According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are 1,571,056 nonprofit organizations registered in the U.S. alone. Standing out in this sizable crowd can seem intimidating, if not nearly impossible.
The good news is that you don’t have to get your message across to everyone. There is a group of people out there with whom your mission and vision will truly resonate. Finding and reaching your target audience is the key to successfully marketing your NPO.
To help you begin, we asked some experts in the field for their best advice. Check out these insightful and beneficial pro tips.
“Nonprofits should think of themselves as cultivating and sustaining members or subscribers (aka repeat donors). To do this, look beyond the cause you’re supporting to the experience you’re creating for the donor/subscriber.
“How can you add value to the experience of donating or supporting your organization? Possibilities include:
- Creating and nurturing a sense of community among the donors – connecting people with similar interests.
- Creating and sharing content of value to the donors and recipients – content that inspires, connects, or educates people
- Offering visibility into the impact of the donor’s actions – celebrating victories that their actions helped make possible
“The more value you add to that experience, the stronger your subscriber base will be.”
Anne Janzer, author of Subscription Marketing: Strategies for Nurturing Customers in a World of Churn
Follow Anne on Twitter @annejanzer
“Be active on social media. Share the fantastic results your organization has achieved lately what lives have been transformed, and then engage with your audience. Look at what other organizations do and help them by sharing their content.
“You’ll get more results if you partner with other organizations because most of the time, the people who support a charity will give money to others if they believe in the mission.”
“If I could give any NPO just one tip, it would be to know your audience. Not just who they are, but what matters to them.
“Sure, you must know who they are (that’s the demographics – age, income, education, location, etc.). But, to create messages that resonate and inspire, you have to know what they care about.
“Your organization exists because it’s solving an important problem. Of course your work matters. But in order to make your work matter to the right people, you have to know what matters to them. You have to meet them where they are. With messaging that links their whys to yours.
“My favorite exercise to help NPOs figure out how to get to the core of their message and create messages that will matter to their audience is the three whys. It’s just as it sounds: you state what you do. And you ask yourself, ‘Why?’ Dig down deep by doing three rounds of why and see what comes out. Then find the intersections between what you’ve said, and what you know matters to your audience.”
Rachel B Jordan, Founder, 929 Marketing
Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachelbjordan
“Regardless of the size of the marketing budget, all NPOs have the same goal: to spend marketing dollars efficiently in order to maximize donations. And they all have the same pitfall: appear as if you’re spending that money on frivolous marketing (e.g. full-color mailings) and donations will begin to decline.
“With that, I offer the same piece of advice to all NPOs when it comes to marketing. Use your dollars to encourage your base to become champions of your cause.
“You do this through excellent stewardship and using the influencers within your base to help extend your message farther. People donate to causes they care about and they donate to causes their friends care about. So spend a good portion of your time communicating directly with those in your base that are influencers.
“How do you identify an influencer? Look for those in your base that fall into one of four categories:
- The “Celebrity”: This person typically has a blog or a major following of some sort. When they endorse your NPO, people listen because they respect and value their opinion, whether it’s where to eat, what books to read, or what causes to support.
- The Engaged Fan: This person may not have as wide a sphere of influence, but they are actively involved in what your organization is doing. They will champion you at every turn and their passion is infectious.
- The Board Member: Your board is already engaged with your cause, but they carry a lot of influence with their peers as well. An endorsement from this type of influencer will typically bring in opportunities for larger donations.
- The Employee: Don’t discount the ones that are being paid to work with your organization. Those are typically the most influential of all because there is an even greater belief in their recommendations.
“To sum up, when you spend the majority your time cultivating your relationships with the influencers in your base, your marketing dollars will go further and further.”
Eunice Brownlee, Chief Marketing Strategist at thirty9 collective
Follow Eunice on Twitter @eunicebrownlee
Attract Corporate Sponsors
“My tip for NPOs is to help them market to attract more corporate sponsors. Share the wins around engagement for sponsors as part of the overall social strategy and be sure to tag the sponsors.
“For example, if your Twitter followers increased over the previous month, announce that in a tweet and tag the sponsors. Guess who follows your sponsors? Their competition! If you don’t have an exclusivity clause, you may be able to secure another corporate sponsor by reporting the successes you are helping their competition enjoy.”
Anetra Henry-Hunting, The ROI Reinforcer at The Hunting Group
Follow Anetra on Twitter @TheHuntingGroup
Set Up Search Console
“I encourage all NPO website owners to do this if they already haven’t: Set up Google Search Console.
