Online marketing can have wildly different results for different nonprofits. Understanding why one campaign succeeds and how another can improve is your first step toward building a nonprofit marketing strategy.
Nonprofit professionals already know it’s important to get their organization noticed, but those just getting started with marketing may be unsure what their first steps are. To help your nonprofit develop a new marketing strategy, here are five tips you can use to begin elevating your efforts.
1. Define your target audiences.
All marketing strategies start by defining their target audience. Determine who you’re marketing to, why you’re targeting that audience, and what messaging will interest them. The more you know about this audience, the more effective your messages will be.
You can begin defining and planning your strategy for each audience by following these steps:
- Research donor data. Start your research by looking at your donor database. What characteristics do your current donors have in common? Look for trends in demographic data, location, stated interests, and past engagement with your cause. While you won’t have access to their data, you can also look at the audiences of similar organizations by identifying supporters who interact with their accounts online and staying up to date with general nonprofit giving trends.
- Create personas. Use the data you’ve gathered to create personas. You can build personas by using common traits of your audience to create a hypothetical supporter. These personas should have names, ages, careers, stated reasons for why they’re interested in your cause, and any obstacles they might face that prevent them from supporting you. Many organizations find it useful to create personas that help them craft marketing campaigns targeted to one, specific person rather than an entire group of people.
- Craft specific messages. Use your personas to tailor your marketing messages to each audience. For example, your messages aimed at local supporters might reference recent projects in your community and in-person events they can attend. Messages for remote supporters, on the other hand, might instead talk about your overall impact and encourage them to connect with you online.
Defining your target audience helps create tailored messages that are likely to resonate with potential supporters. Once a potential supporter converts, you can further tailor the content they receive with segmented messaging lists and personalized communication.
2. Develop your brand.
Before crafting your marketing messages, ensure you can answer one central question: what sets your nonprofit apart from other organizations? With many nonprofits also marketing online, your messages should immediately highlight how your organization is unique to supporters.
You can differentiate your nonprofit and make sure supporters are always able to identify messages from your nonprofit by developing a clear brand image. Your brand will consist of your logo, colors, fonts, and key images, as well as language choices and the specific content types and strategies you use. For example, one organization might set itself apart by using a brightly colored, abstract logo, addressing supporters using casual language, and regularly creating content about ongoing news stories and how they relate to their cause.
You can develop a brand and start building audience recognition by:
- Determining your organizational values. Visuals are an important part of your brand, but they’re not the entire story. Think deeply about your nonprofit’s values and mission and how you can communicate those ideas with your branding. For example, a nonprofit that has a value of community may include many photos of groups of people working together and share emotional stories about the families they’ve helped. By contrast, a nonprofit aiming for a more professional brand, such as a health service center, may instead focus its branding on the expertise of its staff.
- Partnering with a marketing consultant. If your organization has minimal marketing experience, it can be useful to partner with a nonprofit marketing consultant to get guidance on how to translate your values into a cohesive brand identity. For visuals you’ll use over and over again, it can be worthwhile to invest in hiring a graphic designer to create something high-quality.
- Creating a brand style guide. Once you select your core brand elements, document them in a style guide. Make notes of how various visual elements will be used in a variety of situations, such as a version of your logo with a transparent background or a simplified, mobile-friendly one. This will help your nonprofit maintain consistency, and your guide can be especially helpful if you plan to have volunteers help promote your nonprofit.
Be sure to monitor your supporters’ reactions to your brand. If your initial branding efforts miss the mark or you end up shifting goals, rebranding is always an option. However, be thoughtful about when and how you decide to shift your brand identity. Constantly changing your branding will likely result in confusion, whereas an occasional big announcement about a change in logo and content direction can get supporters excited for the future.
3. Grow and leverage your community.
Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools, as many potential supporters are more likely to take notice of and follow up on a recommendation from a friend than cold outreach from an organization they haven’t heard of before.
The first step to leveraging word-of-mouth marketing is ensuring your nonprofit fulfills its mission and creates an environment where donors feel appreciated and inspired. After all, a supporter is most likely to recommend an organization they had a positive experience with to a friend.
To supplement word-of-mouth marketing efforts, your nonprofit should also take steps to broaden your audience and bring more passionate supporters into your donor community. Here are a few tips to grow and mobilize your community:
- Encourage interaction online. Social media lets you access your supporters’ online networks whenever they engage with your content. Give supporters opportunities to interact with you online, like encouraging volunteers to take photos of themselves in action and tag your social media accounts when they post online. Also, if someone comments on one of your posts, be sure to respond by answering their question, thanking them for sharing their thoughts, or otherwise acknowledging their support.
