Nonprofit organizations hold a special place in our society. They exist, primarily, to serve a public good in ways local, state, and federal agencies can't. They provide vital resources to marginalized communities and households in need. However, despite their altruistic efforts, nonprofits exist because of their donors and grants. On top of this, they have to compete with new organizations launching every day over the same limited pool of funding opportunities. Just like for-profit organizations, people will get behind a brand because of how it makes them feel. This exchange is made possible through a nonprofit's messaging and its ability to tell a compelling story. This messaging is done through marketing.
Marketing for nonprofits can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. There are a few important things to keep in mind when planning your nonprofit marketing strategy:
1. What is the nonprofit's mission?
Once you understand this, you can start to craft your messaging around it. This should include everything from your website's About Us section to your social media posts and e-mail signatures. The goal is to maximize your "real estate" of areas where you can plug in or repurpose towards your bottom line.
2. Understand your audience
Who is your nonprofit targeting? What do they care about? What issues are they passionate about? Once you know this, you can create content that speaks to those interests. Once you know who benefits from the nonprofit's work, it becomes much easier to focus your efforts on them. Use market research tools to generate fresh insights about your population. Then, identify their interests and concerns, drill down into them, and find ways to tap into them with your messaging.
3. Identify strengths
Focus on what the organization does better than others in the same domain. This will give your nonprofit an edge (competitive advantage) in the market and make it that much easier to attract donors, volunteers, and public awareness.
4. Be creative
What can we do differently? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but being creative and innovative will go a long way. For example, a nonprofit creates a social media campaign around its unique approach to recycling. Rather than just promoting their services, they showed how their program positively impacts the community by reducing waste and improving environmental quality. Therefore the positive outcomes of this fictional nonprofit resonated better with their potential donor base.
5. Use technology
Social media is an attractive tool for bringing awareness to the nonprofit's brand, communicating impact, reaching new audiences, and controlling how your organization is portrayed online. But your presence on each one is not necessary. You will need to decide what social media platforms are appropriate for your organization. Where does your audience live? What digital communities are they a resident of? Investigate how other nonprofits use social media as a guide. And while social mediums are front-facing products, they are barely effective without pairing your social media activities with data analysis. By using and understanding data-driven tools, it will be easier to craft effective campaigns – ultimately offering a complete and comprehensive picture of the organization, its mission, vision, and impact.
Nonprofits often use a variety of marketing techniques to raise awareness and recruit memberships. Some common methods include advertising, organizing events, conducting surveys, and writing blogs or articles about the organization’s mission and activities. Many nonprofits also engage in online marketing by creating websites and/or posting content on social media platforms.
Marketing for nonprofits – Put People First
As unorthodox as it sounds, nonprofit organizations have to run themselves like a business. While they don't collect profits, they do need to generate income to remain sustainable and, therefore, fulfill their programmatic goals of serving their constituents. Many, if not most, nonprofits fundraise as a source of income. While others might use a mix of fundraiser money, donor money, and grants. Another method worth mentioning is the slow-growing trend of nonprofits selling a service and/or product. This approach is a nod to social enterprises, which are businesses similarly that aim to address a social issue while earning a profit for their stakeholders.
To give your nonprofit marketing strategy wings, it must focus on the individual. Whether you refer to them as a participant, client, or other label, the person you seek to serve is at the heart of all your marketing efforts. Like successful businesses who understand their customers' journey, nonprofit leaders must map their client journey – starting before discovery to receiving services.
Marketing for nonprofit organizations can be tricky because the goal is often different from that of for-profit businesses. For-profit businesses generally aim to make money, while nonprofits are typically focused on serving their community. This means that marketing for nonprofits must be carefully staged and strategic.
Here's a look at how nonprofits can use marketing to help them reach their programmatic and overarching goals:
Use marketing to reach new donors.
One of the best ways for nonprofits to use marketing is to reach new donors. By using marketing techniques such as targeted advertising, direct mail, and social media outreach, nonprofits can reach potential donors who may be interested in supporting their cause.
Use marketing to engage existing supporters.
It's not enough to just reach new donors; nonprofits also need to engage existing supporters. Marketing can help nonprofits keep supporters engaged by providing them with updates on the organization's work, sharing stories of impact, and inviting them to events and activities.
Use marketing to promote their programs and services.
In addition to reaching new donors and engaging existing supporters, nonprofits can also use marketing to promote their programs and services. By creating marketing materials such as brochures, website content, and social media posts, nonprofits can raise awareness of their work and attract new participants.
Use marketing to reach their fundraising goal.
Finally, nonprofits can use marketing to reach their fundraising goal. By planning and executing a comprehensive marketing campaign, nonprofits can generate the donations they need to support their work.
There are a few things nonprofit leaders should keep top of mind when planning their marketing strategy: The message must be consistent with the organization's goals and values. This builds trust and shows transparency.
Additionally, it is essential to be aware of the target audience and what motivates them. And this can be achieved with the proper use of effective communication channels, such as online, print, video, and even podcasts.
As the social media trend continues to grow in size and popularity, and the digital divide prevents communities in need from accessing vital resources, it can be a challenge for nonprofits to decide on what type of marketing to use. Social media marketing requires competing amongst other organizations for the attention of donors and stakeholders. Email marketing offers the security of being built internally, but subscriber lists are subject to subscriber decay and subject lines need to be compelling enough to warrant a 'click open'. Lastly, content marketing can be costly, yet very effective in creating a strong brand identity. Like any public-facing material, content has to compel, attract, delight, and retain supporters.
Before a nonprofit organization commits to a marketing plan, it must first understand what marketing mix is appropriate for its mission and bottom-line goals. There are three main ways a not-for-profit organization utilizes marketing; content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing.
Content marketing is a form of marketing that uses content, such as blog posts, articles, or social media content, to build relationships and promote your not-for-profit’s mission. Content should be relevant and engaging, and it should be shared often to keep users interested.
Email marketing is a powerful tool for promoting your organization’s mission and message to potential supporters. Email campaigns can be customized to target specific groups of people, and they can be sent periodically (weekly, monthly) or on an event-based schedule.
Social media marketing is the most popular form of nonprofit marketing because it allows you to reach a large audience quickly. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are ideal for sharing content that is informative and engaging.
Regardless of the marketing technique you choose, be sure to create compelling content that speaks to your target audience. By doing this, you can build a loyal following that will help your nonprofit achieve its goals.
While the approaches above are the most common, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to nonprofit marketing. The most important thing is to be creative and tailor your marketing strategy to fit the needs of your organization.
Many organizations operate with tight budgets, so it is imperative that they invest in a marketing method that is cost-effective and drives the organization's bottom line. Email marketing, for example, can be a low-cost way to reach a large number of people. By using content marketing and social media platforms, you can create a multimedia campaign that is both informative and engaging.
Marketing is an important part of any nonprofit organization's operations, but it is not the only factor that determines whether or not an organization succeeds. The most successful nonprofits are those that are mindful of their mission, message, and methods of execution. This is important for nonprofits to keep top-of-mind, so as to not deviate from goals and their projected outcomes.
What are some real-world examples of effective nonprofit marketing strategies? Some examples of successful nonprofit marketing efforts include:
The Girls Collaborative uses creative content and social media to encourage girls to pursue their passions
The Creative Coalition uses social media to engage with artists and promote their work
Greenpeace, which rallies people around environmental causes through inspiring storytelling
The American Red Cross engages donors through product awareness and giving-back programs.
In today's world marketing is at the heart of any successful nonprofit organization. Once an organization understands this, the sooner it can capitalize off of current technology and prepare powerful campaigns.