Your guide to nonprofit marketing, social media, and fundraising

Running a nonprofit is an adventure where passion meets purpose, and every day unfolds a new chapter in the story of making a difference.

Nonprofits are the vibrant threads weaving together communities and sparking transformation. They’re about rolling up sleeves, lighting up faces with smiles, and touching lives in ways words can hardly capture.

But, the path of altruism isn't all roses and rainbows. It's also paved with unique hurdles and learning curves. In this cozy corner of the Internet, we'll share a warm cup of wisdom on navigating nonprofit leadership.

If you're at the helm of a nonprofit and eager to polish your brand's image, or you’re simply looking to craft an all-encompassing marketing plan, consider this your ultimate treasure map.

Whether it's igniting fundraising efforts to empower your mission, or gathering a passionate crew who sees the world through the same hopeful lens, the tips in this guide will help you navigate your way to success.

Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

Explain what your organization does clearly

Nonprofits should articulate what they do clearly.

A well-articulated mission statement can effectively communicate your organization's purpose(opens in a new tab or window) honestly and transparently. Think of how you could encapsulate the entire purpose of your nonprofit on a business card, what would your message be?

Understanding why your nonprofit exists is key. Potential donors or investors often want to know the driving force behind your organization's inception. Knowing this history can persuade them to support your cause.

For this, you've probably already honed your 'elevator pitch,' succinctly conveying your organization's mission in a bite-sized tagline.

While some platforms warrant a concise description, a longer, more detailed description should be featured on your website which emphasizes the changes your nonprofit brings to the community.

A historical perspective not only provides context, but can also be highlighted in fundraising and other campaigns(opens in a new tab or window). Celebrating the anniversaries of your founding and incorporating fundraising activities into these events can further support your work.

Develop a strong visual identity

Visual branding is more than just a logo. It's about creating a visual identity to align with your mission(opens in a new tab or window), and resonate with your target audience. This could be through the colors you use,(opens in a new tab or window) the style of your images,(opens in a new tab or window)the typography you choose,(opens in a new tab or window) or the tone of your messaging. A strong visual brand can help spread your call to action and attract more supporters.

An effective solution to this challenge is the creation of ready-made design templates.(opens in a new tab or window) Canva is instrumental in maintaining design cohesion across internal and external documents. Canva’s Brand Kit allows you to save color palettes,(opens in a new tab or window)logos,(opens in a new tab or window)preferred fonts,(opens in a new tab or window) and custom-made documents within the platform, making them easily adaptable for future campaign designs.

Know who your investors and supporters are at their core

To effectively communicate the impact donations will have on your cause, and inspire donors to participate in your campaigns, follow these pointers:

Identify the issue and respect the individuals: The first step is to clearly define the problem your organization is addressing. Equally important is to ensure the individuals benefiting from your organization are portrayed with dignity and respect.(opens in a new tab or window) They are not just recipients of aid, but active participants in the solution.

Understand your supporters values: Knowing who your supporters are is critical to the success of your nonprofit. Conduct surveys and research to understand their behavior, needs, and preferences. Use these insights to tailor your messaging and campaign strategies.

Communicate impact: Don't just communicate during fundraising campaigns. Regularly update your donors. Share success stories, photos, and videos to highlight the difference their contributions are making. Keep your donors engaged throughout the year by inviting them to events(opens in a new tab or window) or sending appreciation notes(opens in a new tab or window). This helps build a long-term relationship with your supporters.

Understand your goals and fundraising objectives

Segmenting your campaign goals allows for a well-rounded and effective marketing strategy.

Once you have defined your overarching fundraising objectives, the next critical step is audience segmentation. This process involves identifying the different types of donors and volunteers your organization aims to attract,(opens in a new tab or window) and crafting campaigns that resonate with their unique interests and motivations.

For instance, a campaign targeting corporate donors will likely differ significantly from one aimed at individual volunteers, with each requiring a distinct approach and messaging style. Similarly, a campaign designed to attract young, digital-native volunteers will likely require a different strategy than one targeting long-time supporters who prefer traditional communication methods.

Connect audiences to complex concepts and emotional causes through compelling images, icons, and infographics

Photographs possess a unique ability to convey complex narratives and evoke deep emotions without uttering a single word. They capture fleeting moments, tell compelling stories, and offer rich insights.

Use these tips to create inspiring visuals for your next campaign.

Present the solution: Use photography as a tool to tell your story. Photos can bridge the gap between donors and beneficiaries, making the cause more relatable. Choose images which depict the positive change brought about by donations(opens in a new tab or window). Select images that evoke the emotions you want your supporters to feel.

