The Ultimate Guide To Marketing a Nonprofit Organization

Christy Walters


December 30, 2021 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

woman's hands holding coins and a piece of paper that says make a change to represent marketing a nonprofit

Nonprofit organizations bring awareness and change to issues from around the country and the globe. They serve an important purpose and their focus is often charitable, but they may have fewer resources or smaller budgets than for-profit companies. This downside affects 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. Today, we’re looking at topics like:

What Is Nonprofit Marketing?

Nonprofit marketing uses strategies and tactics to broadcast the mission of the organization to the public. You can also use this strategy 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. Nonprofit marketing also involves creating campaigns to spread a message to potential leads or people who don’t 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 topics for marketing materials. Nonprofits usually have smaller marketing budgets, which makes some types of advertising and promotion more difficult.

Some organizations may have a smaller or inexperienced marketing staff. Their 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 rely more heavily on audience segmentation. Because of all these factors, it may be harder to generate leads for donors, volunteers, or potential sponsors compared to traditional consumers. Luckily, the more you learn and the more you practice, marketing a nonprofit gets easier.

Why Should You Market a Nonprofit Organization?

There are many benefits to marketing a nonprofit, including:

Raising Awareness

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

Raising Money

The more people who recognize your organization increases the number of people who are willing to donate to your cause. Donations come from all sources, like individual patrons and big corporations alike. Marketing gives you the opportunity to find these people, especially to locate corporate sponsorships or partnership opportunities. The more partnerships you create 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 is extra helpful. 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, show your continuous donors what you’re doing with their money. This proof helps them feel like they’re making a positive difference in people’s lives. Marketing also shows 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 a smaller full- or part-time staff to reduce expenses. They often rely on volunteers to help pull off their fundraisers and other projects. Marketing helps 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 volunteering for it. 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. Marketing helps people that need your resources learn how and where to access them. Marketing also helps promotes “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 help you get your message out to the community. Some strategies overlap, so you get the best results when you use them together. But, if you’re new to nonprofit marketing or have a small team, starting with just one area is beneficial, too. Here are a few strategies to try:

Email Marketing

Email marketing is an effective way to ask for volunteers or solicit online donations. Collect addresses and create a list of subscribers. Then, you can contact 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 drip 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. Consider manually taking addresses, adding a form on your website, or sharing the steps to sign up in your hard-copy newsletter.

Event Marketing

Many nonprofit organizations hold events 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
  • Auctions
  • Fairs or carnivals
  • Dinners
  • Dances
  • Golf outings

Your nonprofit can also sponsor or take part in other events rather than host them. For example, if your group has a booth at the community day event for your town, advertise your presence. Encourage your supporters to attend through social media or email marketing.

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 to get more views and reach. Tailor video marketing to your audience segments 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. Making your audience feel something encourages 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. 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. Individual ones draw different demographics or audience segments. With research, you can determine which platforms share your messages best with the right audience.

Website Marketing

One of the most important steps for any organization 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. Here, 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 on your website. Having this hub positively affects 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 encourages empathy and emotion in viewers, public speaking helps an audience feel the same if you deliver the speech the right way. Marketers may not be the ones going out to these events, but the leaders in your organization might, and your team helps them find the best places to do it.

Whether your spokespeople talk at a large conference or local event, 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. 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 media to save your team time

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 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. It receives a portion of the money made at the restaurant between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursday night.

These partnerships 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 the purchasing process. 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. In person, you could put a donation box by your cash register.

This strategy is 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. You can use this strategy 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 that people search for online. Use those keywords in your content. You can also conduct keyword research using free tools and programs to increase your organic traffic.

If you’re stuck on just what areas you should cover, turn to the experts for help. Request your free content marketing analysis from CopyPress today. This report reveals gaps in your current content marketing and how your strategies stack up against your top competitors. These insights guide your team to create pieces your audience wants to see, and that promote your nonprofit best.

