Nonprofit Marketing Plan and Content Plan – A Comprehensive Guide

Your nonprofit needs marketing to reach new audiences as well as connect with those who already know you. You can either throw a bunch of ideas at the wall to see if they stick or create a detailed marketing and content plan that will better help you track your tactics as well as what works (and what doesn't). We’ve written the following article to help you with the latter.

13 minutes read
Nonprofit Marketing Plan and Content Plan – A Comprehensive Guide

Marketing and Content plans are vital for nonprofits hoping to increase their revenue. Nonprofits cannot rely solely on events anymore, especially in the age of pandemics and shutdowns. Nonprofits are starting to put their money and efforts towards marketing online and connecting with donors in other ways. If your organization has tried social media and email marketing in the past to no avail, you may have been working without a well-thought-out plan.

Nonprofits should take marketing their organization as seriously as larger corporations. While not every organization can hire marketing staff, there are steps all nonprofits can take. This article details why nonprofits need a marketing and content plan and the important steps needed to get the biggest bang for your buck.

  1. Why Do Nonprofits Need a Marketing Plan?
  2. What Should Your Marketing Plan Include?
  3. Nonprofit Content Strategies
  4. Content Creation with 3 Stages of Donor Involvement
  5. Repurpose Your Content
  6. Promote Your Content
  7. Tracking and Reporting Guidelines

Nonprofit Marketing Plan

Why Do Nonprofits Need a Marketing Plan?

nonprofit marketing plan

A marketing plan is a way your organization can grow by using different marketing strategies. Your organization can use this plan to reach a larger audience and raise more funds. There are several reasons your organization should take the time to create a detailed marketing plan.

1. Spread your mission and raise brand awareness

Your organization’s mission is the reason for your existence. Unfortunately, a nonprofit’s mission can get lost in the mess of events and outreach material an organization sends out to the public. A marketing plan helps keep a nonprofit focused on the mission while spreading the word. Your marketing plan should keep your mission in mind for all activities and continue to raise your brand’s awareness in as many ways as possible.

2. Increase your revenue and donor base

marketing for nonprofit organizations

As your organization spreads the word about your mission and brand, more people will remember your nonprofit, and the chance of getting a donation will increase. The rule of seven in marketing says a person must hear about something at least seven times before acting. Your marketing plan will increase your outreach to the public and encourage action through repeated activity. As you reach more people through your marketing, donations will increase, and you can begin building stronger relationships with your donors.

3. Recruit volunteers

People who are not able to donate may still be interested in volunteering for your organization. When creating your marketing plan, do not ignore these individuals since volunteers save you thousands of dollars a year if used efficiently. More outreach and information provided to the public will encourage volunteering and support in different ways.

4. Alert the public

Many nonprofits require advocates to act by calling their representatives or spreading the word to their friends and family. Information on why your organization is needed and how your work is making a difference can encourage the public to act on your behalf. A marketing plan can focus on these activities, so they do not get lost in the need to raise more funds.

5. Build partnerships

marketing for nonprofit organizations

Raising funds for your organization should not be thought of as a one-time request. Donor and sponsor relationships are vital to the existence of a nonprofit. A large part of your marketing plan can detail how your organization will build partnerships with major donors, corporations, foundations, and the media.

What Should Your Nonprofit Marketing Plan Include?

marketing for nonprofit organizations

You may have seen corporate or larger organizations’ marketing plans that look like a published book. The designs and images may be high-quality and discourage you from even starting on such a project for fear you cannot compete. Your nonprofit does not need a designer or superb images to create your marketing plan. Instead, focus on the basics of what your organization needs and can achieve. As your organization grows, you can hire an outside company or freelance designer to brighten up the plan so you can share it with potential funders. In the meantime, all nonprofits should include the following details in their marketing plan.

1. Executive summary

An executive summary should give an overview of what your nonprofit’s marketing plan entails. When writing your summary, you should highlight the main parts of your plan and describe any results you have seen or will see in the future.

2. Accurate baselines and metrics

Your marketing plan should start with an audit of your organization’s current donor base and activities. Where do most of your donors come from? When do most of them give to your organization? There are at least twenty key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics your organization can track to see where to fill in the gaps of your marketing plan.

Websites, email marketing companies, and social media apps all have their own monitoring devices. You can use a combination of these tools and your donor management system to find details on where your donors come from and how successful campaigns have been in the past.

You can continue to run your major events if they bring enough donations, but see if there are areas you can improve your organization’s outreach. Look at other events or marketing pieces you sent out that did not have a good response rate. Are there ways you can save these campaigns, or do you need to replace them with something else?

