Effective marketing for nonprofits is critical to an organization’s success. After all, if no one knows about you and your organization, you’ll never get the funding you need to make a real difference.
In this article, we’ve put together seven strategies to help you increase awareness for your cause. We’ll cover how to create clear goals, how to understand your target audience, how to develop engaging content, and more.
Let’s get started.
Importance of Effective Marketing for Nonprofits
Before we dive into the importance of marketing for nonprofits, let’s first briefly cover what nonprofit marketing is.
Nonprofit marketing is how you promote your organization, sharing its mission, vision, values, and impact on the world around you to achieve a desired outcome. Its purpose is to raise awareness of your cause and foster overall engagement.
Below we go into more detail explaining three reasons why nonprofit marketing is so important to your organization’s success.
First and foremost, nonprofit marketing is important because it increases awareness of your organization.
At the end of the day, if no one knows about your nonprofit, no one will give to it and no one will benefit from it. People can only know who you are, what you stand for, and what you hope to achieve when you properly promote yourself.
The ASPCA does a great job of this, running ads on TV, YouTube, and other platforms to help show that animals in need require assistance and what your donation could do. Many people even associate the song from the commercial (“Angel” by Sarah McLaughlin) with the nonprofit organization now.
That’s some powerful brand awareness thanks to effective marketing.
Marketing for nonprofits also helps inspire individuals to get involved with your organization.
Nonprofit marketing is a great way to recruit volunteers by sharing about the impact your organization is making and how others can help.
The American Red Cross of Tennessee recently shared a call for volunteers on their Instagram page, highlighting the various ways that people can get involved with the organization and directing them to a link in bio for more information.
Whether you get one volunteer from a post or just a few new followers, you can consider it a win because you’re boosting engagement that could later turn into a bigger investment down the line.
The biggest benefit of nonprofit marketing is that it can inspire giving.
When people are more aware of your organization and the impact it’s making, it’s more likely that they will want to contribute financially to help further that impact.
Having a strong nonprofit marketing strategy should help you raise money for your organization, and if it doesn’t, you’re probably not doing it right. You have a story to tell, and that story should help inspire others to want to get involved and give to your cause.
Strategies for Effective Nonprofit Marketing
Nonprofit marketing is about more than just throwing material out there and hoping that it sticks.
Instead, it’s important to develop a strategic marketing plan that’s designed to help you maximize your efforts and achieve your marketing goals.
Below we’ve compiled seven strategies you can use to effectively market your nonprofit organization.
Create Clear Goals
For your nonprofit marketing to be most effective, you must have a clear understanding of what success looks like.
Many people use the SMART methodology (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) to set their goals. This helps ensure that their marketing goals are as deliberate and intentional as possible.
Sample goals could be:
Raise $20,000 through direct mailers by the end of the fiscal year.
Double social media following in Q1.
Increase email open rates by 20 percent by the end of the year.
Ultimately, your marketing goals should roll up into your strategic plan. They should help advance the overarching mission and vision of your organization.
As you set your marketing goals, make sure to keep your budget in mind. If you don’t have the budget allocated for print materials, don’t include them in one of your goals. Also, don’t blow your budget on one campaign out of the gate. Take the time to assess its success rate and make adjustments as necessary.
Having clear marketing goals helps you make the most of your marketing efforts and ensures everyone is on the same page from the start.
Understand Your Audience
Marketing strategies that resonate with the Boomer generation may not necessarily appeal to Gen Z, so it’s important that you understand your audience.
One way that people do this is by creating personas. Personas are sample profiles of individuals who are in your target audience. In these personas, you can use information like:
A persona should include any type of information that will help you get a sense of your target audience. You can even have multiple personas to help you best target different audiences that support your nonprofit.
You want your personas to be data-based, so look to your records to capture demographic summaries. You can also integrate questions in new or existing surveys to help you get a sense of your donor base to create personas.
Make adjustments as needed because your audience personas will be used to guide communications throughout your entire organization. The more you understand your audience, the better your marketing campaigns will perform.
Create Engaging and Informative Content
Your organization has a unique story, and it’s up to you to tell it. One of the most effective ways to do this is by creating engaging and informative content.
Sample content ideas include:
Blog posts that highlight participant stories
Videos that cover the history of your organization
Social media posts that share your tangible impact
Weekly emails that update donors on fundraising progress
For example, Habitat for Humanity does a fantastic job of creating content that resonates with its donors and inspires them to give more. They share stories that highlight the impact that they make in the community. They also make it easy for readers to sign up to volunteer and get involved.
Your nonprofit may be smaller, and your marketing budget may be more modest; however, it’s up to you to create content that captures what’s so special about your organization and why people should care.
Explore Various Communication Channels
As you think about your marketing strategies, you want to make sure to consider the various communication channels and how to most effectively utilize them.
