Marketing is a valuable part of any organization. However, marketing for nonprofits can be challenging because you’re expected to do many things with limited resources. Often, staffing and resources are minimal; but that doesn’t mean that you can’t bring the full value of nonprofit marketing to your organization.
We’re here to help you with this guide to nonprofit marketing. We’ll help you understand the benefits of marketing and how to create an effective plan that works. Use the table of contents below to find which section you need today, and come back whenever you’re looking for strategies and best practice tips!
Nonprofit marketing is the use of typical marketing strategies by a nonprofit to further its mission, spread awareness of its programs, recruit volunteers, and encourage donations.
Marketing strategies can be executed across many different platforms, both online and in-person. It’s done on websites and social media, with email and physical mail, through advertising and press, and with signs in your neighborhood and in and around your organization’s physical location.
Just because you’re not using marketing to drive a profit doesn’t mean that you can’t use the same strategies to build an audience and reach your goals. In fact, the same tactics used by major for-profit organizations can be used to tell your story, support fundraising campaigns, and help you inspire others to support your nonprofit.
With all your other responsibilities running a nonprofit, it might seem ok to put marketing on a back-burner. But we want you to know that a well-executed marketing plan is worth it.
It’s an important part of becoming known in your community, motivating people to create change, and supporting other critical aspects of your organization like fundraising.
One of the core benefits of nonprofit marketing is raising awareness about your organization. Like any other business, you have a brand that speaks to your mission, vision, and values. Marketing is how you translate this brand to your community and the broader public.
Beyond that, you can spread awareness of any upcoming programs and events; a cause you’re participating in, organization updates, and anything else you want or need to share with your audience. This is how your community hears from and interacts with you, so make sure your voice matches your brand and share regularly to build trust and awareness. You can learn how to engage your audience by telling a compelling story about your organization, here.
Nonprofit marketing is also a great way to encourage people to volunteer with your organization. As people become acquainted with your cause and programming, they’ll become more invested in it, and like-minded individuals will want to help.
You can share information on how to volunteer, the benefits of volunteering, and what volunteers do at your organization in all of your marketing channels. The marketing you do to raise awareness will supplement this; getting people excited about the work you’re doing and the change they can help bring about.
Your fundraising strategy and marketing plan can also work together. You can spread the word about any fundraising campaigns, matching, or initiatives through marketing and potentially reach a new, diverse audience; while also sharing important information with your current audience.
You can also reach out to potential donors and members with an effective marketing strategy. Like with volunteers, a successful marketing plan will make it easy for people to learn about your organization and feel inspired to help. Be sure to share how to donate or become a member, and make it easy so everyone who wants to support your organization can, in just a few simple steps.
Membership benefits, recurring donations, and fundraising events are also great to share through marketing, taking some of the pressure off fundraising efforts while getting these programs in front of fresh eyes.
A marketing plan is an important first step to any successful, sustainable nonprofit marketing. Because you’re most likely working with a small but dedicated team and limited budget, a plan will ensure that you’re using your time and resources effectively.
Your plan should focus on outlining your short-term and long-term goals. You should also specify what strategies you plan to use and how, identifying who your target audience is, and creating a guide to dictate your organizational voice and style. Then, it should outline a budget, timeline, and distribution plan so your team is working strategically.
Your overall nonprofit marketing plan will be used to implement attainable goals and growth. But you’ll first need to specify your marketing goals, come up with ideas on how to achieve them, and specify a strategy to implement them.
SMART is a useful acronym you can use to help you effectively build and carry out your strategies. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Start by brainstorming some potential ideas that can help you realize your goals. Some possibilities are:
Now, let’s breakdown one of these ideas into a SMART goal as an example:
Breaking down your objectives into SMART goals helps you build an effective strategy and stick with it. It also helps you track the performance of your marketing efforts; it’s an important part of learning from your endeavors to build more effective plans in the future.
Everyone responds to different things, depending on their priorities, habits, and goals. Hence, it’s important to research and understand your target audience. You may have a broad and diverse community, so your target audience may change depending on what you’re marketing.
