Promoting an online fundraising campaign can be tricky. You don’t want to pester your audience, but you know they’ll need to hear the message more than once if they’re going to actually make a contribution.
What you need to do is take a lesson from Hollywood.
Marketing a major motion picture is pretty formulaic. There’s a recipe that movie executives follow, because it’s been proven to work.
Best of all, it’s a formula that you can replicate for your fundraising campaign!
Let’s take a look at some of the oldest tricks in the movie advertising book and see how nonprofits can adapt these for their needs.
The Teaser Trailer
Many months, sometimes even a year, before a movie comes out, studios will release a “teaser trailer.” Teaser trailers build huge excitement amongst fans. It doesn’t give away much about the story, but in an instant it becomes the topic of conversation in fan circles. The teaser trailer for the new Star Wars movie has racked up almost 60 million views, and it doesn’t come out until December!
You need to build some anticipation before launching your campaign. Email your supporters hinting at a big announcement. Give them a taste of what kind of donor rewards you’re going to offer and pique their interests.
Nothing gets the press’s attention in Hollywood like a star-studded movie premier. Movie stars in designer dresses strutting down the red carpet, maybe even sporting a new haircut or boyfriend/girlfriend on their arm? Celebrity magazines and blogs can’t get enough of that!
While you might not be able to attract Jennifer Lawrence to your next fundraiser, having a launch event for your online fundraiser is a great way to build some buzz and get people excited to give. Remember: take lots of pictures, reach out to local media, and see what brands or local celebrities can help you cross-promote the event/your campaign.
There’s something about Will Ferrell that cracks me up. Sure, it’s juvenile humor, but he just gets me every time.
He’s also the king of the movie publicity stunt. In January, he pegged a cheerleader in the face with a basketball at an NBA game (staged, of course) for an upcoming movie. In 2013, he staged a whole series of stunts for the movie Anchorman 2.
More recently, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson got in on the action by walking in a Paris fashion show to promote their new movie.
Nonprofits can also make a splash and drum up support for fundraising campaigns with creative publicity stunts. New York-based nonprofit Hollaback made waves with a video depicting street harassment of one woman in New York City. A nonprofit in Detroit staged a flash mob at a local mall to earn some news coverage. Even the master himself, Will Ferrell, is helping one nonprofit gain some attention by playing in actual minor league baseball games.
Find Your Audience
Have you ever noticed how the types of movie trailers you see at theaters typically are for films of the same genre as the one you’re about to see?
That’s no accident.
When you go see an action movie, movie executives already know some valuable information about you: you like going to the movies, and you like action! So of course they’re going to show you ads for more action movies.
Nonprofits can learn from this by targeting past supporters in the same way. Someone who donated money in the past is likely to donate again in the future. Someone who signed a petition will probably have no problem signing another one! Segment your email list to send targeted messages to supporters based on the actions they’ve taken in the past.
Movie marketers love sneak previews, because they know only the most dedicated movie buffs will check them out. Local film critics get to see the movie to write reviews in their papers. Film studios can interview people coming out of a sneak preview to use in ads (you know the kind: “It was great!” “Oh my gosh, it was so scary!”). It’s a great way to drum up excitement.
Before launching a fundraising campaign to the public, it’s wise to release it to your guaranteed donors first. They’ll help you get your campaign off the ground and give it some momentum before the general public sees it. Having some money in the pot already will encourage others to give.
Flood the Airwaves
Once the movie hits theaters, movie studios know it’s time to flood the airwaves. That’s because consumers need to hear messages upwards of three times before it sticks in their minds. It helps to see the message in multiple environments as well. That’s why you see billboards, TV commercials, online ads, sponsored tweets, subway ads, and on and on and on and…
You get the idea.
If you’re only telling your supporters about your fundraiser once, I’ve got bad news for you:
Your message is not being heard.
People need to hear about a message many times before it’s ingrained in their memory enough to take action.
This is a difficult balance. You don’t want to pester your supporters to the extent that they opt out of all communications. That’s why it helps to vary the message (just like movie advertisers do). Send a few emails. Make a video explaining the fundraiser. Try some direct mail. Tweet it, put it on Facebook. Remember, the key is lots of variety.
Go With What Works
The reason movie advertising is so predictable is because it works. Promoting a crowdfunding campaign or other online fundraiser is no different. There’s no magic, no secret sauce, and not even that much luck involved. Stick to the process, and you’re on your way!