Engaging Supporters with Pre-Event Communications

Written by: Kimberly Proffitt

A few weeks ago, Glen Fladeboe and I presented a webinar for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN). MCN members wanted to learn more about engaging supporters before, during, and after their events. It’s a big topic and made for a jam-packed hour of information and ideas!

One of our focuses for pre-event engagement was the importance of communications in the virtual and hybrid realms. Using communications to inspire, inform, and invite people to be a part of an event has become a cornerstone of our event consulting. Here are just a few of the recommendations highlighted during our presentation:

Have a communications plan! It can be as simple or detailed as you want to make it. Yet most important is that it is well-thought-out. Consider:

  • What channels will we use? (Hint: though the use of digital has seen a huge increase in the past year, multi-channel is still most effective.)
  • What is the most critical information we need to convey? Both the “how” of participating and “why” it is important should be included.
  • How often do we need to communicate? What is the right balance between quality and quantity? In our experiments, we’ve received everything from zero (yes, zero!) communications to more than 40 for a single event. 
  • Are there others who can help spread the word? We encourage the use of an “advocate team” that can provide information and drive attendance by sharing with their personal networks.

Remember every touchpoint is part of the “journey” a supporter (or potential supporter) takes with you. Think about interactions from the point of view of the person receiving the communications. Would you feel welcome…excited…inspired…overwhelmed…confused…annoyed? One of the best pre-event emails I received this spring welcomed and thanked me for registering for the event, provided information on what to expect in the coming weeks, listed a contact name/number if I had questions, AND provided a link to a mission-based educational video (potentially something of “value” to me as someone with interest in the mission). Short, simple, and effective.

Share your mission, not just event information. Try to include something mission-related in your communications: a quote, a photo, a link to a video. By reminding people about your mission, the impact you have, and the need that is out there, you are “priming” them to think about how they can help.

Think outside of the box! Though we often think otherwise, today’s world of communication isn’t limited to email, social media, and texts. Snail mail, phone calls, and one-on-one interaction are often welcome surprises in a digital world. We’ve seen organizations send event registrants a “thank-you-for-registering-can’t-wait-to-have-you-tune-in” postcard; have staff, board members, and volunteers deliver/hand out party boxes, taking a few minutes to thank and connect with supporters; and even heard rumors of the telephone (!) being used to welcome registrants and remind them of the event.

Communications are essential for driving people to your event and inspiring them to be part of your mission. Be thoughtful…and throw a little creativity in!

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is the largest state association of nonprofits in the United States. They are committed to providing professional development, public policy education, cost-saving partnerships, nonprofit research, and advocacy for their members. A wonderful resource for our nonprofit community!


Kimberly Proffitt, Research, Analysis, and Donor Engagement Consultant at Fladeboe Advancement, has worked in the nonprofit sector her entire career, focusing on fundraising and philanthropy for the past 22 years. She takes a special interest in helping organizations understand the stories data tell, strategizing on developing long-term relationships with donors, and reframing fundraising from “asking for money” to engaging with the passions and values of donors.

Image by Cheska Poon from Pixabay