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How to market walk-a-thons and other impactful fundraisers

5 min read
Aug 2, 2022

Marketing for fundraising events can take up a lot of time — especially if you’re involved in other parts of the planning process. But effective promotion is one of the most important steps to hosting a successful fundraiser, and there are plenty of strategies and tools that can help.

We’re going to explore some common fundraisers and how to market them, including:

  • Walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons
  • Golf tournaments
  • Silent auctions
  • Charity galas

But first, marketing automation... 

As you’re planning your fundraising event, it’s important to leverage a marketing automation platform that allows you to automate your communication with supporters while personalizing them at the same time. Consider marketing automation solutions that will help you keep your data organized and segmented and ensure you send relevant content to the right people. From there, you’ll be on your way to effectively marketing your campaign.

Now let’s take a deeper look at how to market some specific types of fundraisers.

Walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons

Walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons are effective fundraisers that encourage your supporters to raise money on your organization’s behalf. But how can you successfully connect your event with your supporters?

In addition to using marketing automation, you can try out these strategies:

  • Outbound campaigns. Outbound campaigns can include email promotions, digital ads, and printed collateral that you might hang up at local businesses related to walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons (like athletic shoe stores or bike shops). This can promote your event to different groups of people, especially walkers and bikers who would be interested in signing up for a charity event that also furthers their own goals.
  • Social media. With the help of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others, you can follow tons of community influencers related to walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons. Create an event hashtag in all of your posts to boost engagement, and be sure to follow back those who interact with your event on social media.
  • Peer-to-peer engagement. Encourage your participants to set up their own fundraising pages, share their progress, and inspire their networks to support your fundraising goal. If you’re looking for the software and best practices to get this started, check out this guide to peer-to-peer fundraising.

By taking advantage of more traditional methods as well as leveraging social media and peer-to-peer fundraising best practices, you’ll be on your way to hosting a successful event!

Golf tournaments

Golf tournaments are a great way to attract major donors. This is because nonprofits typically recruit corporate sponsors and partners (and other donors with major gift potential) to participate.

However, when it comes to marketing your event, you’ll want to follow a few key steps:

  • Segment your outreach. Depending on your target audience, you’ll want to vary your outreach. For current donors, send out personally addressed emails and direct mail. For prospective donors, reach out through a mutual connection or a high-level staff member at your organization. Then, print out flyers to post at your venue and share a digital version on social media to reach a general audience.
  • Promote your registration form. Create custom event pages where people can easily register for or get more information about your fundraiser.

Here’s an easy checklist to make sure you’re covering all your bases when it comes to running a successful golf tournament.

Silent auctions

Silent auctions involve several components — working with larger events that the auction is part of, item procurement, bidding processes. So be sure to keep your marketing goals organized. 

In order to promote your auction, consider the following:

  • Multichannel marketing. Use direct mail, email, social media, and other channels to contact donors. Don't put all your eggs in just one basket.
  • Optimize your fundraising website. Your website should be the place you’re sending your email recipients, social media followers, ticket purchasers, and online supporters. Include a link to your event registration page in each form of outreach to make it easy for people to buy tickets.
  • Create a catalog. Come up with a list of auction items that will appeal to donors. From there, you can market those items using an online auction catalog.

From procuring items to taking a multichannel approach, there are several platforms that can help you market your silent auction. Be sure to stay on top of your outreach and invest in the right software to ensure your event is successful.

Charity galas

A charity gala typically consists of a formal dinner, some form of entertainment, and different activities geared at driving more revenue, such as text-to-give donation appeals or special talks by guest speakers.

As you prepare to market your gala, be sure to include:

  • Mobile-optimized ticket sales. Make sure people can easily purchase tickets to your event online and from their phones.
  • Email announcements. Start sending emails that address why your audience should come to the event. Be compelling and demonstrate the importance of the cause you’re championing.
  • Printed collateral. Be sure to give yourself enough time to create printed collateral, since printing takes an additional investment of time. You’ll want to include your registration link on the printed collateral (so have that ready!), and make sure the invitations go out at least four months before the event.

Start planning early, secure your venue, date, and speakers, and you’ll be on your way to planning and marketing a successful gala!

A few tips on post-event marketing

Remember — event marketing doesn’t stop as soon as the event ends. Be sure to follow up with attendees afterward by sending personalized messages thanking them for their support.

There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Thank-you emails. Send out simple, personalized emails thanking guests for attending and for any specific donations or gifts. Make sure your campaign planning and management tools give you access to all of this data so you have the information readily available.
  • Surveys. Asking attendees to complete a survey is a great opportunity to collect event data and get ideas on how to improve your next event.
  • Update social media. For about a month following the fundraiser, you can update your social media pages with photos and videos from the event. This is a great way to boost engagement in the results of the event and encourage more people to attend next year.
  • Market for the following year. Send out save the dates for next year’s event and link to your fundraising page, if available. Provide as much information as you can about your next event to get people excited early.

From walk-a-thons to galas, you can make any fundraiser successful with the right marketing strategies. Invest in relevant software that will keep your processes running smoothly, and you’ll be ready to tackle your next event without a hitch. Good luck!

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Kelly Velasquez-Hague

Kelly brings more than 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales and marketing experience to her role at OneCause. As director of content marketing, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She's passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors and raise more funds for their causes.

OneCause is committed to helping cause-driven organizations amplify their message and raise more funds with easy-to-use fundraising solutions. First to market as BidPal in 2007 with revolutionary mobile bidding, OneCause offers a suite of solutions to power online giving, event management, mobile bidding, and peer-to-peer fundraising for nonprofit organizations of all sizes.

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