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For some of your attendees, your giving event may be the highlight of their week! Everyone will remember a great event hosted by a worthy organization, but it never hurts to take some extra steps to make sure your attendees get even more involved.

This extra effort will go a long way with helping your event resonate with your most important supporters. Engagement is vital to the future of your organization because it creates a great reputation for your hosting abilities, increasing attendance for future events as well.

Creating involvement opportunities doesn’t need to involve a complete renovation of your strategy; sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference for an event.

To increase the involvement and engagement levels for your next event, your organization should:

  1. Start with the best event planning software.
  2. Begin the engagement process early.
  3. Create event opportunity bundles.
  4. Focus on engaging new supporters.
  5. Create memories for your guests.

Creating opportunities to build meaningful engagement at your events can result in greater donations and higher regard in the community as well as positive word-of-mouth for ever greater success at your next event!

1. Support your event plans with the proper event management software.

When your giving event runs smoothly and according to plan, it’s easy for your attendees to find and get involved with all of the engagement opportunities you offer.

There are different types of event planning software your nonprofit can choose from. Depending on your organization and the type of event you’re planning, you may choose to invest in different types of software.

Simple Event Ticketing Solution

The lightest solution your organization can choose is a simple ticketing solution. This type of software will facilitate the sale of tickets to your audience. When you invest in this type of solution, you should be sure your attendees can purchase their tickets both online and at the event.

Generally, simple event ticketing solutions provide registration, ticketing, and webpage capabilities. This gives your nonprofit a jumpstart to the event itself, but does very little to help plan the event activities.

You may choose to use this type of software if your organization hosts occasional events and is confident in your in-house marketing process.

Event-Specific Software

The next tier of event planning software you can choose from is highly specific to the event you host. Many solutions are specifically designed to provide tools for distinct individual events, such as raffles or auctions.

These software solutions generally offer the registration functionality of the lightweight solution above; however, they will also offer software features to help plan that specific event.

For instance, if your organization is planning an auction, you might choose to invest in an event software solution that will provide registration, ticketing, and mobile bidding. This software will facilitate the process of planning the bidding activities of the event itself.

Comprehensive Event Software System

The final event planning software is a comprehensive full-featured software solution. This type of solution will support all of your event management needs. From event ticketing to promotion, comprehensive solutions can help you through each step of the planning process. Organizations that should look for this type of software are those that host events often and need constant access to event data as well as frequent ticketing.

Organizations that support ticketing for their day-to-day activities and often host events should consider investing in a software solution that supports their ticketing needs as well as their event management solution. These organizations will benefit from software that provides a 360-degree view of customers and attendees and their interactions.

For example, consider a museum planning an opening night gala and selling tickets through their museum management software. For attendees, the registration process will be similar to purchasing a regular admission ticket, and it’s likely that many participants will already have logon accounts that simplify registration.

If your organization offers daily ticketing and admissions, education programs, and memberships in addition to events and fundraising throughout the year, you should consider switching to a fully integrated system that supports all of your operations, including both general ticketing and event registration. Other organizations with less frequent or specified event types might instead choose a lighter weight solution for their event needs.

2. Start building engagement early.

Of course, choosing event software is only the first step. Once you know the “how” for your event planning, it’s time to start thinking about the strategies, content and processes to build engagement and excitement for your giving event!

A good place to start is reviewing the results of similar previous events in search of successful strategies to create even greater engagement at your upcoming event. If you were able to use an event registration solution that’s integrated with all of your operations in the past, you should be able to use reporting and analytics to look for trends (such as attendees who later became members and/or donors).

Once you’ve enticed people to register for your event, build engagement and goodwill by making the registration process as streamlined and easy as possible. Make sure you can create custom registration forms to gather all the information you need about attendees. For example, if a meal is included in the registration fee, people can select their entrées and let you know about food allergies and special requests. If you’re going to be taking photographs, filming or livecasting the event, you’ll want to get their agreement to a photo release.

Maintaining Excitement

To maintain interest and excitement, it’s important to balance your information requests with consideration for the registrants’ time. Don’t overwhelm your supporters by including too many fields on the form. Try to limit the amount of additional information requested to reduce shopping cart abandonment for your event.

Take care to ensure that your forms are short, effective and easy to understand. If your event registration software allows you to incorporate forms for each registrant on the same page where you enter names, it’ll be easier for your participants to sign up and they’ll appreciate not having to click through additional online pages (especially on mobile).  

Because engagement process begins before the event even begins, you should plan an omnichannel experience as early as possible.

Omnichannel approaches to increase engagement include:
  • Advertising your event (with a custom hashtag!) on social media accounts with links to more information and registration
  • Heighten interest and excitement with a coordinated series of emails, blog posts and social media about the event plans
  • Create short, fun interactive surveys and contests
  • Link platforms together to create the single experience.

For example, Doubleknot’s museum ticketing software is an integrated solution that supports everything for your visitors, attendees, members and donors from registration, admission and event ticketing, donations and membership sales to sharing their experience on social media!

3. Increase participation with opportunity bundles.

Offering optional add-ons, up-sells, and bundles will help your organization to sell more registrations at different price points creates opportunities for greater engagement at the event.

