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7 Myths of Event Recruitment & Marketing


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To better understand which participant marketing and recruitment initiatives are working and which aren't, Event 360 interviewed seven organizations that rely heavily on peer-to-peer recruitment and fundraising: the American Diabetes Association, Church World Service, The Jimmy Fund at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, JDRF, March of Dimes, the National MS Society, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The information obtained from our interviews has been summarized into seven short “myth buster” topics in this new Event 360 eGuide.

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7 Myths of Event Recruitment & Marketing

  1. 1. recruitparticipants more effectivelyResearch Participants
  2. 2. The Event 360 Approachto Event Fundraising Generating a Sufficient AudienceThe identification and use of critical successfactors is a key concept in strategy formulation According to data reported Fund at Dana-Farber Cancer The information obtainedand assessment. While often neither surprisingnor groundbreaking, they are the bread-and- to the Run Walk Ride (RWR) Institute, JDRF, March of from our interviews hasbutter to the success of any project. Event Fundraising Council, event Dimes, the National MS been synthesized and360 has identified seven key success factorsneeded to compete successfully in the world participation among the RWR Society, and Susan G. summarized into sevenof event fundraising. 30 has dropped by almost Komen for the Cure. The short “myth buster” topics: 20% over the last two years. events facilitated by these 1. Spending lots of While several events (Pelotonia, organizations represent a money on advertising Making Strides Against Breast cross-section of stand alone will net high volumes Cancer, Take Steps for Crohn’s and series events with local of participants… & Colitis, Team in Training, and national operations. Tour de Cure, Walk Now For 2. Social media will Autism Speaks, and Relay for What we learned didn’t save the day… Life) reported greater than 10% surprise us: there is no magic 3. It does not matter participant growth, the overall formula or single tactic that whether a participant is trends points to a simple reality: will result in higher volumes part of a team…Well-Defined Strategy: Where are we going? recruiting new participants to of participants. Instead, a 4. Involving corporate Sufficient Audience: Who is our market? your run, walk or ride is much tailored blend of targeted sponsors is optional…Effective Ask: What do we need them to do? more difficult than it was just a advertising, innovativeImpactful Experience: What do we offer to them? 5. My retention strategy few years ago. social media outreach,Robust Service: How will we support them? begins when the event segmented communications,Smart Data: How do we monitor our progress? is over… To better understand what and other data-driven tactics,Strong Leadership: Are we engaged, inspired, is working and what isn’t, when executed together 6. Creativity and emotionand on track? Event 360 interviewed seven as part of an integrated are a luxury…These success factors define the corecompetencies and performance requirements organizations that rely heavily multi-channel recruitment 7. Data collection isthat are fundamental to an event fundraisingprogram’s success. They are based on Event on peer-to-peer recruitment and retention plan, are not important…360’s 10 years of research and field workas an event fundraising practitioner and and fundraising: the American the key elements of a highlyconsultant. Diabetes Association, Church successful strategy.In this Event 360 eGuide, we examine theSufficient Audience success factor—and World Service, The Jimmydebunk seven participant recruitment myths. 2
  3. 3. Myth #1: Truth: Paid television and radio advertising can increase Successful organizations employ a combination of Bonus Content: The Silver Bullet of Event Fundraising CommunicationsSpending lots the volume of your voice and search engine optimization, Understanding your audience and communicating your impact—theseof money on strengthens your position in the marketplace. It usually targeted digital/radio/television advertising, social media are the twin silver bullets of the event fundraising communications process.television and results in greater awareness presence and printed collateral. Using analytical methods, you can understand the motivations of eachradio advertising about your event, but it is This hybrid approach appears and every participant-–were they driven to register by the registration fee, fundraising minimum, activity, cause, unlikely to result in droves to be the most effective waywill net of new participants signing to establish awareness about brand or other factors? What channel of communication do they respond to best?significantly up simply because they saw an event and to engage Are they dedicated to us or do they appear to spread their affinity to other or heard your ad. Accurately individuals who are passionate organizations’ fundraising events.high volumes understanding your audience about a cause. Then, being able to tell people what you’re going to do with the moneyof participants is the silver bullet of creating you’re asking them to give you, that’s the second silver bullet. effective communications as it If you do have the budget for means each decision is based television or have received on fact, not speculation. TV placement as an in-kind donation, reaching your key Individuals who are passionate audiences can be achieved by about a cause often seek airing on networks ranking high vehicles through which they against your chosen target, or can channel their energy in by airing within specific shows order to make a difference. performing well against your A fundraising event acts as key market segments. such a vehicle, and the most effective recruitment strategy we identified through our research is, in fact, quite simple: make it easy for individuals to find the event that matches their passion. 3
