Content Marketing

The Ultimate Guide To Marketing a Nonprofit Organization

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Published: December 30, 2021 (Updated: January 6, 2022)

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Nonprofit organizations help bring awareness and change to issues from around the country and the globe. Though they serve an important purpose and their focus is often charitable, they may have fewer resources or smaller budgets than for-profit companies. This can affect many areas of the organization, including marketing. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do when marketing a nonprofit to work within your constraints and still gain recognition for your organization. In this guide, we’re sharing the tips and tricks you can use to make that happen.

What Is Nonprofit Marketing?

Nonprofit marketing involves using strategies and tactics to broadcast the mission of a nonprofit organization to the public. You can also use it to solicit donors and recruit supporters and volunteers. An important element of this type of marketing is branding, which includes logos, written copy, and developing a brand voice for interactions between the organization and the audience. It also involves creating marketing campaigns to spread a message to potential leads or people who may not already know about your organization and its mission.

Is Marketing a Nonprofit Difficult?

It can be trickier to market a nonprofit organization compared to a for-profit company. It’s harder to market causes and ideas compared to products and services. But many nonprofit organizations have strong missions and values, which lend themselves to adaptation for marketing materials. Nonprofits also generally have smaller marketing budgets, which can make some types of advertising and promotion more difficult to achieve.

Some organizations may have a smaller or inexperienced marketing staff whose primary job isn’t to create materials or advertise, but they take on those responsibilities. The target audience of a nonprofit may also have a larger or more diverse demographic. This means that you may have to organize messages and marketing channels by niches and subgroups. Because of all these factors, it may be harder to generate leads for donors, volunteers, or potential sponsors compared to traditional consumers. Though the more you learn and the more you practice, marketing a nonprofit can get easier.

Why Should You Market a Nonprofit Organization?

There are many reasons marketing a nonprofit can be beneficial, including:

Raising Awareness

Nonprofit marketing increases awareness of your organization. While there may be many similar groups that support your cause, you want people to understand what makes yours different and why they should support your organization through donations and participation. Working on branding your nonprofit through marketing to get more people to recognize your organization’s images, colors, logos, and fonts can help.

Raising Money

The more people who know about your organization increases the number of people who may be interested in or willing to donate to your cause. Donations can come from all sources, from individual patrons to big corporations. Marketing gives you the opportunities to find these people, especially to locate corporate sponsorships or partnership opportunities that can lead to more cash inflow for your group.

Keeping Donors and Patrons

When you work for a nonprofit, you appreciate any donation. But securing long-term patrons or donors can be extra helpful. This is because, with monthly donations, you can count on a specific amount of money coming into the organization and more easily plan for things like events or charity projects.

Through marketing, you can show your continuous donors what you’re doing with their money. This can help them feel like they’re making a positive difference in people’s lives. Marketing can also show donors things you plan to do in the future and how more contributions can make those plans a reality.

Recruiting Volunteers

Many nonprofit organizations operate with smaller full- or part-time staff members to reduce expenses. For this reason, they often rely on volunteers to help execute their fundraisers and other projects. Marketing can help potential volunteers learn about your organization’s mission, the work you do, and the events or activities you plan. If someone sees an event they’re interested in attending, they may also consider signing up to work. Plus, volunteers are 66% more likely to donate money to an organization when they also provide their time or talents to its cause.

Promoting Services

Just like for-profit organizations, nonprofits can use marketing to promote services. This can help people that need your resources learn how and where to access certain benefits. Marketing can also help promote “fun” services like fundraisers, community events, or other initiatives you offer that may not fall into a traditional services category.

