Marketing Tips for Non-Profits

Non-profit organizations have limited resources and staff to operate their programs, and marketing is often lower on the priority list. In this blog post, we discuss 15 simple things organizations can do to increase awareness, generate participation, and solicit donations from supporters.

Finding the time, money, and staff to successfully market your non-profit can be a challenge. So what can you do about it?

In March, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Eastern Iowa Chapter, where dozens of marketing professionals gathered to discuss their most pressing marketing questions, roadblocks, and needs. Many wanted to know: What’s the best advice for managing marketing and communications efforts in a small non-profit?

Just like businesses, non-profits come in all shapes and sizes. Some have larger staffs and budgets, while others are limited to one or two full-time employees who are trying to handle all of the marketing and communications efforts (usually on top of another full-time workload).

My marketing advice for non-profit organizations includes these 15 tips:

1. Be strategic.

What is your organization trying to accomplish in the next year? What about the next five years or ten years? Align your marketing goals with your organization’s goals.

2. Bring Everyone Along on the Journey.

Do staff, volunteers, board members, and leadership know the organization’s overall goals, its marketing goals, and how they can be the very best ambassadors to move those goals forward? Can everyone in your organization answer this question? Who are we and why would someone want to donate or become a member of this organization?

3. Get your brand in order.

This is super important. Your brand is your reputation, and you need to nurture it and care for it with intentionality. When your brand is in order, it builds trust. When it is not, audiences will waiver in their confidence. By getting your brand aligned, you can ensure clients, donors, and other audiences understand what you do as you move toward incorporating your strategic marketing efforts. If your message or design is unclear, if there are too many friction points for donors to contribute or volunteers to get involved, it will be hard for you to gain traction. Want to know more? Read our blog on brand consistency.

4. Leverage outside experts as needed.

Not sure how to bring everyone along or get your brand in order? Or perhaps you need marketing advice on a particular campaign? Seek expert advice to set and reach your goals. While outside partner costs can be a challenge, these partners can help you take a step back to see the larger picture. They can give you valuable insights into best practices, meet with your leadership to facilitate conversations and build consensus, and help set a strategy that your team can execute. They also can help you incorporate tangible changes and processes such as setting appropriate marketing budgets, conducting a communications audit, creating a marketing plan, devising a plan for a capital campaign, or providing any subset of recommendations on how to move your organization’s marketing forward.

5. Create audience personas.

Don’t skip this step. Know who you are targeting, what’s important to each audience, what messages you want to share, and the best ways to reach them.

6. Survey your patrons.

Surveys can help you determine donor communication preferences and needs. Asked simply: How do you receive our communications now and where would you like to receive them in the future? You can also use surveys to gain a better understanding of how your audiences perceive different parts of your organization. It’s a great way to get real information that matters and to communicate that you are working to make your marketing and organization better.

7. Develop robust email campaigns.

Be sure you have an email strategy that involves segmentation so you aren’t over-communicating to any one audience or making an extra or repeat ask of a donor who just recently donated. It will be worth the extra effort, particularly if you are raising money. A study from Campaign Monitor shows that segmented email campaigns can yield up to a 760% increase in revenue.

8. Create personalized interactions.

Digital is great and provides ways to personalize your outreach (emails, landing pages, etc.). However, there is still a place for a handwritten note, a printed annual report, or a thank you referencing the impact of a specific contribution. It’s all about strategy, purpose, and mix.

9. Prioritize quality over quantity.

Whether you’re a non-profit or a for-profit, you want quality over quantity. Not 10 emails, but one really good one. Not 12 social media posts, but perhaps two or three really strong ones that align with your brand strategy and message.

10. Monitor your budget.

Ask the hard questions. What’s the return on the marketing investments you are making (both time/effort and cost)? Track, measure, and update your plans accordingly.

11. Leverage content across platforms.

One video for an event can be edited into three video segments to be used on social media—one each quarter for the rest of the year for fundraising efforts. Start blogging! Leveraging content for multiple uses forces you to be more strategic, saves you time, and gives you something consistent to test across platforms.

12. Consider low-cost visual options.

Graphic design, photos, and video can be expensive to generate. Pursue some low-cost options such as Fiverr or DIY videos on biteable.

13. Be sure you have a well-rounded board of directors.

Your board should be made up of not just finance and community members, but also people who understand the role that marketing plays in today’s world. Marketing should not be an afterthought.

14. Develop and nurture partnerships.

They matter. Other social services, government agencies, etc. can support one another if you have awareness of those organizations and identify ways you might work together. Reference them, promote them, and apply for grants together (grantors love that).

15. Share a sense of urgency.

Part of your overall strategy should always be to identify and share a sense of urgency in your marketing and campaigns. Why should I become a member or donate to your organization? Show me the impact of my affiliation and how my money is used.Whether you want to get your brand in order, launch a new capital campaign, create a marketing plan, or understand your audiences better, Meld can help. Reach out and let’s talk!

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