You can be doing the most important work in the world at your nonprofit, but if you don’t promote it and share it with the community and the world, you’ll never get anywhere. No one will know about it, and even worse, you won’t get the funding you deserve.
There are a lot of different ways that you can get the word out, and in this article, we’ll show you how to promote a nonprofit organization effectively. We’ll explain how to identify your target audience, set goals, and create strategies to help take your organization to the next level.
Let’s get started.
Importance of Promoting a Nonprofit Organization
When you promote your nonprofit organization, you drive visibility to its great work.
If you don’t learn how to get the word out about your organization, you will have a difficult time accomplishing anything because you’ll lack the community and stakeholder support needed to get things done.
Below are three reasons why promoting your nonprofit is so crucial to both your organization’s short-term and long-term health.
To Boost Awareness
At its core, promoting a nonprofit helps raise awareness of its cause.
While awareness may eventually translate to donor dollars, that recognition is the first step. You have to start with an audience knowing what your organization is and what it stands for.
For example, when you see people wearing pink ribbons in October, you probably automatically think about breast cancer awareness as a whole. If you are engaged in the community, you may think of a specific organization like the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
That’s the importance of awareness. It informs at a glance. When people hear about your nonprofit, you want them to immediately remember and recognize what you do and what you stand for. And when they do, they’ll be more inclined to support you.
To Raise Funds
Hand-in-hand with raising awareness is raising funds when it comes to the importance of promoting nonprofit organizations.
A great nonprofit promotion strategy can help drive donations. Digital and printed campaigns help keep your organization top of mind, and you can also include asks within the promotional material you send.
Even though you’re not trying to make a profit like corporations, promotion is still essential for your nonprofit’s success. It’s incredibly important to get the word out about your nonprofit so that you raise more money and win more grants because people know you’re someone they can trust.
To Drive Participation
Lastly, nonprofit promotion can help drive participation in your organization. When you get the word out about your nonprofit and its mission, you’re able to inspire people to get involved.
This involvement can happen in different ways, all of which can be beneficial to your organization. People may want to volunteer their time, attend a fundraising event, or even share about your organization on their social media accounts.
Getting people to engage and participate with your organization is a great way to advance your nonprofit’s mission.
Identifying Target Audience
The first step in any promotional campaign is to identify your target audience. Your target audience is who you hope to reach with your promotional materials.
While you can have catch-all communications, it’s best to identify your exact target audience so that you can best tailor your communications toward them.
Many organizations create personas for their target audiences to help get an idea of the average person they are trying to reach. And if your nonprofit has a few different target audiences, you can create separate personas for each.
To create your persona, start by brainstorming key characteristics of the target audience you are trying to engage with. Consider things like their:
Organizations or causes they support
Once you have properly identified your target audience, you can use this information to inform your promotional strategies.
For example, say you’ve determined that the audience you are trying to reach is made up of mostly millennials and Gen Zers. If that’s the case, sending printed promotional materials in the mail may not be the best strategy. They may look at a printed letter and immediately throw it in the trash. Instead, it would probably be better to try to engage with them online through direct email campaigns.
If you need help creating personas, ask around! Send a survey to active employees and volunteers to get an idea of who is already involved. Use those characteristics to create your personas, and once you get some ideas, keep refining them until you get the ideal persona.
And the more specific you can be when creating a persona, the better. That way, when you have multiple people working on marketing and communication strategies, you all have the same target audience in mind.
Understanding your audience on a deep level can help your nonprofit promotional efforts perform better, allowing you to maximize your investments in the right channels.
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Every nonprofit should have specific goals and objectives for promoting their organization.
Having clear objectives for getting the word out about your nonprofit helps ensure that your whole team is aligned on your goals and has clear guidance on how to achieve them.
It can be tempting to simply throw different proportional strategies out there and see what sticks. However, you won’t get a clear understanding of what worked well, what needs tweaking, and what you can skip moving forward.
When you’re looking to set promotional goals and objectives for your organization, consider using the SMART methodology. SMART stands for goals that are:
For example, maybe you want to increase your social media following. A sample SMART goal could be to increase Instagram followers by 10 percent by the end of the fiscal year.
You should then outline strategies for how you plan to do that. Make sure to get as specific as possible, such as scheduling weekly posts, creating monthly videos, etc.