Strategies for Marketing a Nonprofit

Nonprofit marketing strategies can help you execute a plan for getting your message out to the community. Some strategies may overlap, so it’s encouraged to use them together to reach your highest potential. But, if you’re new to nonprofit marketing or have a small team, starting with just one area can be beneficial. Here are a few strategies you can implement:

Email Marketing

Email marketing can be an effective way to ask for volunteers or solicit online donations. By collecting addresses and creating a list of subscribers, you can access people interested in your mission in a personalized way. Options for using email marketing include:

  • Sending weekly, bimonthly, or monthly newsletters with updates about the organization
  • Issuing emails for donation opportunities, such as for GivingTuesday
  • Creating an email campaign that sends several emails to new subscribers at different intervals over a specific period after signing up

 

You can collect names for an email list in several ways, including manually taking addresses, adding a form on your website, or sharing the steps in your hard-copy newsletter.

Event Marketing

Many nonprofit organizations hold events, either fundraisers, celebrations, or other gatherings for their supporters or donors. Running or sponsoring events is a way to connect with a community and raise awareness for an organization. When choosing an event to host, consider your audience and your mission. What do members of your audience like to do? What time do they like to attend events? Can you adapt their interests to create a theme that fits your mission? Popular fundraising events include:

  • Charity walks and runs
  • Music festivals
  • Auctions
  • Fairs or carnivals
  • Dinners
  • Dances
  • Casino nights
  • Raffles
  • Craft shows or vendor fairs
  • Golf outings

 

If you’re taking part in an event rather than running one, you can also promote it with event marketing. For example, if you’re taking part in a community day event for your town by running a booth, you can advertise your presence to encourage your supporters to attend. You can also use other marketing strategies, like social media or email marketing, to promote your events as well.

Video Marketing

Did you know that 53% of marketers say that video helps them raise awareness of their campaigns or causes? Video is one of the fastest-growing marketing strategies and you can use it alone or with others to get more views and reach on your content. Tailor video marketing to the different subsections of your audience to share the right message with the right people. You can also use this strategy to create personal connections with your audience that evoke emotion and empathy and encourage shareability on social media platforms.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is a free and somewhat easy way to get your name out to the largest audience possible. While having a profile alone doesn’t correlate to instant visibility and success, it’s the first step and one of the first tools you can use to put in the work and capture a share of audience attention. You can create social media content to help your organization:

  • Share news about your cause
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Fundraise
  • Find employees and volunteers
  • Thank and recognize patrons, sponsors, donors, or volunteers

 

Each social platform serves its own function and purpose and can draw a different demographic or audience. With research, you can determine which platforms help convey your message best to the right audience.

Website Marketing

One of the most important steps for any organization that wants to engage in marketing, nonprofit or for-profit, is to have a website. Your website serves as the online central hub for all your organization’s information. You can include links to your social profiles, post and share content like blog posts, and provide more information about your mission and events.

The website is a hosting location that you can link back to from other channels. For example, you may share a post about an upcoming event on social media, then link back to the registration landing page hosted on your website. Having one increases your ability to create and share content online, which can positively affect your organic search engine rankings when you engage in search engine optimization (SEO) for your pages and pieces.

Public Speaking Marketing

Don’t just let your words on a page do the talking. Go out and captivate your audience with public speaking engagements. Similar to how video can encourage empathy and emotion in viewers, public speaking can help an audience feel the same if you deliver the speech the right way. As a marketer, you may not be the person going out to these events, but the leaders in your organization might, and you can help them find the best places to do it.

Whether your spokespeople talk at a large conference or local event, or staff a booth at a fair or showcase, these are opportunities to have your story and vision told by humans to humans. This experience extends to streaming methods too, such as webinars, online conferences, and video discussion panels. Consider recording public speaking engagements to share on your social media channels and website for even more reach and extended viewing.

Content Marketing

Content marketing pairs well with other types of nonprofit marketing strategies to get all your messages out to the audience in a way they can understand and in a way that excites them. You can share content marketing through a variety of channels, such as your website, social media, or print materials. Benefits of using content marketing include:

  • Educating your audience about your mission and industry trends
  • Soliciting new visitors, donors, leads, or subscribers through organic means
  • Creating easily shareable content to generate free PR
  • Repurposing ideas into different types of media to save your team time

 

Types of content you may create include:

  • Blog posts
  • Informational articles
  • eBooks
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Social media posts
  • Interviews
  • Newsletters
  • Free or downloadable resources relating to your cause