“CopyPress gives us the ability to work with more dealership groups. We are able to provide unique and fresh content for an ever growing customer base. We know that when we need an influx of content to keep our clients ahead of the game in the automotive landscape, CopyPress can handle these requests with ease.”

Kevin Doory

Director of SEO at Auto Revo

PPC Marketing

PPC stands for pay-per-click advertising. This type of marketing allows you to get your message across search engines and other websites, but you pay 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.

Related: SEO vs PPC: When To Use Each Marketing Strategy

Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing is typically any type of advertising you’d experience offline. It includes print publications, television or radio ads, and billboards. Traditional marketing is popular for nonprofits, especially if you 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 helps you reach more potential donors and volunteers.

Related: Traditional Marketing and Digital Marketing: What’s the Difference?

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 as a nonprofit. Being prepared and looking for all contingencies helps 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 helps 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 makes 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

Instead of just one demographic of consumers, a nonprofit may target volunteers, donors, clients, patrons, or other stakeholders. It’s important to understand each one of these segments 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 helps 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 helps you discover what your key messages are. Then you can determine how to share them with your audience. Do you need help crafting 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.

Related: What Is a Message Framework and How Do You Create One?

4. Choose and Implement Your Marketing Strategies

Decide how to share your message information with the public. Your marketing strategies include the specific channels you use and where you showcase the material. When deciding 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. 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 for social media channels. Others are universal and 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, saves 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 flow allows you to prepare the campaign manually, but then let it run on its own so you can keep your audience satisfied without 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. This strategy decreases the amount of work your marketing team has to do. It also acts as social proof that your organization is legitimate, helpful, and popular with an audience. Similar to automation, curation tools help you find content to share.

3. Repurpose Ideas

Save your resources and your time by repurposing content. Take an idea or a piece you’ve already done and turn it into something new. Following this strategy saves 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

Telling a story, rather than stating a fact, is more successful when trying to get people to feel connected to a cause. When “selling” compassion or values, a statistic isn’t 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 evokes empathy. That feeling drives people’s decisions to donate, volunteer, or otherwise support your cause.

5. Use Multi-Channel Marketing

Multi-channel marketing uses 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 marketing on multiple channels is more work than just focusing on one area, it’s not. It’s another way to repurpose content. You’re creating one piece, but 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 encourages 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 in the moment rather than navigating away.

7. Apply for a “Donate Now” Button

Facebook has the option to add a “Donate Now” button to posts on nonprofit business pages. This feature gives social media users a secure way to give your organization money without leaving the site or app. 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

Having a smaller budget makes traditional advertising or paid advertising less appealing for nonprofits. 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 other grant programs for nonprofits, not just for ads but for many purposes, which you can use to help your marketing efforts.

9. Learn Donor Psychology

There are certain psychological principles about why people do what they do when 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 helps 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, segment your email list. By breaking your subscriber list into smaller groups, you can send more targeted communications. For example, you may send your calls for volunteering to a segmented list of people who asked about 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 and other methods of communication than ever before. 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 message direct marketing 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 increases trust in the donation source. When the audience has more trust in your brand, it boosts 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. Prioritize Testing

Testing is helpful in marketing to make sure your messages and materials reach the most people and affect them the right way. Running A/B tests helps you compare two versions of the same content to see which your audience likes better. 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 which ones influence 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 helps you with content, social media, and email marketing. The tool lets you take that information from the CRM 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 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 its services. Offerings 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 helps 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. Use it to design logos, banners, infographics, and other visual materials.
  4. Google Analytics: This tool provides insights into your audience engagement and online activity. Tracking these numbers helps you understand the success of your campaigns and learn where you can make improvements.
  5. SEMrush: SEMrush helps with SEO marketing. The tool 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 shows if your title or description is too long for the display.

Whether you’re a small or large nonprofit, knowing the best ways to advertise, or the options you have for marketing, helps you make smart but effective decisions. When you make the right calls, you can capture your audience’s attention and increase awareness and engagement for your organization and its cause.

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

More from the author:

Read More About Content Marketing