7 Steps for Marketing Your Nonprofit Organization

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When most people think about growing a nonprofit organization, marketing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Since maximizing cash flow isn’t foremost on the minds of most of the people who run nonprofits, securing funds often takes a backseat to focusing on ideals. That’s beautiful of course, but the truth is that any organization has to remain fiscally solvent in order to do the job it’s been designed to do. This delicate balance makes nonprofit organizations a distinct digital marketing challenge. Here are seven strategies for successfully marketing your nonprofit.

1. Get Your House in Order

The first step in marketing an organization is keeping it financially sound. Running a business is tough enough, but when the goal of the organization is to give resources away, the necessity of good bookkeeping grows. The situation is more precarious when an organization has international reach and scope, as many charities do. Remember to think of your organization as a business. Make sure that you have an up-to-date and accurate general ledger. This is the book that summarizes financial transactions. Invest in high-quality nonprofit accounting software, the services of which are now sophisticated enough to greatly automate the process of keeping your records straight even when dealing with a multitude of grants and donors.

2. Research Your Market

Digital marketing for a nonprofit means selling an idea. You can’t sell anything to people you don’t understand. Before starting a fundraising campaign, research your target audience. Do basic statistical research centered on the values and priorities of social groups that you intend to serve, as well as from those you intend to solicit for funds. How deeply in touch with their priorities are you really? That must inform how you brand the organization. One of the most effective research methodologies remains implementing surveys. The good news is that this strategy can easily be implemented online, especially if the surveys are placed front and center on your organization’s websites. Sure, online polls may not use the most scientific sampling method, but the responders at least have some interest in your cause already, giving you an advantage.

3. Embrace Social Media 

A social media presence is the center of any digital marketing campaign. Nonprofits should be selective about their media presence. Find two or three platforms where your intended audience is most likely to be found. A Facebook presence is all but necessary, however LinkedIn remains a distinctively professional networking site and thus adds heft to fundraising campaigns by putting organizations with capital in the know. Come up with inventive hashtags for all of your campaigns and events, and reach out to the people who liked your page to get them to help spread the word. Remember to keep all of your content fresh and relevant with regularly-spaced updates.

4. Have an Amazing Website

Your organization should also have a core website that constitutes its official online home. Nonprofit entities absolutely must have a website that showcases their legitimacy and importance. There is certainly a science to website design and crafting a visual experience that gets people emotionally invested. Key to this is an idea called cognitive fluency, which refers to the relative difficulty or ease of completing a mental task. People tend to find an inherent beauty in simplicity. Certain fonts and visual patterns tend to give the perception of truthfulness, with one study even suggesting that documents with better printer-to-background contrast seemed more honest to readers. The bottom line is that you should resist the conventional wisdom of overcomplicating your site just to make it “hip.” Keep things simple and focused.

5. Use Email Marketing

Statistical research continues to show that email marketing is an incredibly good investment. Because it’s such an inexpensive way to do a marketing campaign that can potentially reach thousands of people, return on investment can be as high as 40 to one. Make yourself a database with the contact information of former donors and those who you have a good reason to believe will support your organization. Perhaps they signed your guestbook at an event. Whatever the case, keep the list of these warm leads handy and when your organization is launching a new initiative or offering a fresh membership benefit, send out a well-worded email. The act of reaching out keeps everyone engaged.

6. Forge Partnerships

Marketing your nonprofit isn’t something you can or should do in a vacuum. In the context of digital marketing, the most important kind of partnership you can forge is with influencers whose voices can carry the message of your purpose to a wider audience. Influencer marketing is most common in product placement, so here is where it’s important to think of your organization as a brand. Find online influencers and internet celebrities whose purpose aligns with yours. For example, if you’re focused on clothing underprivileged children, find a fashion influencer who could mention your mission on their vlog. Sweeten the deal for influencers by reminding them that supporting a good cause is good publicity. When people team up, their ability to put resources into action is magnified.

7. Plan Events to Bring People Together

If you’re reading this during 2020, planning an event is probably far from your mind. Nonetheless, people need to be brought together socially in order to truly invest in an organization. All the galas, fundraisers and banquets aren’t just for show; they’re a vital part of connecting the supporter base necessary to sustain philanthropy. Thankfully, these functions can take place online almost as effectively as they can in person. Organize online speaking engagements, where donors and members can gather online to hear speeches and view testimonials about the organization’s progress. Don’t be afraid to have fun with this; encourage people to dress for a gala in their own living rooms! Anything that forms a bond between your organization, its supporters and the people it serves is a step in the right direction.

Thriving as a nonprofit is never going to be a simple matter, especially when everyone’s budget is tight. That being said, there’s a formula to success in the nonprofit world, just as there is in the corporate sphere. By harnessing the power of digital marketing, your organization will grow in its ability to benefit the public.


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