Your ultimate guide to nonprofit marketing

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Whatever type of company you work for, you want to make sure that you’re making the most of your marketing dollars, and this is especially relevant if you are part of a nonprofit organization. However, just because you are on a limited budget doesn’t mean you can’t market your organization successfully.

Below is a comprehensive guide to help you craft your nonprofit marketing plan along with ideas to make it happen.

Why nonprofit marketing is important

While your business is nonprofit, a smart marketing plan — as it does for all businesses — will give you a set of tools to communicate your mission, fundraise for donations and approach volunteers and advocates that will help you run your organization. This is what you can achieve with nonprofit marketing:

  1. Nonprofit marketing can increase awarenessNonprofit marketing can increase awareness both for your cause and your organization. In the same way you prefer a certain type of cereal or car brand, marketing can help people recognize your nonprofit and form an emotional bond with it. It will then become a top-of-mind option when they are looking to donate, or looking for a cause to invest their time into.
  2. Nonprofit marketing can help raise fundsThe more people know about you, the more support you are likely to get. Marketing will help you define your cause, what you believe in, and why it’s important. By amplifying your message, you're more likely to increase the number of donations or funding your receive.
  3. Nonprofit marketing can help recruit volunteersVolunteers are an essential asset to many nonprofit organizations. Marketing will help you reach out to them and create a pool of people ready to help you.

How to create a nonprofit marketing plan

  1. Know who your donors and supporters areFor any marketing endeavor, it’s important that you understand your target demographic and how to communicate with them. This will allow you to strategically target your campaign in the right ways. Take some time to research your target audience through surveys and research. This will help you to more effectively communicate with them.
  2. Define actionable goalsWhen setting up your marketing plan, it's also important to start by setting up goals that will guide your marketing efforts. A helpful way to set goals is by using the SMART technique. This means setting goals that are: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.
  3. Segment your goals to different campaignsWhen building a marketing plan, it's important to consider the different goals and audiences you are trying to target — from one-off donors to those who contribute monthly or yearly, large sum donors, and volunteers — each will require a different messaging and distribution strategy that can be added to your marketing plan.
  4. Consider your budgetDepending on the marketing goals, you will need to determine how to allocate your budget accordingly. By assessing your budget early on, it will help you prioritize campaigns and other smaller decisions within your marketing plan.
  5. Craft your messageWhen building a marketing plan, it's important to ensure that you've crafted a clear message that will help you reach your goals. Whether it's your mission statement or a tagline, it should be easy to communicate your mission is an authentic and transparent way.
  6. Create a tactical planOnce you've set your goals, your messaging and your audience segmentation, it's important to create a set of tactics, and a timeline that will allow you to accomplish your marketing goals.
  7. Measure your performanceAs important as executing your plan is evaluating how well it performed, so you can refine, and optimize your tactics accordingly.

Nonprofit marketing ideas

Here are a number of marketing channels and ideas that can inspire you when drafting your own marketing plan.

1. Build a website

Your website is like your online slice of real estate — a place to showcase all your initiatives, success stories, encourage people to support your cause and direct them to your social media channels to stay top of mind and on top of their feeds.

2. Send email newsletters

Research from Hubspot shows that 73 percent of millennials prefer to receive communication from organizations via email, which is why email is a great avenue for regular updates and boosting engagement. Create a cadence of emails so every person in your database stays informed and engaged. Set up a content calendar to send out regular newsletters.

3. Create video content

Video content is visual and dynamic and likely to grab your audience's attention. It can be educational, emotional, and it’s shareable. You can create a video of the grassroots events you put on, your speaking engagements, testimonials from your supporters, or call out a donating challenge campaign where you spur your audience to hit a certain contribution target. This campaign, featured on Forbes magazine, did that to support a recovery fund for the bushfires in Australia.

4. Build your social media following

Using social media channels is a great tactic to engage your community of supporters on a daily basis. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram have different audiences, values, and functions. Twitter is ideal to share ideas, Instagram is a much more visual platform. Here are some creative ideas for different social channels.

Peer-to-peer campaigns on Facebook

A good example is the Malala Fund. Start a peer-to-peer campaign through Facebook to launch a fundraising campaign via your followers’ birthday, graduation, or any other special day. Remember that Facebook has a “Donate Now” button that you can include on your posts for a clear call to action.

Live Instagram stories

With 500 million daily active users, Instagram Stories should be in the mix of social media tactics. Why not try a live event or a Q&A session like this one by Stand Up for Cancer - an interview with a documentary filmmaker, which got over 1 million views.

Twitter thumb-stopping graphics

Engage your social audience by disrupting their social feed. Try giving them something to respond to by creating eye-catching graphics that have an interactive element, such as a fill-in-the-blank challenge.

DoSomething.org invited people to guess how many drivers don’t use their seatbelt, with this graphic:

Launch campaigner toolkits

Campaigner toolkits are downloadable assets that anyone can use to launch campaigns on behalf of your organization. They put the power in your supporters’ hands to help spread your message and increase your reach. And if you want to increase that reach on social media, then include some ready-made social graphics in that toolkit.

Create your own campaign posters in Canva with templates like Red Hearts Human Rights Poster and Red and White Hands Photo Human Rights Poster.

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