If it makes sense for your giving event, you can offer ticket packages that include additional activities at your site. For example, a premium ticket at a higher price might include:

  • A free photo session
  • A meet-and-greet
  • A hands-on activity, ride, game or tour.
  • A wristband for “unlimited” access to refreshments
  • Access to exclusive tours during or after the event
  • And anything else

To learn more about how strategic use of up-sell, add-on, and bundled options can increase revenue year-round (and not just at events), check out Doubleknot’s zoo management software guide.

4. Nurture new supporters.

Veteran supporters already know your organization and appreciate what you do. Continuing to encourage greater engagement from current supporters is, as always, crucial for your organization’s sustained health.

However, it’s also important to help potential supporters take the first step on their engagement journey. Strategies to convert first-time supporters are different than those for sustaining your veterans, as new participants may not be aware of the many ways that they can support your mission.

To capture the attention of your newer supporters, make sure impulse purchase options are available to get them more involved. These instinctive opportunities they may take will likely be smaller experiences such as:

  • Purchasing merchandise from your organization’s gift shop.
  • Donating to mobile kiosks outside of different exhibits or activities.
  • Participating in raffles or auctions available at the event.
  • Giving for special holidays or giving days to support a local cause.

Making a positive impression with these new attendees can generate more donations and increase overall involvement at future events as well.

After the event, send a special email to new attendees that communicates how much their participation is appreciated and inviting them to become involved in more ways. Be sure to provide a wide range of inclusive options that provide meaningful engagement opportunities at all kinds of financial and time commitments.

Carefully nurturing novice engagement will generate greater support for future events, campaigns and fundraising efforts!

5. Create memories for your guests.

Helping your guests create memories and keepsakes will keep keep your event and your organization at the forefront of their minds in the future.

Posting to Social Media

Getting your guests to post photos from your event on social media is an ideal way for them to share and remember the event that also creates organic awareness and goodwill for your organization.  Here are a few strategies to encourage people to share their uniquely personal event photos online:

  • Establish a hashtag. Remember that hashtag you used to promote your event? Ask everyone to post their pictures using the same event hashtag! Be sure to repost to widen their reach.
  • Hold social media contests. Offer a prize for the social media follower who posts the funniest photo or the best description of what your organization and event mean to them.
  • Use Snapchat filters. Encourage people to share their experience with their friends using a special Snapchat filter created just for the event!
  • Livestream videos. Live-streaming videos and stories on platforms like Facebook and Instagram allows people to get involved with the event from wherever they are.

Meaningful Keepsakes and Souvenirs

Everyone likes to have a keepsake from a happy experience, whether it was a fundraising gala, an awards dinner or a holiday program at a zoo or museum. While the items (and their prices) that you offer will depend on the kind of event, here are some ideas to create and promote a range of meaningful event souvenirs:

  • T-shirts and other common event merchandise are popular mementos for casual events.
  • “Make and take” opportunities let guests get hands-on in an activity related to your mission, and a customized creation can be more meaningful.
  • Photo opportunities with a professional photographer. Even though almost everyone has a smartphone camera, the skills of a professional photographer can still be a very valuable addition to your event, especially if there’s a celebrity or VIP at the event (including the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and your local sports mascot, and you might be surprised to find how many young-at-heart adults want to get their photo taken with these costumed guests).

Make sure that you offer these mementos as an up-sell option during registration as well as at the event. And, these keepsakes make great raffle items and table prizes.

For nonprofits, events are opportunities not only to raise funds but also to increase engagement. Building engagement opportunities into every event will improve your marketing and outreach as well as create more successful events.

Engage your attendees early and often with event software that supports your needs before, during and after your event. Creating a variety of meaningful opportunities for new and returning supporters will improve your event and make it easier to build and sustain relationships in the future.

Katie Haystead

Katie Haystead

Senior Vice President, Partnerships

With over a decade of experience working with K12 schools and higher education institutions’ fundraising efforts, Katie Haystead now oversees the partnerships team at Community Funded. Her passion for partner success and satisfaction aligns with Community Funded’s priorities and Katie’s unique background is well suited to manage the day to day operations of our partnerships team as well as new market acquisition.

Prior to joining the team at Community Funded, Katie served many roles within the Fundraising Division at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. Her experience ranges from working onsite and remotely with clients executing phonathon programs, developing annual giving strategies, onsite consultations and also developing multichannel strategies allowing for strong synergy between annual giving channels and creating strong major and planned gift pipelines.

Katie is based in Metro Detroit and is a graduate of Central Michigan University, where she worked for the phonathon for 3 years while working towards her History Major.

Kim Jennings

Kim Jennings

Senior Generosity Strategist, Generis

Kim Jennings, CFRE is a skilled fundraising leader who believes in the power of Christian education to raise up thoughtful, strong, committed leaders who can make our world a better place for all.

Kim Jennings

Todd Turner

Director of Digital Strategies, Generis

In addition to his 11 years overseeing Chuck Swindoll’s Insight Living Ministries communications department, Todd Turner has worked as a digital strategist for faith based organizations across the globe..

Kim Jennings

Jennifer Perrow

Senior Generosity Strategist, Generis

Jennifer is a skilled fundraising and communications professional who helps ministries articulate vision, communicate mission, and raise abundant funds to advance Kingdom priorities.