Start by asking yourself what groups typically attend your programs or consume your content. Then, reflect on what kind of person might be interested in what you’re marketing and who you most want to reach. From there, you can do research into the best channels to use, appropriate tone and references, and the design of your content.
You can find information like this through Google Analytics, social media analytics, and audience surveys. Once you’ve done this research, be sure to organize and keep track of it so you can use it in the future. For example, Donorbox allows you to build comprehensive donor profiles where you can record communications, and collect and analyze donor information.
Your strategies are only as strong as the team implementing them. The size and scope of your team will depend in large part on the size and budget of your nonprofit. But it’s a team well-worth investing in.
You want to start with an experienced team leader–a vice president or director of marketing–who can help build the overarching strategy and long-term goals. From there, a few senior team members will help distribute the responsibilities and oversee the implementation of these goals.
A few mid-level employees will do the content creation and design, and carry out the strategies. Hiring entry-level employees is an important way to train the next generation, support internal promotions, and delegate easier tasks.
Pro tip: Build trust and confidence within your team with regular meetings, open communication, and fun activities.
An effective nonprofit marketing strategy will utilize several distribution channels but will do so thoughtfully. There are many physical and virtual options including:
When you identify the channels that are most effective for your nonprofit overall, remember your budget. Several options are free, only requiring labor or offering additional services at extra cost, while others have attached fees.
You’ll want to build out all options and be present in as many ways as possible. But identify which channels are most useful for different campaigns based on your target audience and method. For example, social media is a great way to build your brand, tell your organization’s story, and spread the word to a wide audience. Email marketing, on the other hand, is a great way to speak directly with your dedicated audience. You can tell them about upcoming events or asking for donations to support your mission.
Tracking metrics is the most effective way to know how well your nonprofit marketing plan is performing. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measurable values that will help you track and share how well you’re meeting your objectives.
Google Analytics, social media metrics, e-blast open and click-through rates, and RSVPs related to attendance at events are just a few of the ways you can concretely know how many people are seeing your marketing efforts, and how many are actually interacting with them.
You can learn more about the different kinds of KPIs and why they’re important, here.
As mentioned earlier in the article, the best marketing teams use multiple strategies and try to use each option effectively and wisely. In a lot of campaigns, some of these strategies will overlap, and the content and imagery should be mirrored across channels to make it clear and consistent.
Remember, if your budget and team are small, don’t feel like you have to use all strategies at once, or all the time. Some will have evergreen content that will do work for you with minimal effort, others should be used infrequently but to great effect.
Stick to your plan and learn from each campaign and previous strategy to make the best use of your time and resources.
Your website is your home base and will be the primary digital platform where your audience will interact with your nonprofit. It should be engaging, easy to navigate, and optimized for mobile phones.
There are several different ways to implement marketing on your website. You can have a blog with articles related to your organization, events, and mission which can be updated daily, weekly, or monthly to drive new eyes to your site at whatever rate is doable for your team.
You can also have an events page or calendar, where you’ll list all upcoming events and programs. Your homepage should be updated weekly, if not daily, to show new content and drive your audience to important pages.
An evergreen donation page is another important part of your site. While it’s critical for raising funds, it is also an important way to tell your story and show how others are supporting your organization, be it through a goal meter or donor wall.
Email marketing is another important ongoing marketing strategy. Unlike your website, where people are coming to you, with email marketing you are bringing your content directly to your audience.
You should plan to have a weekly or bi-monthly newsletter designed to update your audience on upcoming events, news, and new projects. Beyond that, it’s a good idea to send out emails in advance of big events or as a follow-up to RSVPs or fundraising campaigns.
On your website, make it very clear how people can sign up for your newsletter either with a pop-up or dedicated section on the homepage.
Crowdfunding is a great way to raise funds while building your audience and helping them feel invested in your organization. A robust campaign with volunteers and branded storytelling will also help you create a sense of ownership within your community, inspiring them to give more and spread the word about your nonprofit.
