Nonprofits need to control their spending even more than for-profit companies. Most operate on a tight budget and want to avoid spending more than is necessary on business activities to keep the majority of funds for their cause.
However, without sufficient marketing, no one will even be aware that your nonprofit exists. In contrast, by using nonprofit marketing best practices, you can reach a wider audience, helping more people become aware of what work you’re doing and why it’s important. The result is more donations, volunteers, and advocates along with better retention of your current contacts.
1. Determine the Reason for Your Marketing
The first step in creating a nonprofit marketing plan is to define the reason for your strategy. The goals of your marketing strategy should relate to the overall mission of your nonprofit. In addition, make sure they are SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
2. Know Your Target Audience
You and the staff at your organization probably consider your objectives among the most important in society, but you need to be aware that not everyone feels the same. Your target audience is made up of people who do share those feeling for your cause. For your nonprofit marketing ideas to work, you need to know who makes up your target audience and focus on just them.
The likelihood is your target audience falls into several different categories. For instance, volunteers are a separate group from donors and advocates. You need to create buyer personas to reflect each group.
3. Keep Up-to-Date Contact Information
As we mentioned above, marketing can target your current donors, volunteers, and advocates as well as new people. The fact that current contacts are already donating their time or money shows that they are passionate about what you are doing. It is much less effort to ask them to give again than to find new people.
Despite this, organizations on average retain less than half of their donors. This is because people are unlikely to stay committed unless you keep engaging with them.
The best way to reach your current contacts is to keep a record of who they are. Use a CRM to store data like:
- How they have supported your organization
- The amount they have donated
- How they heard about your organization — whether word of mouth or through your marketing efforts
- If they have recommended your nonprofit to anyone else
- What events they have attended
4. Use Email Marketing
Knowing more about your target audience and current supporters will allow you to personalize your outreach. This is extra useful in email marketing — for instance you can segment your email list and send only information that the recipient is likely to respond to.
Email newsletters from your organization should be nothing like the personal emails you send. It’s best if they’re branded — this will give them a professional look and help recipients know immediately that the message comes from you.
Part of branding emails comes down to the visual aspect: use your color scheme, logo, and font. In addition, you’ll need to use the same voice in every email. If more than one person is writing your newsletters, create a document with guidelines. This will also help for other communications and content from your nonprofit.
In addition to newsletters, you can use email marketing to send a series of messages after a person takes a particular action. For instance, if someone signs a petition, tell them how they can take further action. If they sign up to attend an event, ask them to invite others. You can then continue to notify recipients about more opportunities until they’ve committed to a donation or to volunteer. Email series are especially effective with new customers, leading to 40 times more acquisitions than using Facebook or Twitter.
5. Embrace Online Marketing
Traditional marketing is far too expensive for most small organizations. A far less expensive option is nonprofit online marketing. When you use organic marketing, there are few costs beyond those associated with content creation. We’ve already looked at email marketing; some other types of organic online marketing practices nonprofits should be using include:
- Social media. Give your fans a place to check out what you’re doing and how you’re progressing with your cause by being active on social media. Having a clear idea of your target audience is essential for this, as it will tell you which platforms to focus on. Once you’ve set up accounts, create plenty of content and schedule posts. This will take some of the pressure off managing all your profiles.
- If you set up your website yourself and have no knowledge of SEO, or even if a professional designed your website and you haven’t updated the site for several years, it’s worthwhile doing an SEO audit. This will ensure your site appears in searches for terms related to the work your nonprofit does, has a fast loading speed, and provides great usability.
- Content marketing. In addition to the pages on your website, launch a content marketing campaign by writing regular blog posts. As well as improving your SEO, this will make your website more interesting for your audience. Make sure your content calendar targets all your different buyer personas.
- Guest blogging. Another way to drive traffic to your website and to reach a wider audience is through guest blogging. Find popular websites that have a readership that is likely to be interested in your cause. Ask them if they’d be willing to post a piece of original content from you. Make sure to include at least one link taking users to your website (provided that you are allowed).
As for paid online marketing, you have:
- Pay-per-click ads. PPC ads require less time and effort than organic content, but you’ll need to make sure that you’re using the right keywords and targeting the right audience to avoid them being a waste of money.
- Influencer marketing. If you’re a regional nonprofit, find an influencer in your area. If locality is less important, find someone who is committed to your cause. Micro-influencers are inexpensive and can have a big impact with your audience.
6. Market Your Cause
When marketing a nonprofit, you’ll see better results if you sell your cause rather than your organization. Focus on why your cause matters and why people should care. Summing up your main objective in a single phrase or just a few sentences will have the greatest impact.
In addition, make it clear what people can do to help. When targeting people who are just getting involved, talk about the small actions they can take. For current donors, volunteers, and activists, gradually ask for more.
7. Use Visuals
You’ll have better success with marketing your cause if you’re able to spark emotion. As visuals are often more emotive than words, try to use visual content as often as possible.
Use pictures to show your achievements — such as before-and-after photos and a behind-the-scenes look at your nonprofit. This will help people develop stronger feelings for your organization. In addition, use visuals to express information. For instance, infographics can use statistics to explain why your cause is such an important issue.
8. Create Videos
In addition to static visuals, create video content. Videos are extremely sharable, meaning your message is able to reach a wider audience. Plus, videos are versatile: you can use them to show what you do, educate people about your cause, or just entertain. Produce a variety of different videos to keep viewers engaged.
9. Repurpose Your Content
All of the above may sound like a lot of effort. Although it’s sure to be worthwhile, many small organizations lack the time to create so much content. A solution is to repurpose content whenever possible. For example:
- Create shorter versions of blog posts and include them in email newsletters with a link to the longer articles.
- Add written content to infographics to transform the visuals into blog posts.
- Share blog posts on social media.
- Make throwback posts, reminding followers of your achievements in the past and looking at how far you’ve come.
- Imbed videos into blog posts and emails.
10. Market Your Events
Marketing for nonprofits is a continuous activity. Throughout the year, you’re keeping fans up to date with news and attracting new volunteers, activists, and donors. However, when you have an event coming up, it’s time to take your marketing to another level to build excitement for the big day. After all, the more attendees you have, the better it will be for your organization.
Make it extra easy for people to find information and register for your event. Send links in your email newsletters, put a button leading to the event page on the homepage of your website (or perhaps on every page) above the fold. On the event page itself, include a calendar, map, and other key information. You may like to use a tool like Eventbrite to collect RSVPs — you can also use this to host online events.
11. Analyze and Improve
In every marketing campaign, there’s room for improvement. During your first campaigns, in particular, you’ll have little idea what will work for your specific organization and target audience. This is why analyzing campaigns is critical — you can find out what went well and what you need to change.
It’s always a good idea to run A/B tests to compare different ideas to see what works best. You’ll often find that the smallest details — like the color and placement of buttons or the wording in your email subject lines — make a big difference.
Nonprofits have quite different needs from for-profit businesses, meaning you need to turn to a distinct set of marketing tactics. Whereas learning about strategies for marketing a business in general can be useful, understanding nonprofit marketing best practices in particular will be the key to your success.