“It offers actionable data, analytics, and insights into how Google and Google searchers find your website. Many NPOs create great content but don’t know which keywords bring them quality traffic. The data found here can help uncover that. Search Console also provides diagnostic reports such as 404 errors, and potential malware.
“Best of all, the Search Console is free, and the data found here can’t be found on 3rd party marketing tools.
“If you’re already using Search Console, I recommend you use it more regularly to identify your top keywords and landing pages. From there, focus on enhancing copy and meta data on those pages for those keywords, and you’ll get more free, year-round traffic to your site.”
Raj Shah, Senior Marketing Manager at TakeLessons.com
Follow Raj on Twitter @rajshahchicago
“Feature your sponsors prominently on your website and link to them. SEO specialists are constantly looking for nonprofits to sponsor in a variety of industries, geographies and at a variety of price points.
“Featuring your sponsors on a high-level page (such as .com/sponsors) and linking out to them will make sponsorship more attractive to them, which can have a big impact on your fundraising efforts. You can also feature your sponsors in blog posts and on social media to give them even more highly-visible benefits.”
Joe Goldstein, SEO Director / Operations Manager at Contractor Calls
Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeAdamG
“The one word of advice I would give NPOs is to showcase the stories of those they help.
“In addition to showcasing outcomes in a meaningful way that can be easily shared and it also serves as content for testimonials, videos, blogs and case studies.
“Finally, it allows an opportunity for family members, employees, donors and volunteers to be a part of the story. Too often, NPOs spend all their time talking about them instead of the difference they make.”
Tami Belt Owner/CEO of Blue Cube Marketing Solutions
Follow Tami on Twitter @1bluecube
Avoid Dead Spots
“Eye tracking studies show that people tend to read in an F pattern on the web
The upper right-hand corner is a “dead spot” on most websites. Don’t put your donate button there.
“Data-driven marketing can stretch your budget. Content marketing done right can work wonders for a non-profit or charity. But you must be able to measure results so you can see what’s working and what’s not.
“‘Throwing spaghetti against the wall’ is not a workable strategy. Every piece of content should have a purpose and you need to know exactly what results you’re getting so that you can allocate your meager resources to best advantage.”
“Leverage technology. Use Google Analytics and a social media management dashboard that will make it easier and faster to produce the content and track results.”
Sally Falkow, Digital PR Strategist at Meritus Media
Follow Sally on Twitter @sallyfalkow
Seek Sponsor Support
“Reach out to company sponsors and ask that they feature a ‘Proud Supporter of [Your Organization]’ on their website, making sure that the image or text links to your site. This can help your overall site strength and positively affect search engine rankings.
“Ensure that those who donate can easily share something such as the following on their social profiles: ‘I just donated to [Your Organization]. Will you donate, too?’ This social share feature should appear after checkout.”
Geoff Hoesch, CEO of Dragonfly Digital Marketing
“One marketing tip I would give to an NPO struggling with marketing would be to spend a little bit of time searching through Instagram to look for pre-existing content other users/fans/supporters may have already created for them.
“For example, a charity organization might search for their own name via hashtag or by looking thru Instagram’s geotagging feature and may uncover fantastic posts they could ask to reshare to their own feeds. This is a quick way to build up a content library by allowing your current supporters to do your marketing for you!”
Alycia Yerves, Creative Director at Alycia Yerves Creative
Find Personal Stories to Share
“Every organization, no matter the size, has great stories to tell. From the people who volunteer and donate their time to those animals, humans, or otherwise helped by your cause, there are some hidden gems in there that can help to share the “why” and meaning behind the work you do.
“Start by leveraging your database and asking volunteers or those who use your services to share their best stories. Next, identify the most unique and personal stories to share – the more specific and unusual, the better.
“Finally, decide on the most effective ways to reach your audience and repurpose these submissions, using them as content in letters asking for donations, videos on social media, material for your blog or testimonials on your website. Make sure you end every piece with a call to action, asking others to join your cause, donate their time or get involved!”
Follow Mandy on Twitter @mandymenaker
Optimize For The 21st Century
“Make sure your digital assets are optimized for 21st Century giving. The internet has changed the face of charitable giving.
“Organizers I’ve worked with are increasingly having trouble filling high profile galas and soliciting contributions via mail/phone. Giving is moving online, and contributions shared via social media networks (this is particularly true of Millennial contributors).
“My advice is to make sure your digital assets allow for immediate online contributions and social sharing. Then, include stories and/or case studies of how your charity has made a positive difference (bonus if this is done via short, shareable videos).
