Every nonprofit needs to pull off great events, but you can’t have a great event without getting people to come, and that requires marketing. You don’t need a big budget for marketing, but you do need to spend time planning your outreach. This blog post will help you avoid the biggest pitfalls of a nonprofit marketer.

Trying to accomplish everything in one event

The biggest mistake you can make is to be too general in your event goals and objectives. One event can’t successfully accomplish fundraising, donor engagement, volunteer appreciation, and launching of a new program. Identify the most important goal and objectives for your event, and then plan who the most important audience is to achieve that goal. Once you have those written out, your event planning and your event marketing will be easy!

Expecting people to show up at your event

As a nonprofit staff member, you are so pressed for time that it can be easy to be so focused on planning an incredible event that you overlook making sure people know about it. It’s imperative that when you are putting together a great event, you first think about ways to entice people to come. Think of creative ways to market your special event, featuring activities, foods, or experiences not usually seen at your events.

One of my clients had a fundraising event and hired a chef to make paella. So, their first e-mail invitation had the subject line: Paella and Cupcakes. It had a great open rate, and got many people to attend their event.

Once you have some great taglines and creative incentives, write out a calendar with every marketing strategy and tactic. Then you have a clear course of action to make sure you get a great turnout!

Overly relying on your mailing list

Most nonprofits don’t have an extensive enough audience to rely on for every event. So it’s important to see how you can cross market to other nonprofit audiences. Talk to your partners to see if you can commit to helping each other market events, or see if there’s a nonprofit association who will help posting your event. Also ask your board and volunteers to send out personal invitations to friends and family, further expanding your audience.

Ignoring your attendees after the event

The day after your big event is a wonderful one. You’re bathing in the warm glow of planning a successful gathering, you’re finally able to sleep, and you’re feeling good. Unfortunately, this time is a vital moment to continue marketing.

One client I worked with had an annual event that raised about $80,000. However, it was a luncheon, and they had a fairly high no-show rate. So, I recommended they send three e-mails after the event: one to attendees who donated, one to attendees who didn’t donate, and one to no-shows. This way they were able to capitalize on the energy of the event to get some extra donations. That simple step made them over $2,000 in additional donations.

So, before the event, write e-mails to send to segmented audiences: 1) attendees 2) people who registered, but didn’t come. If it was a fundraising event, remember to segment attendees between those who donated and those who didn’t.

And finally, make sure every person who attended your event is added to your mailing list so they continue to hear about all the great things your organization is doing.

By avoiding these pitfalls, you can ensure that you message reaches as many people as possible and your event is a success!

Allison is a nonprofit communications consultant and friend of Williams Whittle who specializes in creating affordable communications strategies for small nonprofits. She has five years of nonprofit and association experience including developing communications strategies, conducting an organizational rebrand, and building a custom social network.