By Joann Buckley Collins

These days, almost all of your communications can be automated. Emails, website updates, social media posts. Between autoresponders, social media schedulers, and web and email CMS technologies, you can easily prepare content in advance so that you’re not up at midnight on a Sunday night making sure your communications are relevant and timely.

Here’s where it’s useful:

  • Your emails can be timely and personal. By segmenting and scheduling emails and autoresponders, you can target your messages based on a participant’s specific achievements, or their relationship to your event or your cause. A participant who registered yesterday is going to be in a different spot on their fundraising journey than one who registered 4 months ago. A participant who’s just brought in a big donation might be thrilled to receive an instant note of congratulations. A participant who hasn’t started fundraising yet could be spurred into action by a reminder, a note that you’ve noticed they might need a little extra support or advice.
  • Your website content can be relevant and useful. By scheduling web updates in advance, you can turn discounts on and off, announce news, and increase engagement.
  • Your social media engagement can be constant and responsive. Scheduling social media posts allows you to engage your audience even when your social media manager is out sick. And automated responses can help make people feel like they’re being heard.

Here’s when it’s not:

  • When your autoresponders keep going out even after your event is over. Do you register people on the day of the event? Make sure the autoresponder they get has different messaging than those who registered weeks in advance. If your fundraising autoresponders mention rewards and incentives, adjust the messaging so participants know how to collect their rewards after the event is over (if they can).
  • When your automated Twitter responses retweet or respond to users with offensive handles or profiles. Don’t spread the hate. Some big brands have fallen prey to this and have needed to apologize.
  • When your scheduled social media posts are suddenly inappropriate in the wake of breaking news. Sarah Silverman tells a story in her latest stand-up special about how automation got the best of her. As a comedian, she schedules her tweets in advance to parse out the jokes. One of those scheduled tweets went out right as the world got news that US Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden. So as the rest of the country was feeling the weight of this historic moment, her feed ended up tweeting a poop joke.

How to avoid these pitfalls?

  • Keep a spreadsheet tracking all updates and when they are scheduled. Then you’ll know what to turn off or reschedule when something changes.
  • For each announcement, have a list of every place you’ve put that information. That way, you’ll know every webpage to remove a discount from, or every email autoresponder to update when your event information changes.
  • Keep an eye on the news and social media. When a breaking news event takes over everyone’s attention, consider when your message has become inappropriate, irrelevant, or when it may get lost in the noise. Of course, news breaks all the time, but the more you keep this in mind, the more you’ll get a feel for when things cross the line.

The best way to use automation to your advantage and avoid becoming a victim to the downsides? Hire a partner to keep an eye on the details for you! An event producer like Event 360, with experience managing participation communications and social media marketing, can keep an eye on all the moving parts of your communication plan, freeing you to focus on your relationships with your constituents and achieving your mission.



A graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Southern California, Joann Buckley Collins has been writing and developing communication strategies for nonprofits since 1998. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, who think that “mom writes emails all day.” When not writing emails, Joann is hiking, playing tennis, reading and cooking. You can find Joann on LinkedIn.


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