3. Detailed donor data

Before sending out your first marketing piece, you must understand your target market and adjust your strategy and tools to their interests and personas. Your donor management system will help provide you with details on your donors so you can divide them into segments.

When breaking your current donors into segments and deciding on your target market, you will want to ask yourself the following details and collect as much information as possible. If you find some areas missing from your database, you can conduct surveys to fill in the gaps.

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Which social media platforms do they use?
  • What is the best way to connect with them?
  • Which programs and issues are they most interested in?
  • Are they donors, volunteers, members, etc.?

After breaking your donor base down into segments, you can determine what types of marketing material will have the best response rate. Which donors will respond to emails or social media posts? Do you have donors that only give at an event, and are there any programs these donors have shown interest in? As you move on to your content plan, you will want to keep these donor segments in mind.

4. Competitor research

The nonprofit world may not be as competitive as the corporate one, but you do have competitors working to raise the same funds from similar donors. Research similar organizations in your area and find what works best for them. You do not have to reinvent the wheel. Borrowing marketing ideas from other nonprofits is entirely acceptable.

5. Clear marketing goals

Every plan must include clear goals for your nonprofit to meet. Actionable goals are an essential part of every marketing plan and will keep all players on the same page. Create SMART goals to keep your team working efficiently.

Specific – develop one or two specific goals to reach this year. Do not overwhelm you and your staff too much, so nothing gets done.

Measurable – How do you measure donor data currently? Do you understand the behind-the-scenes of your organization’s website? There are several ways to measure the success of your marketing campaigns. Choose which ones give you the best information for your needs. In addition, monitor the actions of your donors through a donor management system.

Achievable – Are you alone in the office, or do you have a few staff members ready to help with your next marketing campaign? How much time do you have to achieve results? Realistically, nonprofits consistently deal with limited resources and time. You must keep your goals achievable, so even if you have big dreams, will you be able to make them happen?

Relevant – Do the activities you have planned match with your organization’s goals and mission? The reason for marketing is to help strengthen the organization as a whole. If your marketing plan is not doing that, you need to rethink your plan.

Time-bound – Everything has a time limit, so when creating your marketing plan, add realistic end dates for each action.

Nonprofit Content Plan

Nonprofit Content Strategies

nonprofit content marketing plan

Now that you have a better sense of your donor base and target market, along with an idea of what worked in the past, it is essential to develop a content strategy as part of your marketing plan. There are a number of methods you can try. The following list contains 5 popular nonprofit content strategies to get you started:

1. Website

Your website is the organization’s primary source of information. Donors, corporations, and foundations will look at your website before providing you with a gift, so it cannot be an afterthought. Regardless of your nonprofit’s goals, your website must include the following:

nonprofit content marketing plan

1.1 Mission statement

Your organization’s mission is the reason you exist. If you do not have a clear mission statement, stop right now and take care of that! Once that mission statement is finalized and approved by your board, it should be on your website’s home page as prominently as possible. If donors do not get a clear idea of what you will do with their money, they will not give.

1.2 History

The organization’s history is slightly less important to donors but does give them an idea of how long the nonprofit has been around and if it is a trustworthy organization. When writing your history page, find ways to promote how you have found success in the past and why individuals and corporations are happy with the programs.

1.3 Success stories

Success stories can be sprinkled across the website on your home page, history, and campaigns to keep your organization’s mission at the top of people’s minds. Include pictures and videos with these success stories and allow the beneficiaries’ personalities to shine through. Donors will love to hear about the success of your organization through the eyes of those most affected.

1.4 Upcoming events and campaigns

A calendar or list of upcoming events and campaigns is a crucial addition to your website. Many people will want specifics on how they can participate in your activities or spread the word about what you do. Create a separate page for people and companies to find more information on what events are coming up or online crowdfunding or peer-to-peer campaigns they can be a part of.

1.5 Ways to give

Other than your mission statement, this is probably the most important page on your website. Donors expect to be able to donate to your nonprofit online. The convenience and safety of making an online donation are well known, and people and companies may lose faith in your nonprofit if you do not give this option.

Create a donation page and form that provides options for online donations. There are affordable online donation processors out there, so nonprofits should never skip adding this page to their website. The below donation page on Healthcare for the Homeless Houston is a great example.

nonprofit content marketing plan

1.6 Volunteers

Individuals and companies interested in volunteering for your organization are easily frustrated if volunteer information is not readily available. Create a separate volunteer page that includes an application, detailed volunteer needs, and a description of what they can expect from the process. Remember to treat your volunteers like employees, and they will have a stronger connection to your organization.

