How to Plan a Non-Profit Event with No Money

So you want to plan a non-profit event. Congratulations! Hosting an event is a wonderful way to raise awareness for your non-profit, find donors, and spread your mission of change. The catch? You have no money. You can hear the flies buzzing from your nonprofit’s wallet. Never fear! Sparxo will show you how to start putting together an incredible non-profit event without an incredible budget. Or any budget, really.

  1. Find ‘Fresh’ Venues

What you can’t fix, you feature. Sure, your non-profit might not have the funds to rent out the Ritz, but this could be to your advantage. We’ve all attended a stuffy event at a stuffy venue, they’re a dime a dozen. With a low budget, you’ll have to get creative with your venue, finding a less known, possibly even public venue. But the uniqueness of these cheaper venues could help your event stand out.

Your first venue choice: public or private? A public venue, like parks and plazas, can be great for more active events. They’re also normally, totally free. You could plan a relaxed picnic-style event, with active games and plenty of room for meeting new people in a casual environment. This can also attract bystanders in the public space, spreading awareness for free. However, even with a public venue, you’ll still have to consider costs other than rent. Will you need insurance? Permits? Parking? You’ll also likely have to bring food, and ensure there are restrooms nearby. While there is no obvious entry cost at a public venue, these smaller costs add up. However, the unique, casual atmosphere of a public revenue could very well set your event apart.

 

A private, or commercial venue, is pay-to-play. You rent this space, but it will come with event accommodations like insurance, parking, bathrooms, and seating. If you can find one of these venues on your budget, it’s definitely worth considering. Be sure you reach out to all your own contacts too: someone may be able to offer you commercial space at a discounted price or be familiar with a venue that will fit your budget. This is especially common for non-profit event planners, as their message of positive change makes contacts more likely to help them or give them special deals. If you decide to go with a commercial venue, we recommend that you choose a venue with a smaller staff. The more staff needed to run a venue, the more people you’ll likely be paying for. Smaller staff will likely mean a smaller bill.

After you’ve narrowed down your list of affordable (or even free!) venues, send the venue manager an email explaining your event and how it will benefit the venue. As a non-profit, you’ll want to stress your mission statement, the good the event will do, as well as how your attendees’ presence could benefit the venue. You can find a sample venue request letter here.

  1. Master Mailing Lists & Social Media

Throwing more money into marketing is not always the answer. Sure, money can help, but free tactics like an email list, newsletters, and social media have proven effective time and time again.

Your first stop: a newsletter. Setting up a newsletter system with a service like Mailchimp is free for up to 2,000 contacts and unlimited emails. This will help you craft personalized newsletters and allow anyone interested in your event to stay up to date. Everyone on your newsletter mailing list is there because they’re actually interested in your events, meaning the returns on sign-ups will be high. But a mailing list is a long-term investment: you won’t instantly get thousands of sign-ups the second you create a list. However, over time and over many events, your mailing list will grow and help you immeasurably. Progressive newsletters can urge members to attend future events, ad even donate, boosting your nonprofit’s budget.

But what do you do get sign-ups now? Reach out to people in your personal network. Sent them a personalized email asking if they’re interested in joining the list for this event and future events. This is a great place to get started. Word of mouth and plenty of hustle is the first and extremely critical step for marketing an event with no money.

You can also add a mailing list to your website, linked to some sort of free giveaway, to incentivize sign-ups. A free brochure or even a discount can be a great incentive. Free website builders like Weebly, Ucraft, or Strikingly can create a landing page for your event, where you can put key information and promotional pictures. This will also make it easier for attendees as all your information will be in one place, plus you’ll get more eyes on your brand, a key advantage when selling tickets. This will help your SEO. 

Consider creating a Facebook event page. Not only will this let you post promotional pictures and links to the event, but Facebook Events allow you to invite all your friends to like the page. You can go one step further: send your Facebook friends a personalized message, with one or two words on why they specifically might enjoy the event. This personalization will greatly improve the amount of page likes you get, in turn boosting your event’s visibility. Another way to boost social media visibility? Follow and interact with attendees. When someone buys a ticket or even signs up for your site, follow them on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Not only will this make them feel more connected to the event, but these social media platforms give greater visibility to events with interaction. It’s a win-win.

As a non-profit event planner on a budget, you’re looking for a free way to sell tickets and keep as much revenue as possible, giving you the resources to help spread your nonprofit’s message of change. However, most ticket sales software take big percentages of ticket sales, cost too much, promote competing events, and eclipse your nonprofit’s brand. You can use Sparxo to post your event and sell tickets for your event anywhere, letting you sell tickets directly from your website with no redirects – all for free! Sparxo let’s you:

  • Keep 100% of your ticket sales
  • Import your guest lists and sales lists from other systems
  • aggregate all of your customer data in one place
  • White Label, greatly improves SEO and Brand

 

  1. Back to Basics

Data shows these non-profit event types get the most donations. The most lucrative type? Food, wine, and music events. Your nonprofit event doesn’t need a yacht, fancy dining rooms, or expensive speakers. Sure, those things can help, but when you get down to it, basic food and drink events bring in the most donations anyway. This sort of simple nonprofit event is very do-able with a shoestring budget, especially because you’d need food and drink at pretty much any other more complex event type anyway. But how can you make these basic event types engaging? You can keep it easy and personal. First, offer plenty of value upfront, with the event clearly geared toward attendee experience rather than donations. Give attendees opportunities to interact with each other in a stress-free environment. Consider orchestrating some simple party games or ice-breakers. Once everyone is comfortable and having a good time, check-in personally with attendees. This personal level of intimacy and warmth can take your event to the next level. Finally, make it as simple as possible for attendees to donate, with credit card readers and pledges available at your event. Many attendees will only feel inspired to donate at the event when emotions are high. Logistics can make all the difference.

As long as attendees are having a fun, relaxing time, your non-profit event doesn’t need a complex theme or advanced auction to raise funds. Focusing on the basics, like atmosphere and logistics, is an affordable way to make sure your event shines. This way you can raise awareness without destroying your budget.

 

  1. Secure Sponsorship

Sponsorship will not only boost your event’s budget but boost future event budgets, too. Establishing a relationship with a sponsor will streamline your event planning events, giving you the resources you need.

Typically, sponsors will support you if they can benefit from access to your attendees. Sponsors give you resources, visibility, and assistance because your audience will be interested in your sponsor’s organization. In plain English, sponsors want to take advantage of crossover interest. 

Start by finding sponsors that might have an interest in your audience and their demographics. Who attends your events and why? What are their interests and needs, where do they shop? What problems do they need to be solved?  Review your event demographic data until you have a very clear picture of your attendees’ habits and wants. Then seek out sponsors who market to audiences with similar demographics to your non-profit event attendees. Once you have sponsors in mind, craft a personalized pitch. Tailor the emails to the sponsor, with details about the sponsor’s organization to show you’ve done your research and care about their experience in your potential sponsorship relationship.

As a non-profit, your mission for change may help sway potential sponsors. Stress the good your non-profit does in your pitch, especially how your event will contribute to that good. You may also want to put it in a ‘story’ format, with specific examples of lives made better by your non-profit. This ‘storytelling’ can help make your pitch more human, and connect to sponsors.

For small scale donations, consider crowdfunding for your Non-profit. Tools like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow you to get small sponsorships without the hassle of going from door to door. This is no substitute for proper sponsorship, but every little bit helps when you have no money.

 

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