How to Increase Event Attendance with Discount Codes

5 min

Although nonprofit events are an integral part of fundraising, hosting one tends to involve high overhead. And on top of the administrative costs of putting it all together, figuring out how to increase event attendance can easily top off the stress.

Thankfully there are ways to incentivize more registrations. One particular incentive we’ll cover in this post: discount codes. According to Market Track, 83% of US shoppers have made an unplanned purchase based on a promotion or coupon. No shocker here: people are heavily influenced by discounts.

Whether you’re hosting a spring charity run or a silent auction, your organization can use discount codes to get supporters involved in its special events. Here are 4 best practices on using promotion codes to increase event attendance.

Limited Offer – Get It While It’s Hot!

A sense of urgency can really push people to act , especially when it comes to promotions. Consider setting date parameters to your promo code to make it a “limited time offer.” You can offer an early bird discount to drive early event registration, or run a promotion within a specific timeframe leading up to the event. Make sure to blast these terms in your event promotional messages to get supporters keyed up.

For instance, if you use the Classy platform, you can set a start or end date for using a discount code for those limited-time offers.

Another way of motivating people to act is applying social pressure by setting a limit to the number of coupons available for use. If you’re incentivizing people to sign up quickly, your call to action can say:

“The first X number of people can sign up at this discounted price!”


“Only X number of discounted registrations available!”

These announcements can help drive traffic to your registration page and build excitement around your event.

Share Your Code with a Target Audience

When considering how to increase event attendance, remind yourself how important segmentation is in marketing and fundraising. The same idea applies to discount codes. By creating different discount codes for specific target audiences you can improve engagement with potential registrants. Sharing targeted discount codes will help increase buzz around your event within particular groups and communities.

For example, if you’re hosting a charity run near a college campus, you’ll probably want to target college students and, maybe even more specifically, a subgroup would be to target fraternity and sororities. You can create discount codes that accompany targeted marketing messages to these groups. The communication you’ve tailored for these groups encourages their participation and, utilizing the targeted discount code allows your organization to learn how well this incentive works per group.

If you feel stuck about whom to reach out to, start with your organization’s existing target audiences. Create a custom code for each group and deliver it through a targeted email campaign. People love to share special deals, so exclusive offers can help expand your reach within these micro-communities. A personalized discount code can also make your supporters feel individually appreciated and deepen their connection to your organization.

An additional group you might consider targeting are event sponsors. Creating a discount code just for sponsors and their networks can be an awesome way to show your appreciation for their help and support. Again, because the codes are customized, you can track the number of people each outlet is sending your way.

Offer a Discount Code to an Upcoming Event, During an Event

After supporters have participated in a fundraising campaign or event, it’s critical to provide them with other opportunities to remain involved. If you’ve just hosted an event and have a future one in the pipeline, you can offer a discount code to your attendees as an incentive to get registered for your next event.

For example, if people participate in your bike-a-thon, offer them a discount on-site, or shortly afterwards, to your next event. Getting people re-registered for the next event when excitement is high is a valuable opportunity to deepen their engagement with your cause. And by offering a discount, not only are you encouraging another interaction with your organization, but you’re also demonstrating that you value them as an integral part of your year-round fundraising community.

Track Productivity of Social Media Channels

As you determine how to increase event attendance, remember the importance of sharing and word of mouth marketing. When it comes to savings, tech-savvy supporters are all about sharing digital discounts. According to a media marketing survey, 90% of Millennials share deals, and 43% of their sharing is done through social media. But which social network deserves your focus when it comes to rallying event attendees?

Adding discount codes through a tool like Classy allows you track the performance of specific discount codes. Use a different discount code for each social media channel you plan to promote on to discern each individual platform’s results.

Take the above example. An organization created the code “FBFRIENDS” for registrants who discovered the event through Facebook. The above screenshot shows the code has been used 0/10 times, thus far, and can track the code’s performance in relation to other discount offerings until the code expires or the offer is sold out. Tracking performance of various channels can enable organizations to make informed decisions about what social media channels to focus recruitment efforts.

Creating discount codes for your ticketed/registration events provides a simple avenue to increase event attendance. Not only are codes a great way to get supporters involved, but if shared strategically with targeted groups, they can also provide insight into how to best reach and engage attendees. And, best of all, offering discounts to your supporters will help reinforce that you value and appreciate their lasting support!

Image Credit: Kevin Dooley


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