Let’s face the facts, if you’re really looking to scale up and maintain a solid flow of donations year after year, one thing is for certain—your nonprofit marketing initiatives have to be on point. Whether that’s to drive more donations, attract volunteers, or put your mission in the spotlight. Of course, there’s no one size fits all approach. Every nonprofit is unique, which influences the way that you market yourself.
By getting a good grasp on nonprofit marketing, you can pinpoint what works best for your organization and your audience!
The good news? We’re here to help. From understanding what nonprofit marketing is to putting a killer marketing plan together, consider this nonprofit marketing guide your new BFF.
In this article, you will read about the following:
What is Nonprofit Marketing?
Alright, so let’s start off with the basics. What is nonprofit marketing? Simple, it’s the different activities that you, as a nonprofit, partake in to successfully market your organization in an effort to hit your goals and achieve your mission.
Nonprofit marketing is ultimately aimed at things like:
Reaching the masses with awareness
If no one knows about your cause, how are people supposed to support it? Awareness is everything. Ever heard the term ‘brand awareness’? That’s what we’re talking about.
You need to shout your nonprofit from every rooftop, and nonprofit marketing will help you do exactly that. The more people know about the good you’re doing, the higher the chances of gaining more supporters (and more donations!).
Driving new donations and encouraging recurring ones
At the end of the day, what your organization needs to run successfully and actually make a difference is funds. Generating funds means obtaining new donations, while also encouraging recurring ones from existing donors.
This is where our favorite activity of nonprofit marketing comes into play: fundraising! Our online fundraising platform really does make it easy for your organization to create fun, engaging, and successful fundraisers literally anywhere and keep your donors coming back for more.
Recruiting volunteers to lend a helping hand
Could you imagine where your organization would be without the help of volunteers? They’re essential to your success. And, let’s not forget that 85% of volunteers donate to the nonprofits they get involved with. Because of that, you’ll want to incorporate marketing initiatives that draw them in.
These nonprofit marketing goals aren’t the end all be all. The list could go on and on, depending on what your organization is striving to conquer! But, one thing that you’ll want to keep in mind is that there are some important differentiators between marketing in the nonprofit sector versus the for-profit arena.
What’s the difference between nonprofit marketing and for-profit marketing?
When you start diving deep into your nonprofit marketing initiatives, one thing to consider is that the strategies are different from those you might see with a for-profit organization. Yes, they both share one common goal—to make money. But, the way in which the marketing is thought out, planned, and executed differs. Take note.
Nonprofit marketing is centered around giving
A for-profit company is going to build a marketing strategy focused on selling their product or service whereas a nonprofit organization needs to build a marketing strategy focused on generating donations.
Selling could be considered the easier of the two because it’s transactional–an exchange where someone pays money and receives something in return. A donation is one-way. And the reality is, asking someone to give their hard earned money for a cause will likely be more challenging. Understanding this should influence the way that you craft your nonprofit marketing strategy.
Here are some questions to consider when developing your nonprofit marketing strategy with a giving-centric approach:
- Who is my target audience?
- How old are they and what do they care about?
- What platforms do they use and where do they spend most of their time?
- What kinds of messages would resonate best with this audience?
Nonprofit marketing typically involves a smaller budget
Like any organization, the goal is to do the most with the least amount of money. But, this is especially true with nonprofit organizations since the income generated comes solely from donations.
You’re most likely no stranger to smaller marketing budgets. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t run amazing nonprofit marketing campaigns!
There are always more cost-friendly options you can consider, such as:
- Free or low-cost fundraising platforms, like RallyUp
- Organic social media marketing campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, etc.
- Free or low-cost email marketing tools, like MailChimp
- Partnerships with local businesses where you can leverage their resources for marketing purposes
Nonprofit marketing involves more than raising money
While for-profit organizations get seed money from bank loans, investors, revenue from sales, or the founder, nonprofit organizations rely solely on donations in any form such as money, supplies, products, or time.
This will affect your marketing strategy because you may not only be looking for donations to fund your cause but also recurring donations to keep the organization running.
What are the different types of nonprofit marketing?
When it comes to the different ways you can market in the nonprofit space, there is no shortage of techniques. Sky really is the limit! In general, nonprofit marketing breaks down into two different arenas, traditional marketing and digital marketing. They both offer their own unique set of benefits.
Traditional nonprofit marketing
Traditional marketing is any type of marketing strategy that existed before everything became digital. Think direct mail, print advertising, events, word of mouth, etc.
The good news is that no matter how old school these may seem, traditional marketing still works wonders. In fact, 79% of consumers still say they at least read or scan direct mail ads! So, it shouldn’t be something to throw to the wayside. Especially considering that some older donors may prefer that kind of communication.
Direct mail nonprofit marketing campaigns
70% of people say direct mail is more personal than online interactions. This makes it a great option for nonprofits looking to create long-lasting relationships with their donors!
The reality is, you don’t know the giving cycle of every donor–did they recently get a raise? Tax return? Are they feeling grateful over the holidays? That’s why it’s important to stay consistent and be smart with your messaging. Consider sending a quarterly mailer explaining why you need their help again.