- Optimize your digital marketing efforts. In addition to maintaining a strong presence on platforms such as social media and email to foster two-way communications with supporters, optimize your other digital marketing pursuits. For example, consider your Google Ad strategy. By targeting the right keywords and creating compelling ad content, you can broaden your supporter community to engage with passionate new audience members who are interested in learning more about your cause.
- Host peer-to-peer campaigns. Peer-to-peer campaigns have your supporters fundraise on your behalf to their friends and family. To launch a peer-to-peer campaign, encourage a few excited supporters to volunteer to fundraise and help them create personal donation pages. These pages can be customized by each supporter, allowing them to share their personal connection to your nonprofit. Then, when their family and friends donate, they’ll feel like they’re contributing to their loved ones while also learning more about your cause.
- Partner with other organizations. Leverage your local community by working with other organizations. This might be another nonprofit you partner with to complete a project or a business that agrees to sponsor one of your events. These partnerships help spread awareness of your nonprofit’s cause in your community, cementing a positive local reputation for your organization.
Whenever your supporters recommend your nonprofit or spread awareness about your cause, be sure to thank them for their efforts. Doing so will help them know they’re making a difference and feel appreciated, increasing the chances they’ll continue to promote your nonprofit in the future.
4. Work with a nonprofit marketing consultant.
If you try the tips above and still aren’t finding as much marketing success as you hoped, then it may be time to consult a professional. Working with a marketing consultant is extremely helpful for nonprofits that don’t have the staff time to dedicate toward their promotional efforts or that need some guidance on which direction to take their marketing.
Some of the benefits of working with nonprofit marketing consultants include:
- Expertise. These professionals will leverage their years of experience to help your organization create a marketing plan that will best serve your mission.
- Outside perspective. Marketing consultants can provide an outside perspective on your existing marketing strategies. They may be able to identify areas that need improvement easier than members of your team, as they’ll have an objective view.
- Strategic planning. A marketing consultant can help you develop a comprehensive marketing strategy that accounts for your organization’s mission, branding, and goals. They’ll define your target audience and clearly outline a path to achieving your goals.
- Data analysis. After helping you create your marketing strategy, consultants will also analyze the relevant data. Then, they’ll walk you through the insights they’ve gained and advise on how to adjust your strategy to make it more effective.
- Networking. Marketing consultants will have connections with other nonprofits and marketing professionals in the industry. They’ll be able to leverage these connections to your nonprofit’s advantage and may even be able to introduce you to professionals that can help further your cause.
As you determine which marketing consultant to work with, ensure they account for the digital aspect of nonprofit advertising. Some of the key elements of your nonprofit’s brand are digital, including your website and social media pages. A great digital marketing consultant will optimize these elements to help your organization tell its story and maximize its impact.
5. Train and maintain your staff.
In addition to working with external consultants, nonprofits should also consider steps they can take to develop an internal marketing team. Depending on the size of your nonprofit, your marketing team could be an entire department or a single person. Regardless of size, your staff can develop marketing expertise when given the right support.
Specifically, you can help your staff by:
- Ensuring your goals are aligned. Meet with your marketing team to keep everyone on the same page when it comes to your nonprofit’s brand identity and marketing goals. Before launching a marketing campaign, establish what audience is being targeted, what you want your audience to do, and how your marketing materials will drive that audience to action.
- Providing necessary resources. When working with your marketing team to plan campaigns, don’t hesitate to hold candid conversations about your nonprofit’s current resources and what can be contributed to the marketing team. This might include their budget, how much time they have to prepare, and whether working with external contractors is practical.
- Encouraging them to develop their skills. Your marketing team should already have essential skills based on their roles, but you can help them create better marketing campaigns by giving them opportunities to grow their skills. This might involve expanding work duties, such as having your email marketing copywriter draft social media posts, or providing more responsibility like having your head of marketing manage numerous directs.
As part of your training and management practices, be sure to also show your appreciation for everything your marketing team does. Little things like thanking them for their hard work or giving small gifts can improve your nonprofit’s employee retention rate, resulting in a motivated and highly skilled staff.
Your nonprofit marketing strategy is essential for reaching new supporters and keeping your current audience engaged. You can boost your potential impact by closely targeting specific audiences with messages that fully represent your organization. To get started with your marketing strategy, take a look at your audience’s needs and your nonprofit’s values to craft messages that will inspire support.