How to Revolutionize Your Nonprofit Virtual Events

Virtual events have become a prevalent platform for nonprofits to engage with their audience and promote their cause. However, attracting and retaining a large and active virtual audience can be challenging. Nonprofits often struggle with low attendance, disengaged participants, and difficulty in building a vibrant online community.

To address this issue, Community Boost, a leading digital marketing agency specializing in nonprofit digital marketing, is sharing its learnings from successfully bringing in 8,500 highly engaged attendees to the Nonprofit Marketing Summit. From effective promotion and engaging content creation to fostering community participation, these tips can help nonprofits increase community engagement and maximize the success of their virtual events.

Effective Promotion: Creating Buzz and Excitement

Promotion plays a pivotal role in attracting and retaining a virtual audience. To build a highly engaged virtual audience, nonprofits must create buzz and excitement around their virtual event. Here are some strategies for effective virtual event promotion:

Leverage Social Media

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Instagram are powerful tools to promote virtual events. Nonprofits can create engaging posts, share updates, and use relevant hashtags to create awareness and generate interest in their event. They can also collaborate with influencers, partners, and sponsors to amplify their reach and engagement. 

For example, Community Boost asked sponsors to post a few social media posts to increase awareness. In exchange, sponsors would be eligible to win a prize!  If your nonprofit does not have sponsors, you can tag team members or other relevant organizations and influencers in your posts to try and get a repost! They also created a hashtag #NMS2023 and encouraged people on social to post about the summit using the hashtag.

Social media is a great way to promote virtual events.

Another promotion piece that worked well was creating events on LinkedIn and Facebook. You can invite your connections on these social channels and post regular updates here. This is great for spreading awareness as it is easy for attendees to share. 

Email Marketing

Nonprofits can use their email lists to send targeted and personalized invitations, updates, and reminders to their audience. They can also create compelling email newsletters, teasers, and sneak peeks to create anticipation and excitement for their event.

Community Boost sent weekly emails that created hype around the sessions, speakers, and new announcements. These emails reminded registrants when the event was starting and what they could look forward to. 

Here is a preview of one of the many emails that were sent out to registrants before the event: 

Email helps drive engagement for virtual events.

This is an email they sent to attendees after the event:

Virtual events succeed when you keep your audience engaged before, during, and even after it happens.

Content Marketing

Nonprofits can create engaging and informative content such as blogs, articles, videos, and infographics to promote their event. They can also leverage guest blogging, media partnerships, and content distribution channels to reach a wider audience. 

For the Nonprofit Marketing Summit, Community Boost even created a press release and sent it to multiple publications, and as a result, two media outlets published it! A good way to get in publications is to look up blogs that feature events like yours. For example, search for “Top Charity Events in 2023” and see what comes up! You can reach out to those publications to see if they will feature your event.

To promote your virtual event, find publications that are already talking about virtual events and ask to be included.

Paid Advertising

If possible, nonprofits can use paid advertising such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads to promote their virtual event to a targeted audience. They can create compelling ad copies, use eye-catching visuals, and optimize their ad campaigns for maximum impact. This helps you reach a larger audience and also target those who may be interested in your event. 

Pre-Event Engagement: Building Excitement

Before the event, Community Boost used SMS to send personalized messages to registered attendees, reminding them of the upcoming event, providing important logistical information, and building excitement. They used SMS to send out teasers, sneak peeks, and exclusive offers, creating a sense of anticipation and encouraging attendees to actively participate in the event. By leveraging the immediacy and high open rates of SMS, Community Boost built and generated buzz around the event, ensuring a strong turnout.

During-Event Engagement: Real-Time Communication

During the Nonprofit Marketing Summit, Community Boost used SMS to send out real-time updates, announcements, and reminders to keep attendees informed and engaged. They sent out SMS messages to remind attendees of upcoming sessions, notify them of any changes, and encourage them to participate in polls and Q&A sessions. 

Typeform was used to send out interactive surveys and collect feedback from attendees, allowing Community Boost to gather valuable insights and make real-time adjustments to improve the event experience. 

They set up virtual networking sessions, discussion forums, and chat rooms for attendees to connect, share ideas, and collaborate. The speakers encouraged attendees to interact with the speakers and each other through live Q&A sessions and live polls. They also facilitated peer-to-peer learning by organizing breakout sessions and workshops where attendees could collaborate and learn from each other. 

In addition, they incentivized participation by giving away books, merch, wine, and other prizes. This created a sense of friendly competition among the attendees. Nonprofits can partner and reach out to brands to see if they would be interested in donating prizes in exchange for a sponsor partnership!

Now, if you don’t have the funds to give away free things, you can definitely create a merch store that attendees can visit and buy memorabilia from your event.

Community Boost created a dynamic and interactive virtual experience that kept the attendees actively involved throughout the event by creating opportunities for meaningful engagement and fostering a sense of community.

Post-Event Follow-Up: Nurturing Relationships

After the event, Community Boost used SMS and email marketing to follow up with attendees and nurture the relationships. They sent out personalized thank-you messages, expressing appreciation for the attendees’ participation and sharing highlights and key takeaways from the event. They also used SMS and email to share post-event resources, such as session recordings, presentation slides, and additional content, to further engage and provide value to the attendees. 

In short, nonprofits should not stop communicating with their virtual audience. These people are clearly invested in your cause, which means they want to hear more from you! Giving them the chance to sign up for a monthly newsletter or get regular updates of future events or simply what your organization is up to is a great way to keep them engaged!

Final Thoughts

In today’s virtual event landscape, engaging and retaining a highly active audience is crucial for the success of nonprofit events. Community Boost’s success in bringing in 8,500 engaged attendees to the Nonprofit Marketing Summit was due to its holistic approach that included an effective promotion, engaging content, fostering community participation, and leveraging SMS as a powerful communication channel for pre-event, during-event, and post-event engagement. By implementing these strategies, nonprofits can build a highly engaged virtual audience, create memorable event experiences, and ultimately advance their mission.

About the Author

Maria Sadusky is a marketing specialist at Community Boost, responsive for running social media and email marketing campaigns.

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