“In today’s cynical world of ‘fake news,’ people need to see concrete examples that the money they are giving is really doing good. If you include stories, make them about your charity’s beneficiaries, not about your employees or volunteers.
“Need inspiration? Go to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo and search out successful charitable campaigns for ideas. Sites like these are taking market share from traditional charities, so I think it’s important to see what they’re doing, why they’ve been so successful and then use this information to your advantage.
“Realize, and exploit, your special value as a non-profit/NGO to build mutually beneficial partnerships. This is particularly true when focusing on Millennials. That segment of the population has been tricky for traditional marketers. Millennials are extremely wary of a hard sell. Moreover, they tend to seek out companies with strong charitable footprints.
“My advice is to find a company that has demographics in common with your donor base but is not working with a non-profit. Approach them with partnership ideas. You give them ‘non-profit credibility,’ and in return, they give you free digital marketing and advertising.
“Build relationships with key influencers. Influencer marketing has become big business, with price tags outside of what most non-profits can afford. As a non-profit, you have an advantage. You can ask for a shout-out, Tweet, IG post or even build a long-term relationship with key influencers that believe in your cause.
“For most of them, the ‘feel good’ factor will be enough to get them to champion your cause. The icing on the cake? Demonstrate that their time and effort working for your charity is tax deductible.”
Follow Mary Clare on Twitter @mary_clare299
Sharing Is Caring
“I’d say from a charity point and looking to achieve certain goals, sharing is caring when it comes to social media and charity. Encourage your audience to share your posts/events/fundraisers, because the domino effect is the best way to maximize your reach and access new supporters.
“Always keep posts unique and personable!”
Follow Traffic Jam Media on Twitter @trafficjammedia
Do Something BOLD!
“Create a new out-of-the-box program that will be a rallying cry for others. I pioneered a special luncheon program called The Godfathers of Hispanic Marketing, recognizing the three leaders of what had been the largest US Hispanic advertising agency for 20 years – on the 10th anniversary of the organization’s sale to another company, effectively breaking up the founders.
“We expected 90 people; 350 attended. We got national news coverage and the Smithsonian honored them with an exhibit. We repeated the event 2 more times, with similar success, recognizing the Godfathers of Hispanic Media and Las Madrinas (The Godmothers) The Visionary Women of Hispanic Marketing.
“Recognize outstanding work by members to promote the industry or organization. I created another signature event where 10 agencies each had 10 minutes to present award-winning national work they had done from little old San Antonio. We had 350 people attend and raised more than $5,000 at each event.
“The presentations were amazing – no one knew our small local agencies were doing such awesome work for prestigious national clients. We were shocked to learn that the Hispanic marketing efforts for 2 opposing presidential candidates had been done by local shops. If you create must-attend events, you will break through the clutter and people will come!
“Volunteers will gravitate to a big and exciting vision.
“Each of the above events was huge undertakings for one person to manage. But by sharing the exciting vision of how we will change our industry, volunteers flocked to participate.
“By envisioning something new and exciting, you will attract passionate volunteers who will each contribute to make the event a success. If you don’t think big – yawn – no one will bother to show up to help. Enthusiasm and vision are contagious!”
Follow Diane on Twitter @brandyouguide
Show How Help Makes A Difference
“Use your blog, e-newsletter, and social media platforms to tell the stories of the people that have been helped through your nonprofit. When possible, share images and videos of them, too.
“Feature volunteers that are invested in your organization to share why they’re so dedicated to your cause.
“Use language that appeals to a sense of community and working together towards a common goal.
“While you want to show the need for your organization, keep the overall tone of your content positive and hopeful, showing that you’re working toward a brighter tomorrow.
“If you can’t afford to run social media ads throughout the year, or if you only run them with a limited budget year-round, plan on running a more intensive ad campaign strategically during times of year donors may be more likely to give, such as end-of-year or surrounding any annual events you host.”
Follow Three Girls Media on Twitter @ThreeGirlsMedia
Provide Opportunities For Action
“It’s getting harder and harder to break through the noise and keep your supporters and membership engaged. One of the best ways to do this is to identify critical policies and issues that your supporters care about and give them an opportunity to speak out about them.
“The most effective non-profits and associations – like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the American Nurses Association – create dynamic advocacy campaigns and share them with their members. Members can take action on their phones over social media, quickly sending messages to lawmakers – emails, calls, tweets, Facebook posts – about how they feel about issues and policies.
“This type of engagement draws people in and gives them ways to act.”
