[Guest Post] Don’t Come to This! Silly Fundraising Ideas with Marketing Automation

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Here at Qgiv, we try to bring you the best content about topics like fundraising, online donation pages, and asking for support for your nonprofit. But every now and then, we like to add a fresh voice to the conversation. Please enjoy this guest post by James Hutto of ValeoMarketing. He’ll be discussing “non-events” and how you can fundraise with them. Enjoy!


You get home from a long day, check your mailbox and your email. Both are full.

Your favorite charity, a hospital, the symphony, a beloved local site that needs repairs. They all want you there.

Come dance the night away with us! Eat, drink, and be merry! Come hob-knob with strangers!

You love these organizations. You want to support them. But you’d also like some time to clean up your house and get some sleep. So you ignore the beautiful invitations and guiltily let them drift to the bottom of your inbox or slip them into the trash.

This is how many of your dream donors feel when they get invitations to events. The event might be awesome, but it doesn’t matter. People who are excited by your organization feel trapped by the obligation of attendance.

Do something for them this time that still helps you!

We present: The Non-Event, a cheeky, zero-overhead fundraising effort powered by marketing automation.

What Is A Non-Event And How Does It Help With Fundraising?

A non-event rewards both the organization and the participants by…not having an event.

I know it sounds crazy, but it works.

Everyone feels rewarded. The participants help a cause they care about, and the organization makes money.

Often, a person’s decision to decline an event has nothing to do with a lack of desire to help the organization — it’s motivated by their desire to do something else (or to spend the night watching Netflix). By playing on the totally human desire to stay on the couch all night, your organization connects with your donors in a real way.

Also, hosting events are costly, in both money and man-hours. That’s time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. There’s little overhead with a non-event.

How To Throw A Non-Event

Have fun with it! It’s a cheeky way of asking for money without throwing a party. Honor that vibe!

Some ideas for fun non-events:

  • Black Tie Non-Event
  • Stay At Home In Your Pajamas Event
  • The “Don’t You Dare Come To This Event” Non-Event
  • The “Show Your Support From The Comfort Of Your Couch” Event
  • The “Cocktail Hour On Your Own Time!” Non-Event

The invites, of course, have to be very clear that this is for something that’s not happening.

We cordially invite you to our 1st Annual Non-Event. We’d love for you to sit at home and watch TV.

This event will not happen on [date the fundraiser will stop]. Dinner will not be served at 7pm. No one will take the stage to speak with you at 8pm.

How Do You Make Money Off A Non-Event?

One way to make money off a non-event is to itemize all the money they won’t be spending.

Here’s an example (pick a more casual theme and adjust the list if you expect smaller donations):

By attending this black tie non-event, you will be saving yourself:

  • $200 – cost of ticket to regular event
  • $150 – cost for dress or tux rental
  • $20 – parking or Uber rides
  • $50 – babysitter
  • $20 – tips to bartenders and servers

You can also sell tickets to the non-event. This ticket entitles them to the chance to stay home. You can even schedule it around a television event that involves your cause.

Of course, don’t forget to say thank you.

But Some of My Donors Really Look Forward To Events

Obviously, this approach won’t work for every single one of your supporters. Some people really want to get dolled up and get out of the house and mingle.

Here’s where it helps to segment your donor groups and pay attention to the needs of your supporters.

How To Use Marketing Automation For Your Fundraising

There are many ways marketing automation helps nonprofits engage their supporters. We love creating automated email campaigns that nurture donors over time.

The non-event is perfect for donors who rarely attend in-person events, but still open your emails, visit your website, and donate time or money.

Create a campaign for this audience that supports a countdown date to the non-event. In the months, weeks, and days leading up to the event, send reminders to the participants:

  • In one month, we won’t be throwing a huge event! Make sure you’re not there!
  • You better not be coming! Two weeks left to get in your anti-RSVP!
  • Just one more day to let us know you’ll be making it to the thing you’re not coming to!
  • Throw on your jammies, it’s tonight!

These emails link to a landing page with more information about your cause and the purpose of this non-event. They can RSVP by clicking on the well-placed donate button on your site.

Even better, by clicking links, visitors get tagged in your system. Their actions on your site are logged, adding more information to their profiles. This data helps you to offer them the most relevant information about upcoming fundraising goals, news, and events.

Of course, the non-event is not a replacement for all your events. It can, however, be a successful way to engage those donors who’ve become disengaged.

Marketing automation lets you personalize communication with all your donors. And studies show that 75% of people want a personalized experience.

Regardless of the kind of event you’re throwing, from sit-in-your-pajamas non-events to the ritziest black tie affairs, use marketing automation to keep all donors in the loop.


James Hutto is uniquely talented because of his super-geeky Information Technology background. He’s a problem solver and reformed I.T. pro who worked as a senior systems engineer in the Fortune 1000, but excelled in communications and business-centric projects. Climbing the ladder for the man got old, so he decided to start his first web design and IT consulting company in 2000. He co-founded Valeo in 2005. Follow him on Twitter or check him out on LinkedIn.

Learn how you can use marketing automation to fundraise smarter!

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