 

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Transactional or Partnership Marketing

This type of marketing requires a partnership with a for-profit organization or corporation. That company hosts a fundraising event for the nonprofit, in which a portion of the sales on a certain day or within a certain period go to your organization. For example, a high school sports team may hold a fundraising night at a restaurant like Applebees, where they receive a portion of the money made between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

These partnerships can happen online, too. For example, the Amazon Smile program allows online shoppers to choose and donate to a nonprofit organization every time they shop on the site. Groups can collect up to 0.5% of the eligible profit. These campaigns benefit both businesses because they create double the awareness and sometimes more revenue.

Point-of-Sale Marketing

Point-of-sale marketing strategies add donation requests to the final stages of a purchase someone makes. For example, if your organization sells any type of merchandise, such as tote bags or books, you can add the option for an additional donation through your online checkout, or put a donation box by your cash register.

This can be effective because the customer is already spending money and may share more for a good cause. For example, the pop culture retailer BoxLunch, while a for-profit company, asks shoppers to round up their purchase totals to the nearest dollar to provide meals for a local food bank.

SEO Marketing

SEO marketing is a way to help your organization focus on areas where you could receive more organic traffic online, such as on your website, in your content, or on social media channels. For that reason, this is a strategy you can use with others to get better results with the same amount of resources. To engage in SEO marketing, develop a list of keywords related to your organization and its cause that people may search for online. Apply those keywords in your content. You can also conduct keyword research using free tools and programs to increase your organic traffic.

PPC Marketing

PPC stands for pay-per-click advertising. This is a type of marketing that allows you to get your message out across search engines and other websites. You incur a fee when someone clicks on one of your ads. This strategy can be costly for a nonprofit, but using it isn’t impossible. There are grant and funding programs available for these types of organizations to conduct PPC marketing. Consider the benefits of using the strategy to decide if it’s a fit for your organization.

Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing is typically any type of advertising you’d experience offline. This includes print publications, television or radio ads, and billboards. Traditional marketing can be popular for nonprofits, especially if you can create the materials yourself, such as a print newsletter. You can also partner with a local organization to showcase your advertisements, such as with a company that rents billboard space. Using traditional and online marketing together can help you reach more potential donors and volunteers.

How To Create a Nonprofit Marketing Plan

Creating a plan for a nonprofit organization shares many characteristics with creating one for a for-profit company. The difference is you may have more limited funds or resources available to execute your plan as a nonprofit. Being prepared and looking for all contingencies can help ensure you’re putting what you have to the best use. Follow these steps to create your plan:

1. Define Your Goals

Why are you trying to market your nonprofit? Setting goals can help you understand the purpose of creating your marketing campaign and in what ways you can work to make it benefit the organization. Brainstorm up to five ways you’d like to improve your nonprofit and how you could make those things happen. Then take the ideas and convert them into SMART goals. The acronym SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

 

Using SMART goals can make it easier to measure your progress and success at the end of a campaign because they provide easy points to track.

2. Study Your Audience

Unlike other types of marketing, when you’re working with a nonprofit, you may have multiple subgroups that fall into your audience. Instead of just one demographic of consumers, you may target volunteers, donors, clients, patrons, or other stakeholders. It’s important to understand each one of these subgroups individually and how they connect to one another. Your marketing may differ depending on which group you target, but learning where the groups have similarities can help you determine if you can use similar tactics or messages across groups.

3. Create Your Messages

Your key marketing messages share the information you want your audience to learn, know, and remember about your organization. It’s important to focus on these because they:

  • Align the goals of your organization
  • Simplify your marketing efforts
  • Organize your audience’s subsections

 

Reviewing your organization’s mission, goals, and vision can help you discover what your key messages are and then determine how to share them with your audience. Do you need help to craft the right messaging and content for different segments? Start a free call with CopyPress to talk with our strategists and learn how our creative team can turn your messages into copy that gets results.

