Nonprofit marketing is no easy task. At times, it comes down to promoting your cause on a shoestring budget with limited staff and resources. Then, on top of all that, leadership might hesitate to engage in marketing due to the risk on return.
Add it all up, and marketing for nonprofits can seem like an astronomical job.
But there’s a silver lining. Most nonprofits have a compelling story to tell, and a story like that can put real purpose and drive behind a digital or traditional marketing campaign because there’s something there that actually matters—it’s real, and it’s shareable. Plus, even if your team is limited, you can usually count on that team to be passionate about the cause.
You can go a long way when you pair passion with a powerful story.
Most people don’t part ways with their hard-earned money too easily. For-profit businesses have products or services they can offer in exchange for cash, but nonprofits are typically “selling” (so to speak) participation in a cause—and the satisfaction that comes from that—so they have to be more tactful and purposeful in their approach.
According to Emily Logan, a longtime activist and nonprofit growth/advocacy strategist, one of the most important things a nonprofit can do is focus on building relationships before making the ask. Establish an emotional connection between your cause and potential donors, and get a real, meaningful conversation going. Sure, this advice stands for pretty much any business, but it’s especially important in the nonprofit world, where you’re attempting to make a big change in some area that matters a lot to you (and your supporters, too). There’s more than just money on the line.
It’s about a value exchange—you can’t just expect someone to donate to your cause without bringing value to them first. It’s not guilt tripping or relying on people feeling like they have to give. It’s an open, transparent conversation and dialogue. You need to respect your target audience.
P.S. The conversation shouldn’t just end when the donation arrives. Keep the conversation going, say thanks! Because sometimes a simple note of gratitude is all it takes to turn a first-time donor into a repeat donor.
One smart way to increase donations is to tie your nonprofit fundraising to an advocacy initiative that targets a current and pressing event. For instance, in 2009, Amnesty International USA sent an email campaign to supporters urging them to take action in the case of Aung San Suu Kyi, a political prisoner in Myanmar. AIUSA also used the situation as an opportunity to ask for donations. The result?
The appeal tied to Suu Kyi raised $13,000, more than twice as much as a straightforward fundraising appeal on Sri Lanka sent to the same list at the same time.
The National Council of Nonprofits actually has an entire newsletter dedicated to this very tactic. It’s called Nonprofit Advocacy Matters. You can check out some of their nonprofit advocacy stories here.
The call to action (CTA) is also known among the nonprofit community as the “ask.” The anatomy of a successful ask can often determine the success of any fundraising campaign. It should be clear to each potential donor what you’re asking, meaning your solicitation is void of language too industry specific, or beyond the means of what someone believes they can give.
The easiest way to ensure you have a strong CTA that donors positively respond to is to keep your focus narrow and on one of the following three things:
Let’s talk social media marketing for nonprofits. It’s no secret that people trust individual influencers more readily than they trust brands and companies. If you can win over social media influencers who then spread your message for you, you’ll be taking a big step toward making an impact.
According to TapInfluence, “influencer marketing content delivers 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing,” and “influencer content on social media earns more than 8X the engagement rate of brand-direct content.” Plus, if you’re one of the many nonprofits who are too short-staffed to devote much time to social media, having an influencer spread the message for you is a huge boost.
Getting influencers to take up your cause involves identifying and reaching out to them via email or… wait for it… social media! If it makes sense for your organization, focus on the local community and look for “micro-influencers” within your network. Influencers can come from anywhere, really—you just have to put your cause in their hands.
Meltwater, a data science company that provides a media listening and monitoring platform, provides a useful guide to building influencer relationships here: Influencer with a Cause: How Nonprofits Can Identify and Work with Influencers. And NetBase has a helpful list of social analytics tools that can help you see who’s a fan of your nonprofit, who’s talking about it the most, and how much engagement they’re getting.
It’s also key to ensure you have the right tools to populate social media with engaging trust signals and informational pictures. Venngage has some awesome awareness infographic templates anyone could customize.