1.7 Press & blog page

Has your local newspaper noticed you? Has an article written by someone in your organization been published? Any press coverage should be highlighted on your website to increase the trustworthiness of your organization. The more publications you can share, the better.

This page can also be used as a blog to cover the topic you care about. If your nonprofit works with the homeless, a staff member, volunteer, or freelance writer can write weekly or monthly posts to add to this page.

Pro tip: Blog posts should include keywords and links to your past articles on the website. These actions will help with your website’s search engine optimization and increase visits to your website.

1.8 Ways to reach you

Some donors prefer checking out the ‘Contact Us’ page before making the decision to give. That is because many a time it so happens that the donation transaction failed or they missed out on the donation receipt, or maybe they would be keen on knowing the impact later on. So unless you have clearly specified the contact details – phone, mail address, email address, etc. – donors might turn away from your website. And this can happen no matter how attractive otherwise your website looks.

2. Social media

Social media has remained popular with the public and nonprofit organizations. With free and paid advertisement options, this media platform has proven to help nonprofits reach a larger audience and even raise funds online.

It may be tempting to start a page on all of the platforms, but it will be more beneficial to choose one or two and make the most of them. When deciding which one to choose, ask around which social media app your donors use the most? It is much harder to build a following from scratch than to ask your current donor base to share their love for your nonprofit with their friends.

As per studies, 57% of traffic to fundraising pages comes from social media platforms. There are other remarkable stats on social media marketing of nonprofits, that will show you why these platforms matter –

  • 93% of nonprofits across the globe have a Facebook page.
  • 57% of people who watch nonprofit videos on YouTube proceed to give to their cause.
  • 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media end up taking some action; 59% of them actually donate money.

So you can see why social media could as well be your starting point for marketing. It’s free to set up and requires less effort in the beginning. But once you start gaining followers, there are enough resources available online to help scale your effort to keep them engaged.

3. Print marketing

Some may think print marketing is dead, but there remain quite a few donors who would rather receive a campaign letter in the mail than online. The response rate of direct mail campaigns has remained at about two percent since 2015. The cost of printing is lower thanks to numerous online companies, and with this rate of return, it may be worth sending out at least one direct mail campaign.

Donors still respond well to mail campaigns because they are different and stand out in the pile of bills you receive. If your direct mail campaign has quality design and content, and you think out of the box with postcards or calendars, your mail campaign may be a huge success.

Our nonprofit expert Cara Augspurger talks with Joe Leach, the President of AppealMaker, in the below podcast episode to offer you 3 simple and implementable hacks into direct mail appeals. Give it a listen to drive more (and more) donations to your organization!

4. Emails

Emails are another marketing strategy that people wrongly assume has lost favor with donors. The return on investment for email campaigns is $42 for every dollar spent. That rate has remained the highest out of all content marketing strategies. It is also the reason most marketers refuse to give up their email marketing campaigns.

Email campaigns are also much cheaper and less time-consuming than direct mail and even social media. Email marketing companies allow you to segment your donors and create different emails that work with each group. You can also automate when emails go out after they have visited your website or made a donation.

Pro tip: Email marketing is effective but not until you personalize your emails. If you are sending out emails with a generic approach, donors would take note of it instantly. They would feel unvalued. Which can be catastrophic for your nonprofit. So remember to address each donor by their name and make them feel good about the act of giving.

5. Press strategy

Public relations should be part of your marketing plan and content strategy. By building relationships with journalists and writing press releases, your nonprofit can find more ways to get free publicity and gain notoriety in the press and your community.

Content Creation with 3 Stages of Donor Involvement

nonprofit content marketing

After finalizing your marketing and content plans, you will want to create marketing materials to use at your events, direct mail campaigns, presentations, etc. When creating these pieces, you must keep the donor cycle in mind. The donor cycle helps your organization create long-lasting relationships with donors that result in significant and recurring donations.

Content should be created for donors at three stages of their involvement with the organization.

1. Awareness

Content created for larger events and presentations should educate the audience about your mission and how the organization makes a difference. The goal is to encourage them to learn more about the nonprofit by visiting the website or your location. Compelling content for people in the awareness stage is success videos, images, and stories that touch the heart and gain donors’ interest.

2. Consideration

At this stage, the individual has learned your name and may have heard the mission, but they still need more information before donating. Marketing pieces sent to these donors should re-introduce the nonprofit and its mission and share impact details and case studies. Infographics can be used to provide clear details and examples of how your nonprofit is making a difference.