Use authentic content: While it's important to catch your audience's eye, authenticity should never be compromised. Images and content should accurately represent your work and the communities you serve. This combination of visually stimulating and authentic content can enhance your communication strategy, and foster deeper connections with your audience.

Use charts and infographics: Complex operations and data can be overwhelming and difficult to understand. By using charts or infographics you can simplify these complex elements(opens in a new tab or window), and present them in a way that's easy to digest. This not only helps to illustrate the tangible results of your work, but also connects these results with the human elements, the real people benefiting from your efforts.

For instance, when designing graphics for social media, consider the likelihood of the audience viewing content on their phones or tablets. Opt for short, easily digestible content for these mediums, instead of long-form stories. For example, while drafting a blog post(opens in a new tab or window)about your nonprofit’s history,create a visual timeline(opens in a new tab or window) that can be easily shared and consumed on TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram Stories. This approach ensures content is accessible.

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Stay top of mind by commenting on timely news updates

Being prepared to react to news updates and political changes is paramount for nonprofits. There are two major unpredictable variables: how audiences will react to the content and how political developments will impact the discourse around your work.

Often, nonprofits and associations are perceived as relics of the past, especially by millennials who aren't typically rushing to participate. However, many millennials express a desire for inspiration and connection to their community, which is where nonprofits have an opportunity to engage.

To stay relevant in the nonprofit sector, it's important to appeal to this motivation and actively work to involve young professionals.

Being reactive on social media and on your supporter-facing website can make all the difference in being part of the conversation,(opens in a new tab or window) and advocating for your mission. This doesn’t necessarily mean your designs have to be overly polished, but the combination of timing and message is what truly matters.

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Use social platforms to advance your fundraising initiatives

Each social channel has its unique attributes and audience: Facebook(opens in a new tab or window) is popular among adults, X (formerly Twitter)(opens in a new tab or window) is designed for real-time global news sharing, and Instagram(opens in a new tab or window) is highly visual and predominantly mobile-based. A one-size-fits-all approach to social media strategy often falls short. Instead, one should build distinct strategies tailored to each platform(opens in a new tab or window).

However, crafting these individualized strategies isn't always straightforward. Without the right resources and strategies, nonprofits may end up spending valuable time and money on content that fails to resonate with their supporters.

The solution lies in testing different content formats to better understand what audiences want to see.

Common objectives for nonprofits using social media include: sharing news, enhancing brand recognition, educating about the cause and mission, fundraising(opens in a new tab or window), volunteer recruitment, donor recognition, and employee recruitment.

Once these goals are identified, it's crucial to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success. Metrics that accurately measure the conversion and retention(opens in a new tab or window) of supporters are particularly beneficial. For instance, the number of views on a Facebook post might reflect increased awareness, and the number of clicks could indicate interest in your cause. While donation dollars can capture the conversion of new supporters.

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Four areas to focus on to increase your brand awareness and mission:

1. Direct supporters to your website

Building a compelling website(opens in a new tab or window) is critical for your nonprofit as it serves as your digital storefront. It provides a platform to showcase your initiatives, highlight your success stories, and encourage people to support your cause. Additionally, it acts as a hub for directing visitors to your social media channels, helping your organization remain prominent in their online interactions.

A well-designed website can play a crucial role in your success, effectively combining aesthetics with clear calls to action to drive donations. While generating awareness and building a supporter base are important, the ultimate goal for most nonprofits is to raise money to continue their work. Convincing people to contribute their hard-earned money to a cause, particularly one that impacts people across the world, is not always easy. This is why it's vital to inspire and excite people about your mission(opens in a new tab or window) by creating a vibrant and easy-to-navigate website.

This is where Canva’s designer-made templates(opens in a new tab or window) come in handy. Try these website layouts for yourself.

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2. Craft frequent and compelling newsletters

It’s no secret that millennials prefer to receive communication from organizations via email. Emails allow you to provide regular updates(opens in a new tab or window), share success stories, and make appeals for donations or volunteer support.

They also provide an opportunity to build a closer relationship with your supporters by sharing exclusive content, or offering insider updates on your organization's work.

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Frequency is important: The frequency of your newsletters will depend on the nature of your organization and the preferences of your audience. However, a general rule of thumb is to aim for a monthly newsletter(opens in a new tab or window). This provides a consistent line of communication without overwhelming your supporters' inboxes.