  4. 4. Myth #2: Truth: Facebook,Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and the The key to success in social media is to be highly relevant Bonus Content: Golden Rules of Marketing Your Event Through Social MediaSocial media will myriad of other social media and laser focused. Content that • Peer-to-peer sharing is the best way to get your event messaging the day channels can be powerful tools for spreading the word is true to the tone of your event and that stands out as unique • Don’t take yourself too seriously. It should be obvious, but social marketing is about being social, and about your event among to your followers can spread that means you need a good personality individuals that are connected quickly, particularly if you ask to make your event likable. • Inbound marketing is not enough. Each to your cause and within your your followers to share. of the tactics described in this guide inner circle of supporters and can work on their own. But, for an event to benefit fully from them, they should followers. They can also be be combined with outbound marketing. Never underestimate what a bit of paid leveraged as a vehicle for your promotion can do for your event. participants to recruit team • You must have good content and solid members and, of course, offers. Without well-produced, engaging content, any and all tactics you employ generate peer-to-peer financial will most likely fail. support. Status updates, • You will need a strong call to action. The tried-and-true, strong call to action promoted posts and other is just as important in social media as it is anywhere else. Be clear about messaging tools allow your what you want your audience to do after organization to communicate consuming your content or engaging with your event. in real time, but social media • Always add value. At the end of the day, is limited by the same element if you are not providing some sort of value to your event participants, you are that makes it such an effective not doing your job and social media will never work for you. tool: the cacophony of • Never forget that social is a two-way messages can be deafening. street. No one likes being talked at. Yes, broadcast your message, but remember to keep the lines of communication open in both directions. When contacted, always respond quickly and sincerely. Be sure to mix up your messaging and use a combination of content and offers. Source: Marketo 4
  5. 5. Myth #3: Truth: Organizations that actively encourage and support Segmenting communications from the moment an individual Bonus Content: Public Relations Tips for EventsIt does not team building achieve higher registers is an essential Clearly, PR efforts can have a dramatic impact on event performance. Although they are inherently local in nature, thismatter whether levels of participation and retention—and their events element of this strategy. Participants who join your event is also where personal relationships are most likely to exist, which can bea participant is raise more money. as individuals should receive leveraged to publicize event activities. Some of the ways in which PR can bepart of a team ongoing communications that leveraged include: • Promote your event through local Once engaged, individuals encourage starting a team, or media calendar sections. act as evangelists, taking finding a team to join based on • Create a dedicated area on the main event website for the media and recruitment into their own affinities, geographical location develop a press kit for the series. hands by spreading the word or other variables. • Establish local media partnerships— not just for in-kind sponsorship or to about the event to friends, support traditional PR—but for unique family and colleagues, ways to gain coverage for the event. For example, inviting a radio or inviting them to participate television personality to participate in the event allows for story lines from on a team. Our research a participant’s perspective. Encourage indicates that organizations the stations to create teams to further engage the media in the event. that actively encourage this • Pitch stories and interviews to local activity from the beginning media featuring inspirational event participants. of the recruitment and registration process have more engaged participants, lower no-show rates, and increased year-over-year retention. 5
  6. 6. Myth #4: Truth: Corporate sponsors are more likely to remain This appears to be a missed opportunity for Bonus Content: Recruitment Success Factor ChecklistRecruiting committed to an organization many organizations for ✓ We have clearly defined and assigned recruitment functions, responsibilities, timelines, and objectives.corporate over time when their employees are engaged various reasons: corporate relationships are sometimes ✓ We have established goals to be accomplished in terms of advertising sponsors to through event participation. managed outside of the impressions, leads, new participants, and repeat participants.form event Much like an individual events team, and events ✓ We have determined how our recruitment results will be measured. supporter, corporations staff may not be experiencedteams should need to be kept involved in working with corporate ✓ We have defined key messages for each of our target segments. ✓ Our messages are clear enough and be optional with the mission and entities. Cross-training staff bold enough to earn a place in the minds of our target market. activities of an organization can be an effective way of ✓ We have defined the personality in order to ensure a lasting, bridging this gap. of the event brand. (i.e., Funny, Emotional, Hard-hitting, etc.) long-term relationship. ✓ We have defined the recruitment campaign tone. (i.e., positive/uplifting vs. serious/thoughtful; inclusive and/ Our research found that or family-oriented vs. individualistic and challenging, etc.) organizations that build ✓ We have an integrated communication corporate team participation plan and calendar for the marketing communications mix. into their relationships with ✓ We regularly assess and optimize corporate sponsors often the marketing communications mix required to generate sufficient find that their events’ participation from the target audience. largest-grossing teams are ✓ We have defined our competitors its corporate teams. and know their strengths and weaknesses, including evaluating the income model, target audience, fundraising performance and attendance of those events. ✓ We use predictive modeling to execute a more effective recruitment strategy, achieve pre-set recruitment objectives, and help understand: Why will my registrants attrite? When will my registrants attrite? Who can we save? Who will register again? When will they register? Which event will they participate in next (for example, will they migrate from walk to bike)? 6