Once you have your SMART goals for promoting your nonprofit organization, periodically check in on them throughout the year. How well are you achieving them? Do you need to tweak your approach?
Having set goals and objectives in place gives you something to measure your efforts by so that you can make informed decisions moving forward.
Developing a Promotion Strategy
Now that you have your target audience in mind and you’ve set your goals, it’s time to start planning how to promote your nonprofit! This is the exciting part because there are a lot of different promotion strategies and tactics that you can use.
Here are some common strategies to help you promote your nonprofit.
Printed Promotional Strategies
Printed promotional materials are more traditional, but they often come with a higher cost.
You need to pay to have the physical materials created, and depending on how you plan to distribute them, there may be additional costs you will incur in terms of packaging and postage. However, with the right target audience, printed promotional materials can be incredibly effective!
When you think about mailed promotional material, think of solicitation letters, brochures, magazines, newsletters, and more. Anything that you are sending directly to your audience at their home or work address counts as mailed collateral.
For example, check out this brochure from Water for People that includes tons of information about their mission and the work they are doing. It also provides actionable ways for donors to get involved.
Your mailed collateral should tell a unique story and should be visual, engaging, and actionable.
Brand swag is another great promotional strategy. Brand swag can be anything that you give away that helps boost awareness of your organization.
For example, maybe you’re throwing a fundraising race and each attendee gets a free t-shirt for registering that includes your nonprofit’s logo and the cause the race is supporting.
Not only will the attendees wear their shirts on the day of the race, but they also might wear them from time to time in their everyday lives—further spreading awareness of your organization!
Your brand swag doesn’t just have to be apparel. It could also be pens, notebooks, keychains, coffee cups, wristbands, and more. Hope For the Day has wristbands with their mission printed on them, which can be a great conversation starter. Every time the person wears it, it increases awareness and helps promote your nonprofit.
Brand swag can help build brand recognition, so while these items can be expensive, they are definitely worth considering.
Digital Promotional Strategies
Digital marketing materials are easier to experiment with when learning how to promote a nonprofit organization.
Other than the indirect cost of labor, there’s no true cost associated with these items if you produce them in-house, so you can be as creative and innovative as you want with little risk.
As you set your digital marketing strategy, keep the following channels in mind.
For many, your website is going to be their first impression of your organization, so make sure that it’s branded, error-free, and educational. A person should be able to tell what you stand for by a glance.
Also, make sure to include easy ways to donate, get involved, and opt-in for more information. The Trevor Project does a great job of this. Not only is the mission front and center, but there are also clear ways to donate and access their resources.
Many nonprofits overlook social media, but it’s a great way to engage with audiences, build awareness, and recruit volunteers. You can create organic posts and utilize trending hashtags to get to the right audiences, or you can even pay to boost posts.
As you’re choosing which social media platform to use, look at your market research to see which will help you best reach your target demographic.
Email is a great promotion strategy that you can use to solicit donations, inform donors of current happenings, invite them to events, and more. They’re more cost efficient because they are not printed.
It’s best to keep attention spans in mind when creating email content. You run the risk of losing your audiences when your materials are too long. Instead, opt for being short and to the point. You can always direct people to your website for more information.
Remember, when you use email, it’s easier to track the metrics. You can look at open rates, click rates, and more to see what works and what needs to be adjusted.
Paid ads are another way to boost awareness, but they can quickly get costly. Luckily, qualified nonprofits can participate in the Google Ad Grants which give nonprofits up to $10,000 per month of free search advertising to help increase their visibility.
Advertising is a great way to get your name out there, as long as you properly target it.
Bonus Tip: Use Data to Analyze Your Performance
Because your resources will be limited, it’s critical that you take a look at what’s working and what needs to be adjusted.
For printed collateral, you can use specific links or QR codes to identify how successful a specific campaign was. For digital elements, make sure you are monitoring things like open rates, likes, and website visits.
You can also survey those involved with your organization to see what they would like to see from you to more effectively promote your nonprofit. The more data you get, the more refined your promotional strategies will be. Ultimately, this will translate into a higher ROI, which could mean increased donations, volunteerism, engagement, and more.
Wrapping Up: The Next Steps
Learning how to promote your nonprofit can help you better connect with your target audience and ultimately advance your organization’s mission.
Depending on your budget, your promotional strategies will probably involve a mix of printed and digital materials, carefully curated to best reach your identified target audiences.