Donorbox can help you build a powerful crowdfunding campaign to drive engagement through updates, social media sharing options, and personalized emails. Learn more about how to build a successful crowdfunding campaign here. Also, here’s an example you should check out for a great crowdfunding page.
Social media is another area where you’re speaking directly to your audience. With followers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, you can share updates, fun content, stories, and images in a quick and digestible way.
You’ll want to post with relative frequency to be consistently visible, but be careful of overposting. Each platform has its dos and don’ts, as well as best practices. Instagram is ideal for images, videos, and stories, while Facebook is ideal for sharing events, long-form content, and albums of pictures from programs. LinkedIn is great for sharing updates and press releases as well as building professional networks. Twitter is perfect for sharing press, industry updates, and event reminders.
Online advertisements will allow you to reach a new interested audience. You can advertise with press outlets and certain for-profit organizations. Google Ads are also a great way to place your pages at the top of a Google search. Plus, they offer Google Ad Grants to nonprofits.
Make sure to choose outlets with similar missions and programs to yours, or ones that are aligned with your vision. Ideally, when their audiences see your advertisement, it will match up with their interests and they’ll visit your site or next event.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is how you attract new visitors to your website or blogs through online search engines. Certain words or phrases are searched more than others, so when your content prioritizes them, they will show up earlier in online searches.
This way, your content will appear before others and new audiences will be exposed to your voice and brand through upcoming events, informative blogs, or fundraising campaigns.
When marketing and fundraising intersect, you can really build a strong campaign. A text-to-give campaign is so powerful because a huge portion of your audience will be interacting with your organization primarily on their phones. This is a quick and easy way for new potential donors to give.
Choose a memorable and short keyword or the number for your campaign, then build a marketing strategy around it. It can become a hashtag on social media and influence your content and imagery. This will make the text-to-give campaign more understandable and compelling, creating a narrative that is completed through a simple process on everyone’s individual smartphone.
Events are another great marketing opportunity. Not only will you build a marketing strategy leading up to the event to drive attendance, but you’ll be able to market your cause and future programs during and after your event.
Encourage attendees to share images, videos, and insights through social media. A catchy hashtag will help you tie these posts together, search for them to reshare, and will add information to their posts.
Physical marketing materials like magazines, brochures, and postcards should also be displayed on site. Encouraging guests to take these things with them will help them learn more about your organization and hear about future events, while also acting as a reminder in their home or workplace.
Strategic partnerships are another great way to expand your audience base, share resources, and gain powerful support. You can partner with other organizations in multiple ways.
With other nonprofits, you can explore cross-promotion, which is when a similar organization shares information about you in exchange for you sharing information about them. You can do this on e-blasts, social media, or at events and it’s a great way to spread the word about your work while introducing your audience to other, similar organizations.
You can also form partnerships with corporations or for-profits who want to support your mission. This can be through company matching during fundraising, or sponsorships of programs or events. Like with cross-promotion, this is a mutually beneficial relationship.
A great place to start looking for potential strategic partnerships is on LinkedIn. Review the site for similar organizations, join groups that align with your mission, and reach out to contacts through direct messaging. You can learn about some helpful LinkedIn groups for nonprofit professionals, here.
While physical mail can sometimes seem outdated, it’s still a viable marketing option that is all too often underutilized. Physical mail feels more personal and thoughtful than an email. The receiver knows that someone designed the letter, chose who to send it to, and took the time to put it together and mail it.
Unlike e-blasts, which are quick and can be sent to hundreds of people in a matter of minutes, physical mail is tactile and signals a higher level of care. Learn how to write a compelling fundraising letter and hear some best practices and tips here.
As with everything, there are a few tried and true best practices for nonprofit marketing. While you shouldn’t be scared of trying new things, keep some of these tips and tricks in mind while you’re building and implementing your next marketing strategy.
It’s no secret that most people respond well to compelling images and videos. In fact, the human eye can process images much faster than text and you can grab short attention spans online and on social media with high-quality imagery.
