Before we get into today's rant, nothing that follows should be considered legal or accounting advice. The previous two subject areas are not my expertise. With that out of the way, let's roll in ...
Back when I was a teenager, and through my thirties, I volunteered a significant amount of time with not-for-profit organizations. Everything from my church to a scouting organization, a credit union, and business professional organizations. My family was extensively involved in the local Ukrainian community and the familial expectation of volunteering was high.
During the time above, my father had a phrase and that phrase resonates loudly today. His advice came as a result of 50 years of being a volunteer in numerous not for profit organizations. He would say, "don't confuse your tax status (being a non-profit) with the responsibility of being a good business." e.g., generating enough revenue to pay your bills!
A majority of my clients are non-profits. Much to my father's advice, they approach business with a not-for-profit mindset.
The mentality of many non-profit boards and their executive leadership, "we're a not-for-profit, we don't have the money to pay for advertising!"
Why do I bring this up? Because during a deep dive into non-profit organizations with seven-figure event budgets, there appear to be serious attendance issues. I firmly believe their attendance issues boil down to two critical cogs, customer experience, and not spending enough on marketing and advertising.
For today we'll briefly focus on the marketing and advertising side of things. Specifically, the "we don't have the money to pay for advertising" mindset. Because instead of paying for advertising, non-profits are getting a lot of seemingly "free" advertising.
A look at tracking data for numerous non-profit events shows that in almost every instance, "free" advertising and trades severely underperform against paid advertising. e.g., a $300,000 USD of "free" radio advertising that couldn't be tracked back to a single website visitor or ticket sale.
On the other hand, some non-profit clients spend $358 for paid online advertising (as part of a sophisticated marketing strategy) and generate $13,242.75 in ticket sales. Can such extraordinary results be accomplished every time? Most definitely not! But that should be the goal.
Regardless of the type of event you have, keep your focus on identifying paid advertising and marketing that brings you a significant return on ad spend (ROAS). As I'm always harping, track everything to a ticket sale. And if you can't track it, don't do it – free or not!
Additional Event Marketing and Advertising Resources:
- David Ogilvy's "Secret Weapon" for Advertising Success
- Promotional Headlines for Your Event Marketing
- A "Must Follow" Event Advertising Strategy
- Advertising and Marketing that Sells
- An Important Event Web Site Statistic for Promoters and Event Planners
- Measuring Advertising Effectiveness
- Did You Buy a Snickers Bar Yet?