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E-mail, Social Lead Nonprofit Event Marketing

AccuList’s direct marketing services support both event marketers and nonprofit marketers, and, of course, there’s an overlap since many nonprofits use events for fundraising. So we try to keep up with what works in not-for-profit show business, and a recent survey of 500 nonprofits by Eventbrite, a leading event management and ticketing services provider, offers some interesting benchmarks.

No One-Size-Fits-All for Nonprofit Events

The “2019 Eventbrite Pulse Report” found that since nonprofits have multiple purposes, they host multiple event formats besides those geared exclusively to fundraising; in fact, just 32% reported hosting galas and fundraisers aimed at tapping donors. Instead, events for cause, community and educational promotion were cited by 78%, networking events by 37%, training and workshops by 33%, food and drink events by 31%, and arts and entertainment events at the tail end with 22%. Of course, revenue production was still seen as a key to success regardless of event goal.

Ticket Sales Swing Between Big and Bust

And when it comes to event revenue, ticket sales, sponsorships and grants/donations were the top sources reported. However, while ticket sales were seen as a key revenue driver by most (75%), the portion of revenue delivered by ticketing varied widely—from 80%-100% of event revenue for just 15% to less than 20% of revenue for a larger quarter of those surveyed. This underscores the need for both diverse revenue sources and more effective marketing to deliver attendance.

E-mail and Social Media Lead Marketing Efforts

Nonprofit event organizers told Eventbrite that their most effective marketing tactics were e-mail (34%); word-of-mouth and referrals (24%); and social media marketing (22%). In the social media arena, nonprofits relied most on organic posts (23%), paid Facebook ads, and video (9%). Among the tactics deemed less effective in the survey were third-party listings, search engine optimization (SEO), and display ads.

Audience Building Is a Top 2019 Challenge

The perennial “insufficient budget” was seen as a 2019 issue by 45% of nonprofit event planners and securing sponsorships as a problem by 46%, but the top 2019 challenge, cited by 73%, was reaching new attendees. And that is the kind of targeted marketing issue that AccuList can help address! For more benchmark data, see the post on the Eventbrite report.

Arts Fundraising Study: Invest to Reap More

Any of AccuList’s performing arts marketing and museum and zoo marketing clients that fret over investing in fundraising efforts in 2019 should take a look at the recently released “DataArts Fundraising Report” from Southern Methodist University. Basically, the report concludes, arts and cultural organizations that make smart investments in fundraising reap more dollars, with individual donors a “vital source” of contributions.

Mixed ROI by Sector, Higher Individual Donor Dollars

Looking at fundraising by 2,421 organizations across 11 different arts and cultural sectors between 2014 and 2017, the study found good news for many marketers even though the overall ROI on every dollar spent on fundraising declined from $8.80 in 2014 to $8.56 in 2017. This reflected issues in select sectors. Seven sectors—including performing arts companies, orchestras and operas—actually saw an increase in return on fundraising over the period. The biggest ROI gain, adjusting for inflation, was a 28.8% bump for community-based organizations. But gaining sectors were offset by ROI declines for art museums, dance companies and theaters. Another encouraging sign was an increase in the average individual donor contribution over the four-year period. The report attributed some of the improved donor generosity to a shift toward investment in donor relationship building, with the average organization allocating 62.4% of fundraising expenses to staff in 2017, up from 54.4% in 2014, and thus allowing for more donor development.

Size and Location Make a Difference

For arts and cultural fundraising, size matters, but in an inverse fashion, the report found. Small- and medium-sized organizations increased the returns on their investments in fundraising over the four years, while larger organizations had steadily declining ROI. Individual donors are important for success, per the report, especially outside of the big metro areas where government support, foundations and corporate donors help foot expenses. But locations vary widely in terms of revenue successfully tapped. For example, New York organizations had the highest average number of corporate donors at 12 and also had the highest percentage of expenses covered by government support (9%). Compare that Big Apple haul to the lowest metro-area average of four corporate donors in Los Angeles and Chicago’s low of 2% expenses covered by government funds. On the other hand, Chicago reaped the most from foundations, with 7% of expenses picked up by foundation support, way ahead of New York organizations which, though they had more foundation grants than any other market, only saw those grants cover 3% of expenses.

For details, go to the SMU DataArts Fundraising Report.