They also have templates for end of year fundraising, milestones, success stories, and more! You can check them out here.
Alright, so this is admittedly a pretty simple idea, but it’s an idea worth paying attention to. People tend to be talkative when they truly believe in a cause, right? So just encourage your staff to talk about your cause and promote it in their social circles.
As a nonprofit, your founders, staff, and board members all make excellent salespeople simply by virtue of being part of the show. Take charity: water, for example. Their CEO often talks about his own personal journey to the nonprofit world, and it works to great effect.
Don’t overlook the unique position your staff members are in to tell others about the cause and bring in new donors. Ask your staff to help share your message with their friends and on their social media accounts…and they’ll most likely be happy to oblige.
Adding an element of interaction with your nonprofit can help people feel connected to your cause. While you don’t want to make your cause feel like an exploitative exhibition, you do want to try and peel back some of the mystique.
A lot of nonprofit work is about breaking down the barriers that trap populations in a cycle of need, and event-based work is a great way to begin demolishing that ceiling. If you don’t have the budget or time to organize large-scale events that invite the public into your operation, the next best thing is to bring yourself into the community.
It’s essential for your nonprofit to immerse yourself in both the community you’re serving, and the communities that support you. Too many resource development teams overlook the importance of community visibility because of its less than apparent ROI.
Donors don’t give to an organization, they give to a cause. So help your communities get to know you as a mission.
Video dominates in today’s marketing landscape, and you can’t really do digital marketing for nonprofits without at least putting it on the table as an option. HubSpot research conducted in 2017 revealed that people “skim most written and audio content” and are “more likely to pay attention to video content.” This is especially true for Millennials. The same research also revealed that video content is what the majority of respondents want to see more of moving forward. So if you want to succeed in nonprofit marketing, one great way to do that is to start thinking in video.
Thankfully, video doesn’t have to be very long to succeed. In fact, according to Vidyard’s Video in Business Benchmark Report, most of the videos produced by marketers in 2017 were less than 2 minutes long.
Video doesn’t necessarily have to compete with big-budget stuff, either. It can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be—there are ways to bring production costs way down. For instance, tools like Adobe Creative Cloud and Canva make it affordable for nonprofits to edit and create great video content. And social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow users to easily livestream content.
Looking to hire actors for a video? You could simply ask your staff or supporters if they’d like to be your stars. Furthermore, as a nonprofit, you might be able to convince amateur and professional actors alike to volunteer their talent.
You can also take advantage of YouTube Impact Lab, which exists specifically to help social movements get the message out. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves… let’s talk about Google now.
Google for Nonprofits is a suite of five tools that qualifying nonprofits can apply for and use for free:
💡SimpleTexting Tip: Learn about 16 other free marketing tools for nonprofits here.
Nonprofit email marketing and text messaging are powerful tools. Typically, the people who join your marketing lists truly care about your cause and want to support you, which means they’re highly receptive when they see a message from you land in their inbox or on their phone. And when you automate those messages, that’s even more powerful. Automation can save you hours of time and make it easy to ensure that the right messages are going to the right groups of people.
Email open rates aren’t as high as text open rates, but email is far from dead. According to that HubSpot research mentioned above, Boomers and Gen-Xers still tend to prefer email over video content, so there’s a huge audience for it. And for what it’s worth, text messages are almost always opened—it’s common to see open rates at 90% and higher.
If you’re looking for ideas about how nonprofits can use text messaging, check out our Text Message Marketing for Nonprofits guide. And if you’d like to try text messaging for your nonprofit, SimpleTexting is happy to offer a 15% discount. Contact us today to see if you qualify!
Ready to boost your nonprofit marketing efforts with a bit of text messaging? We can help with that. We offer a 15% discount for qualifying nonprofits—so if you like how we roll, be sure to ask our support team about it before you upgrade to a paid plan! Be sure to also check out our nonprofit guide to text marketing.