Print: Printed materials are physical copies of letters, magazines, brochures, and other collateral that you can send to your audience. These are best when you have something to share that is more effective in print than when presented in digital form or for specific audiences who have indicated they prefer printed materials. There are costs associated with printing and mailing, so it’s best to be strategic when using this channel for marketing.
Email: Digital versions of letters, publications, and more can be delivered electronically through email. These don’t have a cost associated with them outside the indirect cost of labor; however, they are easy to delete, get delivered to spam folders, or miss completely. People opt-in and share their email with you to receive these marketing campaigns, and you can easily track performance and make adjustments in real time.
Social Media: You can engage with donors and nondonors alike when you utilize social media marketing. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are great ways to share your content with the world, allowing people to engage with you directly. This can be through written, photographic, or video content. Most platforms allow you to include links to donate or direct interested individuals to your website to learn more. We’ll cover even more social media marketing tips in a later section.
Effective nonprofit marketing campaigns feature a mix of these channels based on your specific needs, as well as your supporting budget. Don’t be afraid to adjust their ratio throughout the year to drive better results.
Evaluate Marketing Campaign Performance
Throughout the year, you need to evaluate your campaigns to see if they are performing as expected or if you need to make adjustments.
Sample ways to track performance are:
Creating unique giving codes on your printed materials to see how many gifts you get from a solicitation campaign.
Tracking the open rate for your emails.
Monitoring followers and likes on your social accounts.
Depending on your marketing campaigns, you need to identify what metrics you will use to identify if the campaign was successful or not. Don’t just wait until the campaign is over. You need to be checking in routinely so that if performance does start to slip, you can make adjustments in the moment.
The last thing you want to do is invest time and resources in a campaign only for it to fail, and you did nothing to help.
Look to Others for Inspiration
Don’t be afraid to look to others for inspiration!
Benchmark other organizations to see how they are approaching their nonprofit marketing. Look at the types of material that they send. Sign up for their distribution lists to experience it firsthand. Click through their website and annual reports.
Simply looking and engaging in the space can inspire ideas on how you can do something similar or even make it better. The nonprofit community is a small world, so there’s a lot that you can learn from one another.
Also, as long as an organization is not a direct competitor, it’s likely their leadership will be willing to talk to you about what marketing efforts have worked for them, what has fallen short, and what they wish they did differently. Leverage the connections you have in the nonprofit sector to up your marketing efforts and maximize your impact.
Be Authentically You
At the end of the day, your marketing efforts should represent your organization and what makes it unique.
Highlight your mission and why you are best able to deliver on it in the community. Share the life-changing impacts you’ve already made and how more funding could help you achieve even more.
Donors can tell when you’re not being authentic, and they will be less likely to give when they do. Marketing for nonprofits is essential for your organization’s success, but don’t abuse it by misrepresenting yourself. There’s only one organization that does what you do, so all your efforts should be in support of sharing that with the world around you.
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Social media is an important channel that you can use to up your nonprofit marketing game, and one of the first organizations to go viral while using it was the ALS Association with their Ice Bucket Challenge.
Millions of people around the United States participated in this challenge, pouring ice water over their heads to fund research and raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. That campaign alone generated $115 million for the organization.
Many organizations have tried to replicate it; however, it's hard to do. Even if you’re not going viral on social media, you can still utilize the platform for good. Social media can expand your brand visibility and reach, helping grow your following which could result in higher engagement, more donations, and more.
Social media provides nonprofits with a powerful and cost-effective means to connect with a global audience. You can use images and videos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even TikTok.
Make sure that you approach each platform with your target audience in mind. For example, the Ocean Conservancy recently used LinkedIn to share their disappointment in a recent policy change and included a call to action on how to get involved. They did not post that on Facebook. Instead, they opted to share a fun fact and link back to their website to learn more.
Both posts used visual imagery and encouraged followers to engage with their organization, but they used two different approaches that made sense for the platform at hand. Sometimes there can be overlap, but not always.
You should do the same with your organization. You can start small as you grow your social media presence. You don’t have to join every platform all at once. However, once you have multiple social channels, you may want to consider how best to engage with your target audiences to get the most engagement.
Wrapping Up: The Next Steps
A good nonprofit marketing strategy will help you raise awareness, increase donations, and inspire others to get involved with your mission.
As you set your marketing strategy, you should make sure you have clear goals, understand your audience, and create engaging and informative content that speaks to them across various channels.
At the end of the day, marketing is how you get the word out about who you are and what you stand for. If people don’t know you exist, they can’t support you—and without their support, you won’t be able to keep the doors open very long.
That’s why it’s critical you master nonprofit marketing. For even more nonprofit marketing, fundraising, and management tips, check out Instrumentl’s blog.
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