Optimizing your event outreach: 5 strategies for nonprofits

Aidan Augustin
Co-founder & President of Feathr

From increasing donations to boosting donor retention, events are a crucial tool for nonprofits. This is especially true when it comes to marketing your nonprofit’s brand. However, events and outreach strategies have changed dramatically over the past several years. Not only have many events shifted to an online or hybrid format, but the marketing has also become much more complex due to the development of more sophisticated online marketing tools. 

In this guide, we’ll cover how to use smart nonprofit marketing strategies to reach new and existing audiences with targeted, tailored messages. To craft your event’s marketing campaign, leverage the following strategies: 

  1. Use geofencing to target new audiences.
  2. Create engaging marketing messages.
  3. Use ad retargeting and cart abandonment campaigns.
  4. Launch an invites campaign.
  5. Choose marketing channels your attendees are active on.

As you get started with these tips, remember to collect marketing data as you go to see which messages, platforms, and channels are the most effective. Then, you can use this data to inform and improve your future marketing efforts. 

1. Use geofencing to target new audiences.

Geofencing is a strategy that allows your nonprofit to use location to deliver targeted ads to prospective supporters.

For example, let’s say your organization is an animal shelter that houses stray dogs in the area, and there’s another organization nearby that works with stray cats. Chances are your supporters will overlap because everyone involved with both organizations loves animals. So if the other organization hosts an in-person or hybrid event, you might place a geofence around the event’s location. 

By identifying the mobile devices that are in the area at the time of the event, geofencing allows your organization to target these individuals with ads, informing them of your own upcoming event. 

When using geofencing to find new supporters, your organization will need to: 

  1. Determine the people you’re attempting to target. Simply geofencing your local mall or park may not be the best strategy (unless your organization is directly relevant to those places). Instead, consider who you want to attend your event and research where those people may be. This might include other organizations’ events, college campuses, or conferences. 
  2. Define the length of your advertisement campaign. How long should ad recipients encounter your message? How many times per day or week? Make sure to strike a balance between ensuring your audience remembers your campaign and not overwhelming them with ads. 
  3. Design creative advertisements for them to see. Your ads should be branded to your nonprofit, have a concise message, and include a link to your event’s registration page. When the individuals from the geofenced area start scrolling through the news or researching new recipes, they’ll see your ad standing out on the page. 

Feathr’s digital marketing guide provides the following example of a well-designed ad that could be used as a part of a geofencing campaign: 

This example of a nonprofit advertisement shows how the Humane Society of Alachua, Florida advertised their event, Woofstock. 

During your geofencing campaign, monitor your progress by tracking the click-through rate on your ads and the number of registrations that come out of it. If people are clicking through but not registering, you might decide to follow up with a new ad saying, “You forgot something!” or send other messages that nudge prospective attendees towards registration. 

2. Create engaging marketing messages.

Mass messages sent to everyone in your system often aren’t engaging or effective. Instead, personalize your messages to meet the exact needs of your supporters and better capture their attention. 

In an ideal world, personalization would mean creating unique messages for every supporter in your database, but this isn’t practical. Instead, segment your supporters based on common characteristics. For example, you might separate out the following supporter segments: 

  • Volunteers from previous events
  • Previous event attendees
  • Long-time donors
  • Major donors
  • First-time donors

Write messages specifically relevant to each of these segments. Then, take personalization a step further by addressing supporters by name. After the event, you can also share individualized impact messages using the auto-population features in your marketing automation software. 

For example, you might reach out to a volunteer from a past event and ask them to attend your next one, saying: 

“Thanks for helping out with [past event]! Did the event activities look entertaining? Take a break and join in the fun by registering for our next event, [upcoming event name]. See you there!” 

3. Use ad retargeting and cart abandonment campaigns.

We mentioned earlier that you can run geofencing campaigns to target ads to individuals in specific areas. Similarly, you can use ads to remind people of your organization when they’ve visited your website before. These are known as retargeted ads or — when they specifically visited the checkout, registration, or donation page — cart abandonment campaigns. 

