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Nonprofit: Building event attendance
As a nonprofit, you likely hold a number of events—whether it’s a golf outing, an auction or a fundraising gala, these events can be great way to share your cause with the community and bring in funding and new support. But many are faced with dwindling donations and decreased attendance. Maybe your event has gotten “tired” in its approach. Or perhaps it’s the competition of new events that inevitably surface each year. Regardless of the reason, repeat support of your event and a growing guest list are musts.So, how can you ensure yours is making the grade when it has been said that an event without a loyal attendance base of 50% or more is an unhealthy one? Here are some tips:

Prior to the event …

  • Keep in mind what drives attendance:  Take note that different people attend your event for different reasons. Is it due to a connection to your cause? Or, your organization and its people? Perhaps people attend due to the event itself. Ask for feedback and use it each year when planning the event in order to create ongoing appeal for your audiences, and in turn garner increased attendance.
  • Grow loyalty:  Grow your event’s loyal attendees by providing repeat guests with some sort of perk. Perhaps it is a discount on the registration fee or a gift such as a box of logo’d golf balls, an imprinted pilsner glass or a logo’d wine stopper. Let attendees know their affinity to your event is not going unnoticed.
  • Change it up:  An event that is the same old, same old each year can get boring. Change it up by adding something new or unexpected—try offering new entertainment or perhaps a mystery, celebrity speaker. A little change can go a long way in keeping your attendees engaged and loyal.
  • Promote the event:  A recent survey cites that 4 in 10 use social networking sites like Facebook® and Twitter®to follow a cause online. Of those, 23% have donated to the cause or attended one of its events. TweetSM save-the-dates and post important event information on Facebook asking friends and followers to share your event information with their networks. But don’t just promote online. Use traditional channels, too—postcard invites, save-the-date magnets and personal phone calls—to appeal to your offline crowd.

During and after the event …

  • Treat your guests well:  Make sure your guests have a positive experience—deliver what is expected. A well-planned event that provides a unique experience will keep people coming back. And don’t forget to say thank you with a small token of appreciation like a golf shirt or a fold ‘n go bag.
  • Celebrate success:  Remember, although people attend your event for different reasons, they are there to support you in one way or another. Take a moment during your event to share and celebrate your organization’s successes and communicate how your audience’s attendance and support have played a crucial role in your achievements.
  • Assess and test:  If you notice event attendance is dwindling, you may need to adjust and modify. Perhaps the date of the event isn’t conducive for attendees. Or maybe the venue is becoming stagnant. Try changing the date or location and see if you realize a positive impact.
  • Survey:  After the event, ask for feedback. Satisfied guests are more likely to become repeat guests. Surveys can be done online, over the phone or by providing comment cards at the event itself.

We hope that you have picked up a few ideas to grow attendance at your next event. Remember, by getting to the bottom of why people go to your event, reaching out to potential attendees via a variety of channels and treating them well, you can grow your guest list and keep people coming back for more.

“Analyze This: A Nonprofit’s Guide to Event Fundraising Analytics.” Event 360. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2013. <>.

Are You Attracting Your Best Attendees Or Are You Repelling Them?” Velvet Chainsaw. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2013.

4 Tips for Increasing Attendance to Your Nonprofit’s 2013 Events” Nonprofit Hub. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2013.

Membership Knowledge Hub, Poll Finds
Sources should be The Chronicle of Philanthropy rather than Prospecting
” Wild Apricot Blog : 4 Event Planning Ideas to Kick-start the New Year. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2013.

A Growing Number of Americans Don’t Give to Charity.” Prospecting. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2013.

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