Jeb Ory, CEO of Phone2Action
Follow Jeb on Twitter @jebory
Facebook For NPOs
“A lot of people don’t know that Facebook has a free resource that is completely dedicated to non-profits; you can find it at https://nonprofits.fb.com/
“When you are creating your Facebook Business Page and you are a charity or non-profit, you want to make sure that the Facebook Page category is ‘Nonprofit Organization’ or ‘Charity Organization’ and that its address is included in the ‘About’ section of its Facebook Page.
“If you already have a Page set up, but this was not done correctly, you can go in and edit your Page’s About section to update your category.
“Facebook makes it very easy to support non-profits and to encourage others to support them. There are two main ways this can be done:
- Adding a ‘Donate Now’ button to your post after tagging the non-profit in a post.
- Add a ‘Feeling/Activity’ to your post, indicate that you are ‘Supporting’ and then select your nonprofit. This will also allow you to add a Donate Now button.
“Non-profits will need to set up Facebook Payments in order to receive the donations collected by Facebook – or they can go through a third-party called Network for Good.
“Collecting donations on Facebook makes it quick and easy for users to donate – especially since they don’t have to leave the platform. Plus, Facebook does not take any fees from these transactions, so all of the money goes directly to the intended cause.
“Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and his wife are both philanthropists and they even have their own non-profit called the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative. Philanthropy is very important to Facebook and they are trying to make it as easy to support non-profits as possible.”
Follow Meg on Twitter @themegbrunson
Don’t Neglect Email
“Email is a critical channel for nonprofits, as it provides a direct, cost-effective way to connect with advocates and donors. Unfortunately, our research shows that one in four nonprofit’s message is not reaching its intended recipient.
“This represents a huge missed opportunity as advocates can’t act on petitions, event invitations, and fundraising requests that aren’t received. One way nonprofits can improve deliverability is by becoming whitelisted, which can help boost inbox placement by 12 percent or more.”
Daniel Incandela, CMO of Return Path
Follow Daniel on Twitter @danielincandela
“My biggest tip for non-profits is to maximize their organic reach and small budgets by focusing on human interests and emotions.
“I find my NFP clients get the best results when they share the people in their organization and who they help. This can be done by interviewing staff, volunteers, trustees, and of course those who benefit from the organization’s work.
“Sharing these interviews in video form is ideal, as most social platforms optimize for this content, however, if video is too hard, an eye-catching image of the interviewee is next best! Of course, if your NFP supports things other than people (such as the environment) then this will involve some very eye-catching imagery or videos (if your NFP supports puppies or kittens, however, you should have NO trouble getting attention online!)”
Morgan McGregor, Photography & Online Content Specialist at Hyped
Follow Hyped on Twitter @HypedLtdNZ
Connect With Small Businesses
“The luxury NPOs have is that it’s a lot easier to convince a small business to share a post or link to the site as they (the non-profit) generally have a less capitalistic image than for-profit businesses. So, websites that won’t link out to business sites or for-profit sites will link out to a non-profit without thinking twice.”
Follow Tim on Twitter @timmyb1976
Get Google Ad Grants
“Have you ever heard of Google Ad Grants? If not then don’t worry, you’re not alone. So many people are unaware that the Ad Grants even exist.
“So, what does Google Ad Grants entail and where do you get started?
“Google Ad Grants provides free Google AdWords advertising, so you can promote your charity to a huge global audience all around the world and with up to $10,000 USD (about £7.500) per month the level of opportunities is significant.
“Your daily budget limit would be $329 USD (£245) with a maximum cost-per-click limit of $2.00 USD (£1.50). From our experience, this cost-per-click level will cover most charity relevant keywords, allowing for a solid click-through-rate and average ad-position.
“For your non-profit organization to qualify for the grant all you need to do is meet the basic requirements of having a live website with updated content, hold a valid charity status and accept all of Google’s terms and conditions.
“Charities and non-profit organizations need successful marketing strategies to gain a good online presence, so you can find supporters and contributors that would love to get on board.
“Whether it’s to increase financial support or donations, recruit volunteers or build awareness Google Ad Words could help you achieve all your goals. To raise awareness for your campaigns the best place to be is with Google.com where it will be free.
“According to Google statistics, they work with more than 20,000 non-profit organizations across 50 countries.
“Enrolling in Google Ad Words will help your non-profit organization reach its true potential.
“So, what are you waiting for? Head on over to Google Ad Words to see if you would be eligible”
Follow Haystack on Twitter @TeamHaystack
Writer, editor and client advocate specializing in reputation management, content marketing, technology and non-profit topics.