Did you know only 26% of nonprofit organizations can say they have a sophisticated business content plan?

This is because not-for-profit organizations face one of the biggest marketing challenges: scarce funding.

However, in many cases, these organizations are also equipped with an important strength — passion for fulfilling their mission.

Nonprofit marketers are driven by the desire to make the world a better place, and creating real change is of the utmost importance to them.

This is why digital marketing for nonprofit organizations is crucial. Targeted efforts to promote their goals will help them thrive and raise more awareness, as well as attract more funding for their mission.

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The greatest hurdles to successful nonprofit marketing

To promote a nonprofit, you need branding and marketing that reaches your target audience with the right message at the right time. There are many channels you can use, including content marketing, print ads, video campaigns, emails, online ads, organic and paid social media content, and more.

But before we dive into different approaches, let’s first address the most common challenges of successful marketing strategies for nonprofit organizations one-by-one:

  • The lack of digital skills
  • Increasing cynicism and competition for donor dollars
  • Increasing competition from organizations with bigger budgets

nonprofit digital marketing chart 2019

Lack of digital skills

According to Skills Platform, the lack of funding and the lack of skills create almost equal obstacles to organizational growth.

What’s more, almost half of charities interested in going digital are facing leadership obstacles, meaning that their management does not prioritize nonprofit marketing strategy.

In fact, only in 36% of nonprofits is digital transformation being led from the top down.

At the same time, organizations are acknowledging the potential impact of digital transformation within their culture.

The good news is that staff can actually create content and run digital campaigns on their own, while gaining buy-in from leadership. This makes more sense for budget-conscious nonprofits as they can send team members to training or dedicate time to refining these skills without a huge financial investment.

Acknowledging this challenge and using it as rationale for improving skills will pay off for your organization.

Competition for donor dollars

Many worthwhile nonprofits exist, often in the same or similar spaces as your own. This can make the competition for donations difficult.

Combined with this fact is potential cynicism from the general public, driven by organizations who mismanage funds or high-profile news stories that encourage distrust of nonprofits.

If it makes sense, you can try to combat this mindset by encouraging transparency across the organization. Release your year-end reports in a major way, making sure to thank donors and let them know exactly how their dollars were spent.

You can read more on this topic in the marketing plan for securing donations below.

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Competing with organizations with bigger budgets

Similarly, you’re also facing competition from larger, well-known nonprofits that often get thought of first when a particular issue arises.

Of course, working to advance your mission is good no matter what. But you still have goals to hit and objectives to solve.

So how do you stand out?

While many nonprofits do not have abundant financial resources, they have another great resource: a caring and passionate human force.

Use your strengths to your advantage, and embark on a new marketing journey that helps you bring in donations, attract volunteers, and raise awareness for your biggest issues.

Developing a marketing strategy for nonprofit organizations begins with finding existing resources and reaching out to the target audience with an important message.

Your free marketing plan for nonprofits

It may sound overwhelming to develop a nonprofit marketing strategy. However, the first step should always be to audit existing resources to see what’s available. You may discover marketing efforts to refresh or build upon.

To start a nonprofit marketing plan from scratch, follow these steps:

  1. Update your website content and design
  2. Create content around your mission, donors, and volunteers
  3. Host events and consider other marketing tactics
  4. Test digital ads and PPC
  5. Use analytics and research to improve efforts

the building blocks of nonprofit marketing

The main objectives that most nonprofits have are:

  • Getting donations
  • Getting volunteers
  • Raising awareness

Here are strategies that help address each goal, using the marketing plan outline above.

Getting donations through nonprofit marketing

While the target of any nonprofit organization is raising awareness, attracting funding is no less important.

These digital marketing tactics for nonprofits will help you do just that.

1. Update your website content and design

  • Add a Donate! page to your website’s main navigation so it’s visible
  • On the home page, place a Donate! call-to-action button with a way to donate online or mail donations
  • Create landing pages for each campaign as part of your not-for-profit marketing
    • Be as specific as possible so potential donors know what initiatives they’re supporting

2. Create content around your donors

  • Write blog posts about donors and success stories to raise inspiration
  • Thank your donors with timely emails or notes
  • Create a mailing list and update your target audience about your progress
  • Communicate with your supporters on social media and make use of fundraising tools like Facebook Fundraisers
  • Spend time on your annual report, giving credit to donors and letting them know how their donations were spent

3. Host events and consider other marketing tactics

  • Get creative about fundraising events

4. Test digital ads and PPC

  • Use A/B tests and PPC marketing with no investment whatsoever to boost your conversions and make sure you are really performing up to your potential with a digital strategy.
  • PPC marketing is a paid marketing tool, but for nonprofits aiming to boost their digital footprint, Google Ad Grants program offers it free of charge. Actually, Microsoft and Google are some of the largest non-profit investors in the world. Together, they donate almost a billion of dollars annually.

google grants homepage

How does Google make money, you ask? The program limits some of the digital endeavors enjoyed by non-profits. For instance, a bid of $2 CPC and no more than $10,000 can be spent on digital nonprofit marketing monthly.

