A community festival often provides a venue in which a cultural or ethnic group gathers to joyously celebrate its heritage. Festivals also enable nonprofit organizations to promote the group's mission through increased community awareness. Themed festivals, such as a job fair or health fair, showcase services to help attendees improve their lives. A good turnout helps ensure a festival's success. To achieve this desirable outcome, festival organizers must design and implement a well-coordinated marketing plan.

Meet with your organization's board of directors and/or management staff. Decide on your festival's purpose, as this will determine the marketing plan's direction. Consider cultural celebration, community awareness and fundraising themes.

List the cultural groups, market segments or geographic populations who represent the festival's target market. Evaluate the suitability of multiple target markets. Consider, for example, a community women's fair showcasing the broad scope of services available to women. Include female college students, professional women, women entering or re-entering the work force and retired women.

Examine your sponsoring organization's financial picture. Establish a festival marketing budget that will not cause the organization to go into debt or sacrifice other services. Use the previous year's figures as a starting point, if possible. Request professional advice from your organization's CPA as well.

Determine the media that will best reach your target market(s). Consider newspaper advertisements, fliers, eNewsletters and press releases. List other media, including social media, that may also reach a specific market or group. Remember your organization's website provides an ideal free platform you should not overlook. Refer to the event's marketing budget before you commit advertising and marketing funds.

Prepare an event marketing timeline. Determine the required lead time for each marketing medium. List a submission date that allows for sufficient preparation and review time. Remember that print media such as magazines and regional brochures have longer lead times than newspapers and website calendars.

Assign marketing tasks to staff and/or volunteers with specific areas of expertise. Task a versatile writer to prepare ad copy and press releases. Recruit a graphic designer to create fliers and advertising graphics. Ask assistants with media experience to interact with newspaper editors, community news contacts and leaders of target market groups.

Monitor the marketing plan regularly. Ensure each task is on track to meet its deadline. Contact accountable staff and/or volunteers immediately if problems occur. Allocate additional staff and resources if needed to ensure the festival's success.

Conduct a post-festival review with your planning team. Evaluate your turnout, share comments from attendees and vendors, and compare your marketing and event budget estimates against actual results. Recommend changes so the event can be even more successful next year.

Things You Will Need
  • List of festival target market(s)

  • Festival sponsor's financial information

  • Media list with placement information

  • Calendar

  • List of organization's staff and/or volunteers

  • Data on completed festival