3. Decision

The decision stage is when donors have already received enough information on the organization to act but may be unsure how much to donate or whether they should volunteer or become a member. Content sent to these donors should direct them to specific website pages for ways to give, volunteer, or become a member. Most donors do not want to waste time searching for a way to donate, so honor their time with direct links and make your website as clear as possible.

Repurpose Your Content

nonprofit content marketing

If you have sent out the same content for a few years in a row, it may be time to repurpose them into infographics or videos to use again. Old content can be made new and shared on social media or in a direct mail campaign. A smart way to save money and time is to share the same content in different ways to get the most out of the information.

1. Why infographics?

Infographics are an excellent way to explain complex information quickly. Well-designed infographics are great storytellers that encourage donors to act. Nonprofits can combine data and images to create a compelling design that is easy to remember. Infographics can be added to direct mail pieces, emails, and social media posts.

2. Why videos?

People don’t want to read the same old content time and time again on social media or your emails. But when you repurpose it into engaging videos, they’d take the time to watch. A video can comprise your beneficiaries’ pictures, their old videos, photos from the on-ground work of your volunteers, any past events, impact data, or recent stats.

If you are lacking fresh content for the time being, reuse this old stuff to make a stunning video. One of your volunteers or staff could help or if the budget permits, hire a freelance video editor for the work.

Promote Your Content

nonprofit content marketing

When planning your content strategy, you will want to create an editorial calendar to ensure the marketing pieces you have on hand match the donor segments that attend each event or receive a campaign mailing.

Make sure your brand and mission are added to each piece and give a clear idea of what your organization does. If you do not have a design staff or volunteers that can provide you with professional-looking material, outside sources like graphic design shops or freelance designers are always available.

Your designers and content producers should provide you with content that can be used in various ways. Infographics, videos, podcasts, and other design pieces can be used on social media posts, emails, blog posts, or paid ads.

To increase your organization’s SEO, you can also build strategic alliances with other nonprofits or companies and provide guest posts that share your expertise with a new audience. Once again, content pieces like infographics or videos should be included with these posts.

Tracking and Reporting Guidelines

After you send out your first marketing piece, you should start to track the response you receive. This should be done for each marketing piece and campaign. Tracking and reporting are vital to monitor the success of your marketing plan, but remember to choose the right metrics to track.

What are your marketing plan goals? Do not lose track of the SMART goals you created when developing your marketing plan. Here are a few metrics you can track to monitor your plan’s success.

1. Website behavior

Since your website has been added to each content piece, you can examine the success of your online and offline campaigns by monitoring who visited your website and when. The following information should be made available by your website provider:

  • Pageviews
  • Time on page
  • Number of users
  • Bounce rate
  • New and returning users
  • Pages per session

2. Social media engagement

Social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have tracking systems that let you know the responses received on each post. Track only the information that helps you see if you are meeting your goals.

  • Likes and shares
  • Re-publication of blog posts
  • Comments
  • Incoming requests
  • Mentions

3. SEO outcome

If you have spent time building a blog and providing guest posts to other organizations, you should see an increase in your SEO activity. Once again, visit your website provider or Google to see how you rank.

  • Organic traffic
  • Backlinks
  • Dwell time
  • Keyword rankings

4. Revenue

Tracking the revenue your organization has received will be second nature to you, but you now have a better idea of why those donations were made. The campaign and event costs can be divided by the amount raised to see the return on your investment.

  • Cost per donation
  • Recurring donations

Final Thoughts

marketing for nonprofit organizations

Marketing and content plans can be time-consuming, but it will be simple to continue these plans for years to come if done right the first time. Remember to track the success of every marketing piece that leaves your office and reuse content when possible to get the biggest return.

Content marketing through email and social media will encourage your donors to act, but without a quality donate page, you may lose their gifts.

Donorbox has affordable options for nonprofits of all sizes. Our customizable donation forms can be added to your current website and used to increase online donations right away. Visit our website for a list of additional features we can offer. For tips and tricks on online fundraising, check out our blog for new posts each week.

Avatar photo

Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

  • linkedin
  • url

Join the fundraising movement!

Subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive the latest blogs, news, and more in your inbox.

Take your donor experience to the next level!
Join the 50,000+ nonprofits already raising funds online.
Join a 30min Demo to see how Donorbox can help you reach your fundraising goals!
Join a 30min Live Demo to see how Donorbox can help you reach your fundraising goals!