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Marketing for Nonprofits

Need some proven nonprofit marketing ideas that are sure to perform well? We put together a few expert tips and real-world examples that can help expand the reach and influence of your nonprofit or charitable organization.

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Getting Started with Marketing for Nonprofits

Nonprofit marketing is no easy task. More often than not, it comes down to promoting your cause on a shoestring budget with limited staff and resources. It can be a bit tricky to navigate when you’re straight up asking people to give you money they’ll never see again. Then, on top of all that, leadership might hesitate to engage in marketing… because nonprofit organizations “aren’t supposed to be about the money.”

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.

And you can go a long way when you pair passion with a powerful story.

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7 Proven Marketing Tips for Nonprofits in 2018

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1. Focus on relationships and real conversations to grow your nonprofit

Most people don’t part ways with their hard-earned money too easily… or even their easy-earned money, if they’re lucky enough to have any of that. 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.

Entrepreneur, public speaker, and VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk puts it honestly and bluntly in this piece on nonprofit marketing:

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.

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2. Give your fundraising a piggyback ride on current events

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.

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3. Convert social media influencers to your cause

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 a big 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.

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4. Ask your staff to spread the word

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? 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.

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5. Tell your story with educational video content

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.

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6. Apply for Google for Nonprofits

Google for Nonprofits is a suite of five tools that qualifying nonprofits can apply for and use for free:

  • G Suite for Nonprofits—Keep your team organized on the cloud. Includes unlimited email addresses on your domain, video conferencing, and 24/7 support.
  • Google Ad Grants—Get $10,000 of in-kind advertising on Google Search results every month. Track online donations, sign-ups, and registrations.
  • YouTube Nonprofit Program—Add donation cards and links to your videos. Includes access to YouTube Spaces and dedicated email support.
  • Google One Today—Streamline your nonprofit marketing with easy online fundraising, supporter communications, and a mobile app. You keep 100% of the donations.
  • Google Earth Outreach—Use custom mapping and location data to visualize your organization’s impact and find new supporters.

Try SimpleTexting for yourself. It’s free for 14 days. No credit card required.

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7. Automate your email and text marketing campaigns

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!

SimpleTexting Nonprofit Marketing Success Stories

Here are a couple nonprofit marketing examples straight from the wonderful world of SimpleTexting Success Stories. Enjoy!

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Yuda Bands

Yuda Bands Nonprofit Saves 20 Hours a Month with Text Messaging

Yuda Bands supports education in developing nations by helping high school students in the U.S. sell handmade bracelets. They used SimpleTexting to manage contacts and communicate with students who showed interest in the Yuda Bands idea.

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Dress for Success

How Dress for Success Uses SMS to Help Women Find Jobs

Dress for Success helps women find employment and take control of their professional lives. They used our platform to send out text message appointment reminders, which significantly reduced their no-show rate.

Contact Us About Text Marketing for Nonprofits

So, what say? Ready to boost your nonprofit marketing efforts with a bit of text messaging? We can help with that.

Just register for a free trial account, and you’ll get two weeks of access to our platform and all of its super cool features. We won’t ask you for any pesky credit card numbers, and there aren’t any contracts involved, either.

Remember, 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!