For a free option, these numbers are still pretty attractive.

Don’t forget about A/B testing. The concept is as simple as it sounds: any time you can, test out two different options with one change.

You can test two different subject lines in your email campaign and see which one performs better (brings in more email opens).

This tells you something about your audience – what messaging they prefer, and what they are passionate about. Another example of A/B testing is testing titles or call-to-action button colors.

You can apply this testing approach to most of your marketing efforts, so keep it in mind when you’re starting new campaigns.

5. Use analytics and research to improve

Use nonprofit marketing for volunteer recruitment and management

To move your mission and speak to people’s hearts, make signing up and volunteering easy and accessible.

Here’s how to apply your marketing plan to your nonprofit if the priority is volunteer recruitment.

1. Update your website content and design

  • Next to your Donate! button, place the one that says Volunteer! and link to the volunteering options at your charity organization
  • Keep the website structure simple, and keep the Volunteer! option visible

2. Create content around your volunteers

  • Speak about your volunteers on your blog, with pride and gratitude
  • Share volunteering opportunities across social media and ask your partners to share
  • Thank your volunteers by emailing them regularly and updating on the progress of their efforts

3. Host events and consider other marketing tactics

4. Test digital ads and PPC

  • For this objective, it might not make sense to spend precious marketing budget on paid ads
    • There are exceptions, if, for example, you need a large number of volunteers for a large-scale fundraiser
    • For this, consider Google Grants again

5. Use analytics and research to improve efforts

  • Track volunteer sign-ups with analytics tools, such as Google Analytics
  • See how email open rates and clicks improve with more consistent marketing efforts
  • Compare which social media posts get the most engagement and create more like them

email and websites for nonprofit marketing

While 88% of charity marketers realize that email and website are their top sources of traffic in terms of volunteers and donors, 47% of them are actually making money from email marketing.

In addition to email marketing, there are many digital sources at play, such as search engine marketing (SEM) and social media traffic.

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Nonprofit marketing ideas for raising awareness

Securing funding is great, as is finding volunteers.

However, your marketing goal may sometimes be to raise awareness of an important issue and get people talking.

Be warned: building buzz and engagement isn’t necessarily easier than the other two objectives.

To do this, make sure you stress the importance of your work.

Most people volunteer or donate after hearing new reports or seeing nonprofit campaigns around pollution, for example. Reminding people of current issues can encourage them to tell their friends, change behaviors, or sign up for more information.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Update your website content and design

  • On your About page, tell a story about who you are and what your mission is
    • Digital storytelling is powerful when it comes to raising awareness
    • According to Forbes, video content works best
  • Create an elevator pitch as part of your nonprofit marketing plan and place it at the top of your landing page
  • Add calls to action that do not demand any investment from the visitor, such as joining the newsletter, to attract those who are just surfing around to help a good cause
  • Make signing up for your newsletter easy, preferably with one click – avoid endless contact forms

2. Create content around your mission

  • Content marketing for nonprofits will require some SEO effort when it comes to blog posts
    • Simply search keywords you think your audience might try and then incorporate them wisely into your digital stories
    • This way, you will appear on top of search engine results

3. Host events and consider other marketing tactics

  • Do not join all social media channels at once when it comes to raising awareness
    • Put real effort into those that your target audience prefers to use on a daily basis
  • Create a posting schedule or use a scheduled posting tool to maintain a social presence on a constant basis
  • Use popular hashtags on every social media platform
    • You can simply research those by looking at larger organizations for inspiration or seeing how volunteers use them

4. Test digital ads and PPC

  • The appeal of digital advertising or PPC campaigns is that you can be more targeted in who you want to message
    • Create an audience persona based on who you think will respond best to your campaigns
    • Then, use analytics and results to make adjustments to creative or PPC content

5. Use analytics and research to improve efforts

  • While less tangible than counting donations or volunteers, you can measure the impact of raising awareness in a few different ways
    • Newsletter signups
    • Engagement on social media
    • Paid ad clicks and impressions
    • You can even use tools that tell you how often your hashtags have been used or links have been shared

nonprofit marketing social media to gain donations

Social media is becoming more important for successful donation marketing strategies. In the past few years, donors who have shared their affiliated charities online have brought them about 35% of their income through networking.

On average, every 5th share on social media will result in a donation!

Next steps: How to get started with nonprofit marketing

How can you make sure your not-for-profit marketing efforts do not get lost in the sea of worthwhile nonprofits?

Follow the steps in this article, and measure your impact along the way.

These simple steps are done by every digital business daily, and they provide accurate benchmarking for your nonprofit marketing strategy’s success.

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to fail and start over with new and fresh ideas generated by your team.

The best digital marketing players are not perfect, but they definitely know how to stand up after falling.