4. Choose and Implement Your Marketing Strategies

After figuring out what you want to achieve with your campaigns and what you’re going to say to whom, you can start deciding how to share that information with the public. Your marketing strategies include the specific channels you use and where you showcase the material. When trying to decide if a marketing tactic is a good choice for your plan, ask yourself questions like:

  • What can we do with this marketing tactic?
  • When can we implement these activities?
  • Why is this tactic important to the plan?
  • Who executes this tactic?
  • How much can we spend on this marketing tactic?
  • How does this tactic support the overall organization’s goals?

 

5. Review Your Performance

Use analytics to help you understand what parts of your plan work and which ones you can improve. You can make adjustments throughout your marketing campaign, apply changes to your next one, or both. Pay attention to the measurable factors and indicators associated with your marketing tactics. These are the numbers and statistics you can track to learn how popular your marketing is with your audience. Some performance indicators you can track include:

  • Email opens for email marketing
  • Video views for video marketing
  • Shares and comments on social media
  • Ticket sales for event marketing
  • Pageviews on websites
  • Subscriptions for content marketing

 

There are tools you can use to keep track of these metrics. Some are native to the platforms, such as with social media channels, while others are universal and can track data from multiple sources.

14 Tips for Marketing a Nonprofit

Use these tips to enhance your nonprofit marketing:

1. Choose Automation

Automate your nonprofit marketing as much as you can. Email marketing automation, in particular, can save you time, especially if you share newsletters or create campaigns where multiple emails go out over time. Automation lets you set triggers for when to send a certain email. For example, someone who signs up for the list from a form on your website may trigger a welcome email upon hitting the submit button. This allows you to prepare the campaign but then let it run on its own, so you can keep your audience satisfied without a marketer putting in additional work.

2. Curate Content

You don’t have to create every article, post, or piece of content yourself. Use your network of volunteers, team members, sponsors, and donors to supply additional content. Not only does this strategy decrease the amount of work your marketing team has to do, but it also acts as social proof that your organization is legitimate, helpful, and popular with an audience. Similar to automation, some tools can help you find content to curate. Conducting social listening through a content management system can be effective in finding new pieces to share.

3. Repurpose Ideas

You can save your resources and your time by repurposing content. This means taking an idea or a piece you’ve already done and turning it into something new. Doing this can save you money because you’re reusing things you’ve already created or paid for rather than starting from scratch each time. For example, you could take a topic or a recording of your organization leader speaking at an event and turn their speech topic into a blog post.

4. Engage in Storytelling

Sometimes, telling a story rather than stating a fact is more successful when trying to get people to feel connected to a cause. In a for-profit business, telling consumers how a product can save them time or make their life easier may be enough to get people to buy the item.

But when “selling” compassion or values, a statistic may not be as effective because it may not affect the audience directly. But telling a story and pulling people into the narrative of someone who needs or benefits from your services can evoke empathy. That may drive people’s decisions to donate, volunteer, or otherwise support your cause.

5. Use Multi-Channel Marketing

Multi-channel marketing is simply using different platforms and methods to share your message. If you share the same content through email, social media, and your website, you’re already engaging in multi-channel marketing. While it may sound like doing this is more work than just focusing on one area, it’s not. This is another way to repurpose content. You’re creating one piece, but you’re sharing it in three different places to catch audience members where they’re most likely to see it.

6. Add Calls-To-Action

Like generating empathy through video and storytelling, adding calls-to-action (CTAs) to your content, website, emails, and social profiles may encourage people to do something rather than passively engage with the message you share.

For example, if you want people to donate to your cause, don’t just say “your donation can help.” Be specific. Say something like “donate now to save a life.” Include language that evokes empathy and urgency by using words like “now” or “limited time.” That pushes people to act at the moment rather than navigating away to think about completing an action and not returning.

7. Apply for a “Donate Now” Button

Facebook has an option to add a “Donate Now” button to posts on nonprofit business pages. This gives social media users a safe and secure way to give your organization money without leaving the site or app. You can follow Facebook’s instructions on how to add this button to your posts and content to share it with followers.

