January 16, 2023
Marketing 101 for Nonprofits
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A thorough nonprofit marketing plan is too often overlooked at organizations trying to do good.

A strong marketing strategy drives donations which enables the rest of your organization to thrive – if people haven't heard of your nonprofit or don't trust it, it likely won't succeed like you expect it to.

We all know resources can be tight at nonprofits which is why a marketing plan is so essential. It allows you to get the best return on investment on your marketing dollars rather than taking a wasteful scattergun approach. You want to make informed decisions based on an overarching marketing strategy and adapt based on the data you collect.

But it's tough to know where to start. There is plenty of information for marketing plans for businesses but nonprofits face a unique set of challenges. To begin with, you need to assess the different types of marketing and what best aligns with your organization's mission.

A large nonprofit organization can simultaneously run marketing campaigns for all the different marketing channels at once but most nonprofits need to be more selective. 

Read on to help determine where you should focus your marketing efforts.

SEO nonprofit marketing plan

Most nonprofits collect donations primarily through their own website so driving traffic there is an important task especially on days such as Giving Tuesday.

One of the best ways to do this is through an SEO marketing strategy. This is where you optimize your web pages and online content to rank highly for relevant keywords when people are searching.

Let's say you run an animal welfare charity and you create SEO content to rank highly for "prevent animal cruelty". It's like the visitors who come to your page will believe in your organization's mission and support you.

This sounds easier than it is as other nonprofits will be doing the same thing! So it's important to create a detailed SEO strategy.

Content nonprofit marketing plan

Content marketing differs from pure SEO marketing because the goal is to engage the audience rather than simply get them to your website. Good content should also be SEO optimized but this requires more skill.

Your content marketing strategy should focus on creating and distributing valuable content that people want to consume. This could come in many different forms such as blog posts, infographics, videos, and podcasts. For example, Cancer Research UK’s podcast covers stories of real life people struggling with the disease.

The strategy should start with identifying exactly who you're targeting and what stories will appeal to them. Don't try to push your marketing message too hard because you put off future donors. Ideally, content marketing should be focused on building long-term relationships with people so they become lifelong donors.

Social media nonprofit marketing plan

Social media marketing has increasingly become the focus for many nonprofits because of the potential reach but it's also an arena with significant competition in every niche.

It's unlikely for your first social media posts to go viral and drive huge donations. Consistency must be a critical part of your social media plan which includes setting up a manageable content calendar. You want the content to be ready in advance to avoid any panic.

When planning and creating your social media posts make sure you are always thinking about your target audience to avoid wasting your precious resources. Choose the social media channels where they are most likely to see your marketing messages. Try to have someone on the team dedicated to community engagement so you can learn what is effective faster.

Most social media platforms don't allow donations directly from their platform so it's important to encourage users to click through to your actual website to maximize the return on your marketing plan.

Email nonprofit marketing plan

The problem with any social media marketing plan is you are at the mercy of the platform. At any point, they could suspend your account without warning. This has become even more likely after Elon Musk took over Twitter!

Even search engines can change their algorithms and neuter your previous marketing activities.

This is why you should also direct some of your marketing budget to email marketing and collecting subscribers. You own access to these people and no outside force can take them away. Email is a more intimate connection and your email marketing campaigns could be your channel with the highest conversion rate.

Email marketing is a great way to encourage existing donors to donate again because they can see the direct impact of their efforts. The data you collect from this channel can be invaluable too!

TV and Radio nonprofit marketing plan

Another old school marketing strategy which can still support fundraising efforts is mainstream media advertisements. Many organizations have used these mediums to reach a wider pool of potential donors than they might be able to through online advertising.

You probably regularly see nonprofit organizations on your TV screen asking for the audience to donate. Nonprofits with a solid marketing plan in this area will generate strong brand awareness but it can be expensive so it's important to carefully consider all the variables if you choose to pursue mainstream media. St Jude Children’s Research Hospital paid $8.7 million for TV ads in a single year. Map out your different donor segments and choose shows which align carefully.

It can be best to bring external experts in to help your marketing team with your TV and radio marketing strategies to ensure a good return on investment.

Influencer nonprofit marketing plan

A relatively new form of marketing strategy that has been popular with businesses and is now spreading to nonprofit organizations is using social media influencers to promote the mission.

There are trade offs to consider for nonprofit marketers when choosing influencers to engage with. Some influencers may have a huge number of followers but have a weak relationship with them and actually be less likely to donate.

Smaller social media accounts may give better results on a limited market budget. It's crucial to ensure your organization is on the same page as whoever you work with. You could even ask them to make an online donation themselves and share on their channels.

You could partner with many influencers at once as part of a marketing campaign to increase chances of reaching your target audience. You also benefit from being able to compare the relative performance of individual social media accounts.

Print nonprofit marketing plan

Traditionally, a nonprofit marketing campaign meant printing off a huge number of flyers and trying to get them in front of as many potential donors as possible to raise funds.

You shouldn't dismiss a direct mail campaign without proper consideration. Though it might be less fashionable, when you think about it, many of us actually receive less direct mail than email. Direct mail appeals may end up being some of your most successful campaigns overall especially in terms of finding new donors.

Some best practices for print marketing include creating visually appealing marketing materials that grab attention and combining storytelling with a clear mission statement. As with any of the types of nonprofit marketing we've covered in this list, your team should be focused on compelling marketing messaging.

PPC nonprofit marketing plan

Sometimes businesses don't like to admit to using PPC marketing because they prefer to project they have incredible content instead. These are the ads you see at the top of search result pages before the sites which would algorithmically be determined to be most useful.

Yet you would be doing your organization's mission a disservice if you didn't have a PPC strategy. While search engine optimization and killer content can drive visitors to your site, PPC is another tool for your nonprofit organization to do so which is less open to competition.

You do however pay a fee each time someone clicks on their ad and is directed to your website. The cost varies depending on the keyword you've chosen and can stack up quickly if you don't have a forward thinking marketing plan. It's crucial as part of your nonprofit marketing strategy to analyze different keywords to see what minimizes cost while maximizing the likelihood of a donation.

Guerrilla nonprofit marketing plan

The final type of marketing is the most creative and there isn't a nonprofit marketing plan template you can use.

The idea is to do something completely out of the box which gets people's attention because it's so surprising and creates a buzz. This excitement makes people check out your nonprofit and tell all their friends too. 

Allow your marketing team to let their imaginations run wild to come up with innovative ideas. Of course, you shouldn't go too crazy and it should still align with your nonprofit's mission. Some examples of guerrilla marketing for nonprofits include flash mobs, street art, mystery events, and surprise performances.

Misereor created a custom interactive billboard which showed if you swipe your card then a child in Peru is fed. The video generated over 100k views!

For your marketing strategy, you should be always thinking about your target audience and what would get their attention. Shocking people in a world where they have access to so many crazy videos through social media isn't easy!

Final thoughts

We've covered nine different types of marketing that your nonprofit should have a plan for and some ideas of what you should be thinking about.

The smart goal is to raise awareness as efficiently as possible by targeting the right audience who are likely to donate or volunteer. Once you know this you can create personalized marketing strategies for your nonprofit organization.

You should remember to use the results of previous marketing strategies to inform what you prioritize going forward. An in depth marketing audit may reveal the best path for your next marketing campaign.

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