Recently Julia Hartz and I were asked to write a guest blog post on Getting Attention, a blog focused on helping nonprofit organizations succeed through effective marketing. With the recent launch of Eventbrite for Causes we’ve been thinking a lot about the strategic importance of live events for nonprofit organizations when it comes to raising both funds and awareness. We put some of these thoughts together for Nancy Schwartz at Getting Attention and wanted to share them with our readers as well.

With all the ways to connect digitally these days, and with the explosion of social media sites like Facebook, Ning and Twitter, we’ve increasingly heard the question “do you think live events are dying?” The hypothesis is that people are meeting and interacting online, so they no longer need to meet in person. But we see quite the opposite.

We believe that social media is actually the catalyst to more live events, not less.

In a world where information is delivered at fire-hose speed, many nonprofit organizations feel the difficulty of delivering a memorable message. A recent Getting Attention study found that 86% of nonprofits characterize their messages as difficult to remember. It’s challenging to cut through the clutter and chatter to create memorable digital experiences. This is why more and more nonprofits are bringing it back to the real world to make an impact. They are gathering people in person to exchange real handshakes and real smiles, leveraging the magic and excitement of events to make their organization’s message more memorable, to put real faces to names, and to inspire people to support their cause. Hearing someone speak passionately is almost always more moving than reading something they wrote, and meeting all the people who care deeply for a cause is much more inspiring than seeing the number of fans an organization has on Facebook. Throwing a live event may not be as scalable or broad-reaching as an online campaign, but it can be much more meaningful.

We don’t think that social media is useless: far from it. My original point was that social media is the cause of more live events, not less. There are two reasons for this:

1. Before social media, if you had a niche passion it was difficult—if not impossible—to find many others like yourself.

If you felt moved to do something about the situation affecting women in Uganda, how could you find others to start affecting change or see if anyone was already doing anything? This is precisely what social media is good for. It enables groups of individuals to connect with other like-minded individuals who share the same passion, whether it be a hobby or a cause. It allows them to engage with each other and begin sharing ideas in real time. It allows their discussion to be discovered since it is no longer locked behind the walls of private email. And this is the second reason why social media is enabling more live events: discovery.

2. Social media enables me to easily discover what causes my friends are supporting and what events they are going to.

And because it’s a cause that my friends are involved with and passionate about, it is more relevant to me. It harnesses the power of word-of-mouth, but with the scale of the digital world. Now my friend doesn’t need to remember to tell me about the charity event that she is attending, and she doesn’t need to spend the time calling each one of her friends to spread the word. She doesn’t have to feel any awkwardness about asking her friends to support a cause that they might not be interested in. She can simply share it through her social network and those who are interested will discover it. The implications of this new way of connecting and sharing are wide-reaching and the organizations which can leverage this in an authentic way will have a massive advantage.

We understand the power of social media in making real world events happen. And we work daily to build a product that leverages these tools so that event organizers can find the people who will make their events and causes come to life.

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