For example, let’s say a supporter follows your email or social media post to your website and learns about the event. But, they end up leaving before completing their registration. This can happen for all sorts of reasons. They may have gotten pulled away for a work call, couldn’t find their wallet, or simply couldn’t make up their mind on whether to register. No matter why they didn’t complete their registration, they’ve already expressed interest in your event by navigating to the registration page.

Retargeting and abandonment campaigns remind potential attendees of this initial interest and encourage them to complete the registration. 

When they next go online, they’ll run into your ads in the margins of whatever page they’re on. Customize the message on your cart abandonment campaign ads to include text like, “We miss you!” or “Did you forget something?” along with a link back to your registration page. This type of targeted message will encourage supporters to click through and finish the registration process. 

4. Launch an invites campaign.

Sponsors, speakers, and other key stakeholders in your event will all benefit when your attendance rates are high, so encourage them to take part in your marketing efforts with an invites campaign.

Invites campaigns are customized pages that sponsors and other influencers for your mission can post to promote your event to their own audiences. 

For example, consider your event sponsors. While most nonprofits consider sponsorships to be primarily financial, Double the Donation’s corporate sponsorship guide explains that they can also come in the form of in-kind donations, employee giving, and media advertisements. Ask your sponsors to double-up on their involvement in your event by launching an invites page that will invite their own audiences to register.

Invites pages should be co-branded between your organization and the sponsor or influencer publishing the page. They can provide additional information on the page regarding their part in your organization’s event along with details about the event itself. Make sure you track the number of registrations that come from these pages so you better understand exactly how effective the partnerships have been. And make sure to thank and reward your partners for their effort!

5. Choose marketing channels your attendees are active on.

Marketing is built around the idea that businesses must reach supporters several times through multiple channels before a customer will buy a product. While nonprofits don’t sell a product, you still need several touchpoints with supporters to encourage them to donate or attend your event.

This multi-touch strategy is best accomplished with a multi-channel marketing campaign where your organization drives attendance using several different platforms. 

Consider where your supporters are already active, and use these channels as the foundation for your strategy. For example, consider channels like: 

  • Email. Email is particularly effective because messages are sent directly to your supporters’ individual inboxes. Use your segmentation strategies to ensure emails are as targeted and individualized as possible. 
  • Text message. Text messages are also a highly personalized message strategy with a naturally high open rate. If supporters opt into text messages, use this as a platform to give sneak peaks for event activities and announcements.
  • Ads. As discussed earlier, you can use ads to reach audiences in specific geographic locations or to retarget those who have previously visited your website.
  • Social media. Tailor your message depending on the social media platform you’re using. For example, you can use short promo videos on TikTok and Instagram, but you might use longer-form messages on Facebook alongside pictures from previous events. 
  • Direct mail. For supporters who indicate that they want to receive direct mail, send personalized invitations to your event and tell them where they can go online to register. 

In addition to considering the channels where your supporters are already engaged, also consider the channels that are naturally connected to your event. For example, if you’re using Facebook Livestream to engage your hybrid event attendees, you may decide to heavily market your campaign on Facebook. 


An effective event marketing strategy is the first step to ensure your nonprofit maximizes your attendance and return on investment. For your next event, assess your current marketing strategy and consider how you can leverage these tips to strengthen it. Then, effectively target your messaging for ads, invites campaigns, and other marketing platforms.

Aidan Augustin
Co-founder & President of Feathr

Aidan Augustin is the co-founder and president of Feathr, an industry-leading software company making digital marketing more accessible to nonprofits and event organizers. Feathr has helped over 800 nonprofits and thousands of events know, grow, and engage their audiences. When he's not steering the ship at Feathr, he's playing strategy games, singing karaoke, or reading books about people who changed the world.

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