  7. 7. Myth #5: Truth: Organizations that achieve high retention rates An important element in retaining participants through Bonus Content: Is there an average benchmark for repeat event participants, and for event donorsThe retention point to the event day the event day experience that convert to recurring donors? Among the last several run, walk, ridestrategy begins experience as the most significant factor in driving involves legacy recognition. Recognizing repeat participants fundraising programs Event 360 has consulted on, the average number ofwhen the event participants back to the can drive individuals to repeat participants was 34% and the median was 30%. This is consistent with Blackbauds donorCentrics Eventsis over starting line the following year. continually return to the Benchmarking group where five walk programs averaged a 40% participant event, especially in cases retention rate. Blackbauds study also reported that multi-year participants Making the event experience where a legacy society exists. raised more than new participants. fun, easy to navigate, Recognition can take the When building a retention program, its important to remember to segment your interactive, emotionally form of a distinct t-shirt color, fundraisers and your $0 participants. With limited resources, it makes sense impactful, stimulating, and preferred registration line, or to focus your retention efforts on the people most likely to fundraise again. with an exciting finish line unique giveaways, and can To the second question about converting experience all contribute be modeled after successful event donors to organizational donors; unfortunately, a benchmark doesnt greatly to retaining participants fundraising tiers. exist here. We have seen this as high from one year to the next. as 80-90% on some programs, but this is by no means a benchmark, and In addition to being the least your mileage will vary. Ideally, the median number of donors per event costly form of recruitment, participant should be at least three to four. If the majority of participants have ensuring a positive event-day only one donor, then you should examine how effectively you are using tools to experience is just as important encourage participants to ask for money. as your up-front efforts. While it is often the case that an event donor’s motivation to support an organization is secondary to that of supporting the participant, this is by no means a reason to disregard such individuals. In fact, such a donor is very similar to an individual introduced to you by a friend at a social event. The burden rests with you to further engage this individual if you wish to pursue a deeper relationship and, if you do not take the first step to engage, chances are the relationship will never move beyond the event. 7
  8. 8. Myth #6: Truth: There is a very strong link between creativity The bottom line: event communication such as Bonus Content: How to Appeal to the Massive Subconscious MindCreativity and and advertising effectiveness. direct mail, direct response Just 150 milliseconds after seeing an image of a baby, people’s medialemotion are While creativity cannot be defined or prescribed, creative advertising, email marketing, search marketing, and social orbitofrontal cortex—the part of the brain associated with emotion—a luxury ads tend to be enjoyable and media advertising are designed becomes abuzz with activity. Pictures of grown-ups don’t prompt the same effect. An experiment in Scotland involving, and different than to create immediate uplifts in showed babies also make people more altruistic. Wallets were planted all over other advertising. They tend registration and are usually Edinburgh with one of four photos: a baby, a puppy, a happy family or an to stimulate an emotional judged on this basis. elderly couple – or no photo. Nearly 90% of the baby wallets were turned response. But if communication is in, followed by 53% of puppies, 48% to immediately impact of families and 25% for the older couple. Only one in seven of the other wallets In other words, creativity and registrations, it must have without photos were turned in by good Samaritans. Does your cause involve emotion are no longer a luxury an emotionally powerful, babies in any way? Put them front and center on your site and in social media. if campaigns want to achieve relevant, new, believable, And just in case you ever lose it, in your wallet, too. financial success. Creativity and differentiating message. Source: Roger Dooley’s book Brainfluence fuels effectiveness, and ads And none of these factors may that engage emotionally are have enough weight by itself more likely to be rewarded. to compensate for poor Of course, direct response isn’t performance by the others. the only role of advertising. Rather, they are conditions People are more inclined to which all need to be met if an register for events they know ad is to generate the motivation something about, rather than necessary to change people’s events they have never heard behavior. It’s like a cake: if just of, so you will still need to do one of the main ingredients is some brand building activity missing, then the final result will to help maximize your direct not be very appetizing. response advertising. 8
  9. 9. Myth #7: Truth: Collecting and analyzing the right set of data “we love that so many people just show up” but that limits Bonus Content: Analyze This: A Nonprofit’s Guide to Event Fundraising AnalyticsOur data won’t is critical to your ability to our ability to promote next • Visit to download a detailed guide highlighting really reveal measure the efficacy of your organization’s participant year’s event to this group, and to steward them as part key metrics and best practices driving event fundraising success.anything we recruitment strategies. of our organizations largerdidn’t already family. Also, at the point of If you are using television or registration be sure to askknow radio advertisements, set up “how” a person heard about unique phone lines for each the event and “why” they segment to test response decided to register for rates. Likewise, use unique the event. URLs, discount codes, QR codes, etc. in print ads and Finally, one of the largest ensure the ability to track missed opportunities with the source of traffic driven data is on the analytics side. through digital ads. This will It’s not enough to have tell you which channels are collected all of the right delivering registrants and data if you and your team are worthy of your continued aren’t visiting it on a investment. regular basis to inform your decisions about Once someone decides how and where you are to register, be sure to recruiting participants. collect the name and At minimum, conduct a contact information for complete analysis of your each participant. It can be participant data at the end tempting to tell ourselves of the event, to help set the that “the team captains have plan for next time. all of that information” or that 9
  10. 10. We help nonprofitsand corporationsuse events to createa better world.To learn more, please contact Jono Smith at773.247.5360 ext. 130 or email