[GUEST POST] Creating Buzz: 3 Pre-Event Promotion Ideas for Your Auction

If your nonprofit wants to host an exciting fundraiser to meet your goals, look no further than an auction! An auction is the perfect event to rally your community around your cause, encourage giving at a large scale, and build strong donor relationships. However, before you can jump into hosting an unforgettable auction experience, you need to create a strong marketing campaign. 

Pre-event promotion can make a huge difference in your nonprofit’s ability to meet its fundraising goals. After all, your supporters can’t register and attend your event if they don’t know it’s happening. With the right marketing tactics, you can boost awareness for your event, attract new supporters to your cause, and generate excitement so donors feel compelled to give even before the bidding begins. 

To effectively market your upcoming auction, use these tried and true strategies:

  • Create an auction microsite
  • Tap into ambassador marketing
  • Run a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign

As you plan your auction, it’s important to have the right tools on hand. Work with a fundraising platform that will streamline your event marketing and planning efforts so you can reinvest time into your organization’s mission. Specifically, the ideal platform should empower you to automatically send segmented email communications, create and customize event microsites, generate real-time engagement analytics, and more. 

Armed with user-friendly software and a strong marketing plan, your nonprofit will be in great shape to pull off an incredible auction. The journey to success begins now! 

Create an auction microsite

An auction microsite acts as a one-stop shop for everything your supporters need to know about your event. Rather than simply mentioning your upcoming auction in a blog post or including a brief description of it on your homepage, a microsite lets you dive deeper into your auction details and create an exciting, digital experience for your supporters to learn more about this event. 

Specifically, your microsite should include the following event details:

  • Purpose and fundraising goal
  • Target audience
  • Date and time
  • Registration and ticketing instructions
  • Location or streaming instructions if you’re hosting a virtual or hybrid auction
  • Recommended attire
  • Sneak peek of your auction item catalog to spark interest
  • Perks attendees can expect like catering or live entertainment

While this website exists separately from your organization’s main website, it should still align with your nonprofit’s branding and very clearly communicate to supporters that your organization is hosting this event. Kwala’s guide to nonprofit branding recommends infusing the following verbal and visual elements into your microsite so supporters can feel confident that they’re signing up for the right event: 

  • Font: Use the same header and body font throughout your microsite and ensure it aligns with the fonts used on your other marketing materials. If you don’t have font guidelines set in stone just yet, consider using sans-serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica. 
  • Color scheme: Colors can evoke different emotions and feelings in your audience, helping them to connect with your cause. For example, an environmental organization hosting an Under the Sea themed gala fundraiser might infuse shades of blue and green into their microsite that align with their brand colors. 
  • Logo: Your logo should be a simple, memorable design that encompasses your organization’s purpose. Feature your logo prominently on your microsite, such as in the top left corner, so site visitors can immediately recognize that this event is associated with your nonprofit. 
  • Visuals: Help your audience visualize what this event is all about with pictures from your last auction or other fundraising event. You can also include photos or videos of your beneficiaries so prospective donors will understand who their donations are going to and how they’re making a difference. 
  • Messaging and tone: Make sure that the way you communicate your mission and event’s purpose is consistent with the content on your main website and other marketing materials. This way, supporters will have a solid understanding of your organization’s identity and why they should get involved. 

Once you’ve created your auction microsite, make sure to promote it on your other marketing channels and platforms so it gets as much buzz as possible. For example, you might include a call-to-action button on your homepage that takes supporters to your microsite or include the link in your next email newsletter. 

Tap into ambassador marketing

Your organization doesn’t have to tackle marketing your auction by itself. Instead, tap your well-connected ambassadors to help out. Ambassadors are outgoing, influential supporters with wide social networks who can quickly and easily amplify your reach. To get started with ambassador marketing, follow these steps:

  • Identify and recruit the right people: Great ambassador candidates include major donors, loyal volunteers, board members, sponsors, and local business connections. Send a personalized request to join your ambassador marketing campaign and clearly list what being an ambassador will entail. For example, you might want ambassadors to post about your upcoming auction on their social media three times a week leading up to the event. 
  • Provide ambassadors with relevant resources: Set your ambassadors up for success by providing them with your verbal and visual branding guidelines, as well as any resources that detail marketing best practices. This will ensure your ambassadors are aligned with your auction marketing plan and can effectively explain your event’s purpose and organization’s mission to their audiences. 
  • Offer incentives and use gamification: Infuse some friendly competition into your ambassador marketing campaign to take it to the next level! You might challenge your ambassadors to compete to get the most likes, impressions, or reposts on their social media content. Then, shout out the winner at your auction and offer them a fun prize like nonprofit merchandise or discounted tickets to your next fundraising event. 

Make sure to follow up with your ambassadors after your auction and thank them for their hard work. For instance, you might set up a meeting to express your appreciation in person or send them a personalized thank-you letter. Don’t forget to highlight how their efforts pushed your mission forward and made this event possible.

Run a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign

A peer-to-peer fundraising campaign is the perfect way to get donors in the giving spirit and excited about your event before your auction even begins. According to the OneCause guide to fundraising campaigns, peer-to-peer fundraising empowers your supporters to create their own fundraising pages, set personal goals, and share their campaigns widely to amplify your reach.

Once you recruit and identify passionate supporters to fundraise on your behalf, provide them with helpful guidelines and instructions to make fundraising a smooth and rewarding process. For instance, you might:

  • Host a training session on fundraising best practices
  • Create a resource library on your website with technical instructions on how to create, customize, and share personal fundraising pages widely among friends and family
  • Ask past peer-to-peer fundraisers to share the strategies that worked for them

Ambassadors can also be helpful in leading your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Ask your marketing ambassadors to share peer-to-peer fundraising pages from your supporters with their networks or even create their own pages and race to raise the most money before your event. 

Peer-to-peer fundraising can help your organization build stronger relationships with existing supporters and give you a headstart to meeting your auction fundraising goal. Make sure to start your peer-to-peer fundraiser at least a few weeks before your big event so fundraisers have plenty of time to create hype around your event and boost donations. 

Your nonprofit has put plenty of time into planning your auction. Now, you just need to create enough buzz so supporters will register, attend, and donate to push your mission forward. As you promote your event, pay attention to metrics like page views on your microsite, impressions on your ambassador content, and the total amount raised through your peer-to-peer campaign. This way, you can adjust your strategies as needed to maximize success. 

By Kelly Velasquez-Hague, Director of Content Marketing, OneCause

Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings over 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause. As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors raise more funds for their cause.

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