Keep these few tips in the back of your mind for nonprofit marketing direct mail initiatives:
- Remember your audience and craft a message that speaks directly to them
- Be bold with the design of your pieces and create something that catches the eye
- Appeal to the emotions! Make your donors laugh, cry, or crack a smile
- Consider giving something of value to remember you, like a calendar, stamps, or magnet
Nonprofit marketing events
One of the most popular, fun, and lucrative nonprofit marketing initiatives you can run from a traditional standpoint are events. Getting everyone together to do something fun and raise money and awareness at the same time? Gold.
Here are a few nonprofit fundraising ideas for events:
- A craft fair where donors can purchase local crafts
- A 5K run or walk-a-thon
- A music festival with live bands at a park
- A scavenger hunt for families
- A silent auction with a variety of gifted items from sponsors
- A fancy gala with inspirational speakers and performers
There’s so much you can do when it comes to nonprofit events. One of our absolute favorites was when the nonprofit Make-A-Wish Southern Florida held a nation-wide Push-Up-A-Thon! Using our simple online fundraising platform, people all over the country participated by doing as many push-ups as they could while donors pledged per push-up. They were able to raise $138,844 compared to the $95,000 they raised the previous year.
Nonprofit marketing partnerships
Building relationships doesn’t end with your donors. It should also be considered when looking into partnerships as a part of your marketing strategy. Having local businesses or influencers team up with your organization allows for you to spread your reach further.
In return, it helps show their customers that they are doing their part in giving back, helping to improve their brand image. In fact, a 2018 study revealed that ⅔ of consumers believe that it’s a company’s responsibility to give back. Donate to your cause = more business for them. A win-win in our book.
Nonprofit marketing partnerships can look a little something like:
- A local ice cream shop partners with you for National Ice Cream Month and a percentage of their sales that month go to your organization
- A local real estate association hosts their annual conference and expo and a percentage of the ticket sales benefit your nonprofit
- A local Instagram influencer shouts you out on her page every month to drive increased donations
One of the most fun partnerships we’ve seen was when Ed Sheeran partnered with Drop4Drop to raise money for the clean water crisis.
A few drawbacks of traditional nonprofit marketing
Like we mentioned before, traditional marketing shouldn’t be thrown out the window just because we live in an increasingly digital age. But it’s important to eliminate the avenues that don’t work.
Here are some drawbacks with traditional marketing:
- You can only reach a certain amount of people, usually local to you
- With things like direct mail, it can be less engaging
- It typically is more expensive than using digital methods
Digital nonprofit marketing
In a nutshell, digital marketing is anything that involves a screen—social media, email marketing, websites, videos, etc.
Not like we’re biased or anything, but digital is the place to be. Did you know that on average people spend 2.5 hours on social media every day? Or that 87% of video marketers say that their videos have upped traffic to their website? The value in digital marketing speaks for itself. Especially considering its so low cost (virtually free!).
As we’ve mentioned, knowing your audience and where they spend their time is essential. But, you can’t ignore the fact that a great deal of people are on Facebook, read their emails every day, and watch a whole lot of YouTube.
Email nonprofit marketing
When we talk about emails in regards to marketing, we’re not referring to the more transactional emails that you may have with your donors or volunteers. We’re talking about legitimate, ongoing campaigns that bring awareness to your cause and encourage donations. Emails are amazing because:
- They can reach a ton of people at once, and fast
- They can be personalized to each person
- They are free or very low cost to create
- They require low effort to put together
The average open rate for nonprofit emails is around 25%, which is actually higher than the average for all industries. So, there’s a good chance that a quarter of the people on your email list will at least open your emails.
Need a few ideas to get your wheels turning? Consider these examples:
- Send out a monthly newsletter that highlights the latest accomplishments, any new events they can attend, a coupon or discount from a business partnership, and an option to donate
- Set up a drip email campaign for all the holidays throughout the year
- Schedule out a weekly ‘What We’ve Been Up to This Week’ update featuring behind the scenes videos of your nonprofit making a difference
Quick tip: It helps to make some of your fundraising campaigns digital so that you can easily send them out via email for donors to give!
Social media nonprofit marketing
Social media has absolutely exploded over the past decade, making it the prime place for nonprofit marketing strategies. A whopping 48% of the world uses social media—that’s virtually half the planet! Not to mention, it’s free.
Use some of these creative ideas as inspiration:
- Set up your phone on a tripod and take a cool time-lapse video of your next event
- Run a giveaway contest with one of your local business partners where people have to follow, like and share a post to enter in
- Create specific hashtags for event goers
- Promote your fundraiser with a gif of a thermometer showing how much has been raised so far
- Have your founder do a monthly video series on the backstory of the nonprofit
- Create your own event filter for Snapchat
With so many platforms to be on and so many different directions you can go in with content, social media may seem like a lot to maintain. But, great resources, like Hootsuite and Buffer, allow you to manage them all in one place.
