Facebook Events Page
Whenever I am working with a group, I have them set up a Facebook Event Page. Why? Because it’s like Word of Mouth on steroids! Facebook Events has become one of the dominant go-to places when people are looking for things to do. More than that, it spreads the word quickly and at no cost to you if you use it correctly.
Start by making the Event Page and then start inviting your friends, encouraging others within your group to do the same. The invitees are then promoted to reply or R.S.V.P to your event by choosing “Interested”, “Going” or “Not Interested”. Not only does this start to give you an indication of how many people will attend your event, the event is injected into the newsfeeds of all the invitee’s connections on Facebook when they reply with “Interested” or “Going”, letting their friends come into contact with the event and R.S.V.P too.
In addition to this more direct form of communication, Facebook Events also shows users suggested events. Facebook suggests events to users based on places they’ve tagged themselves, events they’re connected to through friends, pages the user has liked, and apps they use on Facebook.
The great thing about creating a Facebook Event Page is that you can reach people who do not follow you or like your page. This increases the awareness of your event, therefore increasing your potential attendance. The other great thing about Facebook Events is the calendar on everyone’s personal page. If I, for example, R.S.V.P.’d to your event saying I was interested, this event is now on my personal Facebook Calendar, reminding me of the event every time I go to this calendar. Not only that, Facebook will send me a notification reminding me of the event on the day it is happening, therefore increasing my chances of going because I haven’t forgotten about it.
I’ve just outlined this in broad terms as there are a lot more resources I want to share with you today, but I wanted you to have a basic understanding of why and how the Facebook Events Page works.
Through the years, I have had the pleasure to work with Travel Manitoba and some of its Regional Tourism Boards, on a number of events that I have been involved with. The great thing about Travel Manitoba is that it is their job to advertise Manitoba and as part of this mix, they provide a free event listing calendar that millions of people come into contact with every year. While most of these people will be traveling to our “hot spot” attractions, there is plenty of room for the local non-profit organization to get noticed. I have learned that this calendar, is a local go-to guide for things happening within the Province and have received direct attendance benefits from listing my events with them.
Although this resource is limited to those living in the Eastern Region of the province, it is a much-appreciated resource that goes beyond an Event Calendar listing. If you are hosting an event within the borders of Eastman Tourism, they want to know about it. Listing on this event calendar is the easiest way to get your event information into the hands of the team whose sole purpose is to promote tourism in the Eastman. A listing on this calendar almost guarantees more eyeballs on your event, as the events will be added to their Facebook listing of upcoming events, and be shared with their Facebook followers.
Community and Town Websites
An often overlooked free resource available to event planners is the event calendar on your local Town or Rural Municipality website. Each community has one and yet, if you looked at the majority of the upcoming events, you’d think living in a small town was humdrum and boring. Adding your events to these government sites not only increases the awareness of your events but it adds to the overall story of your community, showcasing it with vibrancy and excitement through the events that are held. On a larger scale, using these calendars helps increase tourism to your community and helps develop the overall community profile which is an important part of every community marketing plan as part of the means to attract tourists and new residence.
Public Service Announcements
Generally taking the form of Community Calendar listings, PSA’s can lead to additional opportunities and shouldn’t be disregarded entirely. Through my years of marketing events, I have developed additional free marketing, in the form of radio interviews and on-air mentions by radio hosts as well as articles in the larger papers by submitting event information to the following sources:
Global News – submit by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Winnipeg Free Press -submit by email to email@example.com
We often place too large a focus on our local population and forget about the “outsiders” who visit our communities on a regular basis. Not to mention the local residents who use these sources as their gateway to information. It doesn’t take long to submit this information and doing it will increase your reach.
Putting it All Together
When you are faced with the challenge of marketing your event with no money, these are the resources that can help you spread the word, increasing awareness and attendance at your event. Listing on as many of the free resources as possible allows you to reach a variety of people and expands the geographic and demographic targets of your event messaging.