You probably think of your donor galas, fundraising dinners and silent auctions as simply fundraising events. However, these events (and many others) are all forms of experiential marketing. The term refers to any sort of multi-sensory experience for donors and the general public that is meant to thank contributors and educate the wider public on your organization’s mission.
Traditionally, press coverage both before and after the event has been considered an essential part of the experience. It amplifies your messaging to those who couldn’t be there in person and it reinforces your organization’s stature in the community for those who were able to attend.
Now, experiential marketing has become far more creative and social media has taken over the role of traditional newspapers and magazines in the lives of the public.A Changing Landscape Consider these indicators of how social norms have changed:
- 65 percent of those who attend an experiential marketing event end up making a financial commitment to the sponsor. (EventTrack 2017 Report)
- More than two-thirds of U.S. adults get most or some of their news from social media. (Pew Research)
- 59 percent of donors gave after first becoming followers on a non-profit’s social network. (Non-profit Tech for Good)
- Millennials, who have passed Baby Boomers to become the largest generational block in the population, say that social media posts are what inspire them most to give to the causes that they support. (2018 Global NGO Tech Report)
How Do you Combine Social and Experiential for the Biggest Boom?
Non-profits can learn a great deal from marketing experts in the for-profit world. In 2014, marketers at the fashion design firm Marc Jacobs came up with a brilliant idea during Fashion Week in NYC. They pulled together an experiential marketing event with a social media blitz.
On a busy Manhattan street corner, they opened a pop-up shop called the Daisy-Marc Jacobs Tweet Shop. This shop did not accept cash, credit, bitcoin or any other form of monetary currency. Instead, it only accepted social currency. Shoppers could pick out their favorite samples of Daisy fragrances or Marc Jacob fashion accessories by paying with a Tweet, Instagram or Facebook post accompanied by a specified hashtag.
https://youtu.be/yEDSVBn0DzgThe impact was astonishing. This online/offline event contributed to Marc Jacobs racking up over 1,130,833 followers on Instagram, 1.48 million followers on Twitter and 1,346,828 likes on Facebook. Your non-profit probably doesn’t have the budget to open a pop-up shop in NYC, but the take-home message here is to combine an event in real life with a social campaign that is not simply attached to the event, but woven through it.
This campaign generated additional press coverage beyond the event itself, reporting all the social buzz around how creative the concept was. That’s exactly the sort of goodwill and exposure that all non-profits need to bring their mission to a wider public.Experiential Success Story: The Hope Network Foundation’s One-in-Five Relay Race
Statistics are interesting, but how do you drive home the urgency of your mission statement? The Hope Network Foundation wanted to make numbers very real by showing the public how difficult life can be for the one in five adults who struggle with mental illness issues every year. Their concept is a relay race where five individuals sign up to run a part of a marathon.
The first four people run a flat five-mile course and the last runner must tackle a 6.2 mile route with hills. Put together, the five people run the entire length of a full marathon, but some runners very clearly face a stiffer challenge than others. The 2017 event drew more than 500 participants with donations of $200 on average.
Although that was an excellent return for the modest non-profit, a social media campaign that utilizes hashtags and easily shareable posts about the challenges faced by adults with mental illness could turn this into a national phenomenon.The Power of Newsfeed + IRL
Experiential marketing events can be motivational, educational and unforgettable all at the same time. They can increase commitment to the cause by donors and their networks. The only thing missing is the reach; that’s where social media comes in. With its unique ability to deliver infographics, video and emotional stories directly to the mobile devices that people rely on every day, social moves people to take action.Forward looking non-profits can seize this cultural moment to become a more effective force for good in a volatile world.