Nonprofit content marketing
Social media marketing and content marketing for nonprofits go hand-in-hand. Nonprofit content marketing aims at educating and spreading awareness. It encompasses things like:
- Video marketing
- Case studies
The great thing about content marketing is that once the content is created, it’s evergreen. It can be shared all the time, repurposed for other campaigns and can bring in the value of SEO (search engine optimization). These content marketing pieces are perfect to share on social media and in emails!
To start taking advantage of all that nonprofit content marketing has to offer, consider these ideas:
- Create bi-weekly blog posts focused on educating people on what your nonprofit specializes in
- Film a monthly video series on your phone that shows a day in the life of your nonprofit
- Write up a case study each quarter showing how one donor or volunteer made a huge impact in your organization
A few drawbacks of digital nonprofit marketing
Despite how amazing digital marketing sounds because of how vast it can be, it does have a few drawbacks to be mindful of:
- The process of creating content is time-consuming.
- It’s a long road that takes consistent posting of valuable, quality content before you’ll likely see ROI
- You have to be somewhat technology savvy and also rely on technology to get the job done
- Virtually everyone else who’s marketing their nonprofit is also using digital marketing platforms, so there’s high competition
How to create a successful nonprofit marketing plan
Now that you have a good understanding of the different ways you can market your nonprofit, it’s time to put a bulletproof marketing plan together. Doing so will get you organized, save time and keep you on track to hitting your goals!
We’re going to show you exactly how to put an effective one together. Just follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Identify your ultimate goals
The first thing that you’ll want to do when developing your nonprofit marketing plan is to determine what your goals are. This is the most important piece as it provides the foundation of all your marketing initiatives.
Start by getting your team together to determine your goals and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Here are some common nonprofit goal ideas to give you some inspiration:
- Raise more awareness for your cause
- Recruit volunteers for your next event
- Fundraise a specific dollar amount
- Grow your donor database by a certain percentage
Quick tip: Use the SMART goal method to really flush out your goals and make them measurable! The more specific you can be with your goals, the better.
Step 2: Keep your audience in mind
The most effective nonprofit marketing has a targeted message aimed at a specific audience. So, once you have all your goals defined, it’s time to nail down who your audience is for each of those goals.
Whether your audience is donors, volunteers, or partners, the way you market to each group is going to differ. You wouldn’t say the same thing in an email to donors as you would to volunteers!
Ask yourself these questions when brainstorming the audiences you’ll be addressing with your marketing plan:
- What’s the average age of your audience?
- What are their interests?
- What are their motivations for giving?
- What kind of lifestyle do they live?
- Are they active on social media? What platforms are they on?
You might even consider creating customer personas of each of your audiences that go into detail about what they’re all about. This also allows you to better personalize the messaging.
Step 3: Nail down what you want to say
With your nonprofit marketing goals and audiences defined, you’re ready to start crafting the messages you want to get out there to achieve those set goals. This is the fun part! The goal is to create a message that will grab your audience’s attention long enough for them to take action.
When you’re putting your messaging together, think about these different approaches you can take:
- Tug on the heartstrings by appealing to the emotions with sentimental messaging
- Use funny memes and more humorous content to reel in your audience
- Case studies showing how much of a difference you can make
Step 4: Determine which marketing channels to run with
Now, it’s time to execute the plan. In order to do that effectively, you just need to determine which marketing channels you want to use to share your message. Keep in mind you don’t have to choose just one either! You can easily integrate many together for maximum exposure.
Take this sample campaign as an example:
- You plan a 5K running event to raise money for your cause
- You create a month’s worth of social media posts promoting the event to encourage registrations
- You invite your entire database to your 5K via email and send reminders every 2 weeks
- You send out physical invites in the mail
Step 5: Analyze the results & make adjustments for next time
After you’ve successfully executed your marketing plan, you’ll want to take a look at the results of your efforts to see what worked/didn’t work.
This is where those SMART goals come into play! The more specific and measurable you made them in the beginning will make the analysis so much easier at this stage. To see how successful your nonprofit marketing initiatives are, take a look at some of these key performance indicators:
- How many people opened your emails? What were the open rate and click rate?
- How many people attended your event? How much was made in ticket sales?
- How many people liked, commented, and shared your posts on social media?
Based on your answers, you can make necessary adjustments to your marketing plan to improve it for the next fundraiser! Had a lower open rate on your emails? Take a different approach with your subject line. Had low attendance at your last event? Look at different avenues for promotion.
Achieve your nonprofit marketing goals with ease
All in all, when it comes to nonprofit marketing, there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. The beauty of it is that there are countless paths you can take. You just have to discover which ways work best for your organization!
We totally understand that this undertaking can seem tedious and complex. But, it’s essential for the success and growth of your nonprofit! The good news is that there are tools that exist to make your life easier, like our online fundraising platform.
Trust us when we say that RallyUp and your nonprofit marketing plan go together like peanut butter and jelly. From customizable events and online raffles to donation pages and widgets, you can easily create unforgettable fundraising experiences that contribute to each of your overall SMART goals.