You can use professional photos and videos from your events and programs, or from the community you’re working with. Or, search through social media to repost photos and videos you’ve been tagged in. Share interviews or videos of your staff or volunteers at work, or talking about why they (or your community) are passionate about your organization and the work that you do.
You can also make easy-to-follow infographics to help communicate instructions, steps, or information that requires some explaining. There are plenty of free programs you can use, like Canva. Or if you have a talented design team, they can make something to fit your brand. Learn more about useful infographic templates, here.
You should avoid sending one-size-fits-all e-blasts to your donors or subscribers. Segmenting your email list is a useful tool that will increase your impact. While it might seem like a lot of effort, once the segments are in place, they’re easy to maintain and select.
You can separate your email list into groups based on interests, where and how much they’ve donated, age groups, and how frequently they interact with your organization. Then, you can build a few dedicated campaigns that give the same information in different ways that are curated to each group. You can also reach out to different groups with more or less frequency, depending on their interaction levels.
Triggered emails are another way to use emails, and your email list, to your greatest advantage. These are automated emails that are triggered by certain actions taken by your supporters or audience.
Say someone RSVPd to an event, signed a petition, or made a donation. Once they complete this action, a previously set up automated email thanking them and giving them more information will be sent. You can also automate a series of follow-up emails to remind them of the event or ask them to give more.
Learn more about why automated donation receipts are particularly important and effective here.
User-generated content is one of the best marketing tools provided by social media. It’s a source for new content that doesn’t require a huge amount of effort on your end. Also, it helps engage your audience and show your appreciation for them.
Searching for images where your organization has been tagged, geo-located, or hashtagged can help you find and share content. You can also help generate content with a catchy hashtag, encouraging your followers and potentially influencers to share.
When you share user-generated content, be sure to tag the original user and thank them. This shows genuine appreciation, knowledge of social media etiquette, and will help push the image further on the social channel.
Branded, mobile-responsive donation pages are a marketing strategy that can take your evergreen donation page to the next level. By branding it, you’re taking this opportunity to continue telling your story and you’re signaling a high level of professionalism.
Mobile-responsive pages (as shown below) are increasingly important, too, because most people interact with your website on their phones. Plus, a mobile-responsive page will enable you to easily link to your donation page on social media. Here’s a good example for you. Tarjimly‘s donation page is perfectly optimized for desktop as well as mobile.
If someone’s already donated once, there’s a high possibility they’ll be interested in donating again. You’re much more likely to get someone to donate more than once by making it easy to set up recurring donations. With this, they’ll only have to enter their information once and they can continue to give with ease.
Donorbox has customizable donation forms that allow for flexible recurring plans. People can give their preferred amount weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. Learn more about how to set up recurring donations on Donorbox, here.
Following up with donors is an incredibly important step that is all too often overlooked. Sending a thank you email to a recent donor, asking someone who’s donated once to consider donating again, following up with a previous recurring donor who has ended their donations, and sending gentle reminders to promised donations that haven’t come through can increase your fundraising exponentially.
Keep track of who has donated and when. Send personalized follow-ups which can help you retain donors and increase individual giving. It shows appreciation and the human aspect of your organization. Consider sending a hand-written thank you letter and sharing the impact of their donation to really go above and beyond.
Testing your channels and messaging is another underutilized, but highly important, marketing practice. You should regularly send A/B tests to see how you can improve your subject lines, language, images, and layout.
By changing one aspect of an email campaign and running a few tests to see how it performs with your audience, you can make a big difference with engagement and sending people information they genuinely care about and respond to.
So, now you have a variety of tips, tricks, and best practices for nonprofit marketing. And, you’re ready to start marketing your nonprofit! Build a plan, set a budget, and be mindful of your team’s capacity and workflow. Continue to test and improve your marketing, too. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy or plan, and your marketing strategy should change with your audience and the times. Listen to your audience and community, question your techniques; also, review metrics and analytics to help you continue to grow and improve.
Good luck and remember that there are plenty of resources at your disposal to help you along the way. Donorbox’s nonprofit blog is full of useful resources, and there are plenty of webinars, podcasts, and articles that are constantly reviewing updates and improvements.