When planning a CM conference or retreat, there are many free and low-cost tools you can use to advertise your event. Effective marketing is important to recovering the costs you will incur (often before the event) so that you can pay your speakers, rent the facility, order catering if needed, and provide materials.
When considering how to spread the word about your conference or retreat, social media is a platform that reaches the masses very quickly and efficiently.
Email Subscriber List
If you already manage a blog or website, the site most likely offers a tool for you to add subscribers to a mailing list. If you are not using this functionality, you should. The CMIC site has a few forms that collect email addresses of CM community leaders. The platform I use (Weebly) allows me to drop this information into a spreadsheet and import it into a site like MailChimp (see below) and create a regular subscriber list.
WordPress, Weebly, Blogger and other website development platforms provide an easy way to get your site online fast. Some of these platforms are easier to use than others, especially if you have not developed a website before. If you don't want to go to the expense of paying someone to set up a website, I would suggest that Weebly has a great user interface for people who are new to creating websites. Weebly allows you to set up a free domain (as long as weebly.com is the suffix), or you can pay a relatively nominal amount of money to purchase your own named domain for one year. Weebly is a drag or drop interface that is very intuitive, and if you get turned around, there are tutorials and help pages with plenty of advice. Weebly can be upgraded (at a really reasonable price, imo) to host a store so that you can sell registrations directly from your website. Weebly seamlessly integrates with Paypal or Stripe. You can also set up forms to collect information such as name, address, etc. for your attendees. Weebly allows you to export your orders or form information to a spreadsheet file so you can view or sort your registration information.
MailChimp is a free platform that allows the user to email a large number of people at one time without falling into most spam filters (though nothing is perfect, sometimes MailChimp emails do make it into a junk file). MailChimp only costs money when you get to a certain number of users, which is unlikely for most retreats and conferences unless they are national events. You can create attendee lists in MailChimp that are re-usable for future mail-outs. You can customize your emails with beautiful graphics and fonts and include links to new event information on your website or Facebook page.
I hope some of these tips will get you on your way to planning a conference or retreat that blesses others while not ruining your bottom line. It's no fun to lose your personal funds on an event, and I've heard about that happening far too many times. Planning far in advance will pay dividends.
I live with my husband and three children in the beautiful bluegrass region of Kentucky. I am passionate about my faith, home educating my children, and seeing as much of God’s creation as possible! I grew up in a home that encouraged self-education, so Charlotte Mason’s philosophy was a natural fit for our family. After moving to Kentucky and struggling to find an established CM community, I decided to host information sessions on Mason’s philosophy of education. Those sessions led to a book study, which led to a summer cottage school, which led to the 2012 establishment of Overstone School, a Charlotte Mason cooperative school. Today, there are over 300 CM home educators and many support groups and book studies in the Bluegrass region, connected through the Bluegrass CM Community Facebook page.