8. Explore Google Ad Grants

Many nonprofits operate with smaller budgets than for-profit businesses, which can make traditional advertising or paid advertising less appealing, even if it gets results. The Google Ad Grants program awards up to $10,000 per month for select organizations to use for ads shown on the search engine. There are also other grant programs for nonprofits, not just for ads but for a lot of purposes, which you can pursue to help your marketing efforts.

9. Learn Donor Psychology

Yes, there are certain psychological principles about why people do what they do concerning donating their money or time. For-profit companies research consumer psychology, or how people decide on what to buy. Nonprofits can do the same in their sectors. Learning this information can help you better craft your marketing messages and understand how to structure campaigns in a way that moves people through your funnel to achieve the desired result.

10. Segment Your Email List

We talked about the different subgroups of your audience that you target with different messages and materials. To make sure you’re getting the right pieces out to the right people, consider segmenting your email list. This is the process of breaking your subscriber list into smaller groups to send more targeted communications. For example, you may send your calls for volunteering to a segmented list of people who expressed interest in donating their time to your organization.

11. Go Mobile

In all aspects of your marketing, make it mobile-friendly. More people use mobile devices to access the internet, email, social media, and other methods of communication. Some ways to prepare for this type of usage include:

  • Optimizing your website for viewing on a mobile device
  • Use an email program that regulates how your communications appear when opened with a mobile client
  • Use social media platforms with mobile apps
  • Use text messaging subscriptions to converse with your donors and volunteers

 

12. Embrace Branding

Branding is important for organization recognition and proving its legitimacy to the public. This is especially true for donation pages, emails, and materials. Creating custom donation forms and materials branded to your campaigns can help increase trust in the donation source, increasing the number of donations you may receive. Consider using your company name, logo, and tagline for all donation materials but creating slightly different artwork, colors, or designs to distinguish one campaign from another.

13. Take a Test

Testing can be helpful in marketing to make sure your messages and materials are reaching the most people and affecting them the right way. Running A/B tests can help you compare two different versions of the same material to see which is more favorable to your audience. You can test elements like:

  • Appeal storylines
  • Language and tone of CTAs
  • Visual elements in emails
  • Donate button placement, size, or shape
  • Email subject lines

 

Test just one element at a time so that you can learn exactly which ones affect a volunteer or donor’s decisions to complete or not complete an action.

14. Use a CRM or CMS

If possible, use a customer relationship management (CRM) program or a content management system (CMS), or both, to help your marketing efforts. A CRM helps you manage your list of subscribers, donors, volunteers, or people who interact with the organization. It’s an excellent tool for segmenting lists and figuring out who is the best target for what information. A CMS can help you with content, social media, and email marketing to take that information and implement it into scheduled and planned campaigns to target the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

6 Marketing Tools for Nonprofits

There are many tools you can use to help you prepare to market your nonprofit. A selection of those to get you started include:

  1. Google for Nonprofits: Google has a dashboard just for nonprofit organizations that want to use or engage with their services. Offerings may vary by country, but in the United States, you can access Google Workspace, Ad Grants, a YouTube collaboration, and data visualization through Google Maps and Earth.
  2. Grammarly: Grammarly is an editing tool that lets you check your written content for spelling and grammatical errors. Using it can help you share more polished content that’s easier for your audience to read.
  3. Canva: Canva is one of many graphic design programs that allows you to create images with little or no formal training. It can help you design logos, banners, infographics, and other visual materials.
  4. Google Analytics: This tool can provide insights into your audience engagement and online activity. Tracking these numbers can help you understand the success of your campaigns and learn where you can make improvements.
  5. SEMrush: SEMrush can help you with SEO marketing. It lets you find keywords you can use in your content to increase your organic search traffic.
  6. Portent SERP Preview: This program lets you discover what your page looks like as a search engine result. It can show you if your title or description is too long for the display.

 

There are some similarities in how nonprofit and for-profit organizations conduct their marketing. Whether you’re a small or large group, knowing the best ways to advertise, or the options you have for marketing with a limited team or budget, can help you make smart but effective decisions to capture your audience and increase awareness and engagement.

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