Write a clear call-to-action: Your email newsletters should always include a clear call-to-action (CTA). Whether it's to donate, volunteer, or simply learn more about a specific project, your CTA should be easily identifiable(opens in a new tab or window) and compelling.

Instead of relying heavily on graphics, which can sometimes land your email in the spam folder, use typography to catch your reader's eye(opens in a new tab or window). Make sure there's enough white space between blocks of text to keep the design simple and always pointing towards the CTA.

Distribute your newsletter at scale: Distributing information at scale can be challenging, but building a network of supporters and influencers can significantly increase your reach. Encourage your existing supporters to share your newsletters within their networks. You can also partner with influencers or other organizations that align with your cause to expand your distribution.

3. Keep audiences attention with videos and animated graphics

Video content is compelling, dynamic, and has an unmatched ability to engage your audience. The appeal lies in its visual storytelling power, which can evoke emotions, inspire action, and educate viewers in an immersive way.

Consider creating various types of video content such as testimonial videos(opens in a new tab or window), which highlight the impact of your work through the voices of those you've helped. Event videos further showcase your organization's community involvement and challenge videos motivate your audience to contribute towards a specific goal.

Each of these formats serves a distinct purpose, but collectively, they help to create a multifaceted narrative around your mission, making it more relatable, and compelling.

Creating great video content is just half the battle. Equally important is tracking the performance of your videos(opens in a new tab or window).

Monitor engagement metrics like views, shares, likes, and comments to gain insights into what resonates with your audience. This data will guide you in refining your content strategy, helping you create more shareable videos in the future.

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4. Use Facebook and Instagram Stories to humanize your brand

Leveraging social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can humanize your brand and foster a deeper connection with your audience.

Starting a peer-to-peer campaign on Facebook(opens in a new tab or window)is a powerful way to engage your followers. This could be tied to a follower's birthday or another personal milestone. The beauty of these campaigns lies in their personal touch, as they're driven by individuals who care about your cause, and want to mobilize their own networks to support it.

Plus, Facebook has made it even easier to facilitate these campaigns with their ‘Donate Now’ button, which can be included in your posts for a clear call to action.

Live events or Q&A sessions(opens in a new tab or window) on Instagram Stories can provide an insider view into your work, making your audience feel more involved and invested. These real-time interactions show there are real people behind your brand and they’re working hard to make a difference.

Both these strategies not only help in fundraising, but also play a crucial role in brand building. They create a sense of community around your cause, making every follower feel like they're part of something bigger.

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Campaign Spotlight: Movember

The Movember Foundation campaign is a remarkable success story(opens in a new tab or window), which started in 2003 when two friends from Australia decided to bring the mustache back into fashion for a good cause. They aimed to raise awareness about men's health issues, including prostate and testicular cancer, by encouraging men to grow their mustaches during November. The idea quickly caught on.

The Movember Foundation started modestly with 30 participants in its first year. By the second year, it had grown to 480 participants, raising $40,851. Today, the campaign has been supported by over 5.5 million people and has generated over $700 million.

Celebrity endorsements have played a significant role in its popularity, while downloadable resources have made it easy for advocates to participate and spread the word.

After growing their mustaches, supporters had several ways to get involved. They could download and produce digital content, tune into a dedicated YouTube series, utilize printable resources such as calendars, and even organize personal events for their loved ones.

In essence, the Movember Foundation has transformed a fun idea into a global movement for men's health, using innovative strategies and platforms to engage supporters and make a significant impact.

You can explore 20 other inspiring ad campaigns here,(opens in a new tab or window) featuring companies and causes from around the globe.

Learn from this campaign success story

Nonprofit fundraising campaigns have the power to inspire and transform passive observers into active contributors.

A prime example of this is the Pencils of Promise campaign.

Pencils of Promise have rallied supporters(opens in a new tab or window) by allowing them to set their own fundraising goals and engage their personal networks in the cause, creating a ripple effect of awareness and support.

In the face of initial struggles with an absence of major donors, Founder, Adam Braun, turned to ordinary individuals who shared his passion for ending the education crisis. Instead of relying on a few large donations, Pencils of Promise cultivated an engaged digital community. Through this community, over 38,000 personal fundraisers have been launched, providing a steady flow of resources to support their cause.

The organization further empowers individual contributors through their Campaigner Toolkit.(opens in a new tab or window)

This comprehensive guide equips fundraisers with strategies and insights to launch successful campaigns of their own, offering support and advice along the way. It's a testament to the organization's belief in the power of collective action.

It's not just about asking for donations, but about empowering people to become a part of the solution, and making them feel connected to the mission.

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