Three Mistakes Nonprofits Make with Virtual Events

Have you ever been to a wedding where the bride just appears from the side of the worship space with the minister? No procession of bridesmaids and flower girls. No music beforehand as the church is filling up. She just walks out in front of everyone and no one is paying attention.

I haven’t.

Usually there is a long aisle that people walk down guided by an usher to help them find a seat. Shortly after, the groomsmen and groom walk out and stand in the front. Everyone whispers comments to each other, smiling. Some people turn around and crane their necks, trying to peek and see if the bridesmaids are about to come through the closed doors at the back of the church.

Then, the music begins. The bridesmaids begin to walk down the long aisle one at a time, meet the groomsmen and then take their places in the front.

All of a sudden – as the music changes, everyone stands up and there is THE BRIDE.

That’s what having any event should be like. A long runway building anticipation, a plan for introducing the event and advertising that gives people cues on what to do.

Sadly, here’s what happens – especially these days with virtual events… 

We’re too busy looking at the event details, we let marketing go by the wayside. 

Think about it – there are a lot of details to keep track of. Who do you get to do the technology? How will you accept donations – credit card, debit card, bank draft? Will the speaker know how to handle all the technology on their end of the event? How will you look on camera? Who will run the camera? There are so many details and it’s easy to forget to pay attention to marketing.

The biggest mistake people make is not paying attention to the marketing of the event. 

Not marketing your event is like the bride coming out from the side door at her wedding. 

The event is happening, but no one is paying attention.

Three huge mistakes people make when hosting an event

  • No Facebook event created
  • No strategy for posts
  • No posts are boosted

 These three things seem pretty simple, right? Perhaps so simple that they’re easy to write off as “low priority” on your to-do list. It may seem that way, but it’s just the opposite. 

In one of the largest research studies to date on the status of the event industry showed that 52% of professional event planners said that Facebook is the most effective social media channel for event marketing.

To make sure your event is well attended and an effective fundraiser, take these three simple steps:

1. Create the event on Facebook ASAP. Facebook has made the process pretty straightforward and user-friendly. Simply go to your organization’s Facebook page and “Event.”

From there, fill out the form that appears on the screen.

Add all the BASIC important information:

- Answer the who, what, when, where, why questions 

- Add a link where people can buy tickets or register – there’s even a little box you can add that in on Facebook when you’re building the event. 

The name of your event must be brief. If your event has a complicated or a long name, it’s better to shorten it for social media marketing purposes to something like “Agatha’s Angels Fun Run.” You’ll be able to put the full name and more details in the actual event description itself… Just be sure to keep using the event name you chose over and over.

Once you get the particulars of the event filled in, you’ll move on to the event description. It’s very tempting to put everything about your event in here, but you have to whittle it down to the very basics.

Too many words and people won’t read it and you’ll turn off people who may be interested in your event. The last thing you want to do is give someone a reason NOT to be interested anymore.

Remember our bride? You were waiting to see her walk down the aisle at her wedding, weren’t you?

The same thing works for creating your event. I’m a big believer in a LONG runway… For a bigger event where you’re selling tickets or sponsorship tables, you need commitment from people as early as possible. Creating the Facebook event about 15-18 weeks ahead of the day of the event or about three and a half or four and a half months is a good long runway.

If you don’t have that long, it’s okay – just create the Facebook event right now! Even if you are only ten weeks out from your event right now, or even TWO weeks out from your event, you can still draw attention to it and potentially draw in even more people to attend.

If you have lots of time, but all the details aren’t confirmed (i.e. you don’t have a location, a caterer, or a speaker), you can still create an event on Facebook. Use a graphic or a picture that has to do with your organization or your event add some text and create a Save the Date to post on your organization’s page and in your event. It will help start building awareness of your event. 

It’s easy think, “people will get sick of seeing this.” It seems like a long time, but people need to see your posts over and over again before they remember it. Marketing is all about repetition and reminding people.

You might be tired of seeing things about your event because you’re close to it – you’re the one doing all the work on it and you feel tired of hearing about it, but that’s not the case for your audience. On their radar your event looks like a tiny dot, so keep telling them about it until it becomes a big dot on their radar.

2. Plan Your Posts. Having a strategy makes all the difference. Strategy means having a plan of action. Spending a few minutes impulsively coming up with something to post about for your event is likely not going to pull in much excitement. So what can you do?

On your four-month runway before your event, come up with 15-18 ideas for posts – or one for each week leading up to your event. 

Think about the early stages of the event. First, you need to introduce people to it, so your first few posts will be just the basics of who, what, when, where, and why.

After the initial details are established, start posting about other parts of your event – make a list. Do you have a speaker or a band? Introduce them in a post. Use their pictures, videos, and graphics to make the post more interesting. Guests usually send promo materials, be sure to look at them and use them if appropriate.

If you’re selling early bird tickets – create a post about it. 

Create some FOMO –– you know, FEAR OF MISSING OUT!

Are you having a live or silent auction? Post about it! Don’t post a list of every single auction item, instead choose a handful of big-ticket items or really interesting ones and highlight those - always include a picture if possible.

What are you fundraising for? One of my clients was a community center and we would do a post – or even a couple posts – on all the things that were going to be fixed or improved, like gym floors, new locker rooms - because of the funds raised at their banquet. People like to know where their money is going. 

In the two weeks leading up to the event URGENCY will be the focus. Post about tickets selling fast, create FOMO and don’t quit posting until the day after the event!

It’s absolutely acceptable to repeat posts or have multiple posts about your speaker or band. But I encourage you to come up with those 15-18 post topics because then you can pick and choose the STRONGEST ones to use. 

Sometimes posts don’t get results, if you have 18 to choose from, just pick one you think might work better. 

Use ONE topic about the event for ONE post. Your post should be 1-2 sentences about the topic, and then a one sentence call to action.

3. Boost Your Posts

If you want your event to get major attention, you need to put some money into Facebook by boosting your posts.

I’ve run social media event campaigns with a budget of just $20 dollars, and I’ve run them with $800 dollars. I’ve seen measurable success with both. 

If you’re apprehensive, I encourage you to try it. When you click on the boost button below your post, you’ll see a window pop up where you can customize the audience you want to reach. Choose the age range and their location of those you want to reach.

Then, add a $5 budget and boost the post for a dollar a day for 5 days. See what your results are. If you start to see results - keep going! You can choose to boost your post about the event each week. You can try boosting your Facebook Event page instead of just a post to generate more interest. Experiment. See what makes a splash with your audience. 

If you feel like you’re not making a splash… more like a flop… Then stop and check. What are you posting? Who cares about it? Are your posts clear and to the point? Did you include the date, time, and other important details? Are you explaining what your event is about or why people should care? Did you give too much information? What about your pictures and graphics? Are they clear, or confusing? Take stock and re-evaluate. Pretend like you’re new in town and you’ve never heard of this event – does the post cause you confusion? 

If you don’t have a budget to spend on boosting your posts – that’s okay! You can still successfully market your event on Facebook. Just keep “showing up” with posts, be consistent and clear, and make sure you never miss out on a chance to engage with people on Facebook. Share your organization’s event posts on your personal page. Invite people to the Facebook event. When someone comments or asks a question – make that a positive experience for them and answer them in a friendly, helpful way. All of these things are FREE and effective. 

Facebook even does you a favor by alerting people in your area about the event if Facebook thinks that person might be interested or has a friend that is interested. There is still PLENTY of room for success in your social media event marketing, even if you don’t have a big budget.

Starting early to market your event, creating a strategy of planned posts to tell people about it and then boosting your event and posts makes all the difference in attendance and excitement for your event.

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