10 Ways to Make Your Nonprofit Marketing More Effective

You put your heart and soul into your nonprofit. You’re doing amazing work, but you’re just not getting the buzz you want and your following and donations are not growing as you hoped.

Are you marketing the same way you did in 2013 and expecting new results?

If so it’s probably time to asses your marketing strategy and see what you can do to make things more effective. 

Let’s take a look at 10 ways you can make your marketing more effective to get more interest and engagement in everything your nonprofit is working on.

1. Make Sure You Understand Your Target Audience

To market effectively and build an army of raving fans you first need to really understand the people who are most likely to support your nonprofit. 

Chloe Mark from ArcStone explains, 

“Your nonprofit can easily sell how they help those in need, but how do you also help your donors, volunteers and contributors? You may make them feel good, you may keep them involved in the greater world, you may help their friend. Study your audience and hone in on their needs, not just your nonprofit’s.”

Who are your biggest supporters now? What do they do? What do they like? How much have they supported you financially? How much have they volunteered? How did they find you? What do they love about you?

Answering these questions is a great way to build a persona of your ideal target audience. And actually creating a persona is a great 1st step to help you know how to communicate with your ideal target audience.

A persona is a pretend bio with all kinds of information about your ideal target audience. To create one, you take everything you know about your ideal target audience and write it down as though it were contained within 1 person, or a small group of different people.

This will allow you to speak directly to that person in all your market. It’s a really effective tool to focus your marketing and make it more personal. Best of all, your marketing will better connect with people who share the same characteristics and interests of your persona.

2. Find What Works and Get Better at That

To market effectively, you’ve got to have a plan in place to keep you focused on your goals, and prevent you from chasing every shiny idea you come across.

What is working for you now? What isn’t? Think about this and come up with a strategy that focuses on a few of your best marketing tactics. 

What is your budget? Make sure you’re using your budget on the things that are most effective. If you’re spending $100/month on Facebook ads, $100/month on Twitter ads, and $100/month on Google ads, but Google ads are lagging way behind the other 2 platforms, you may want to re-distribute your budget to the 2 more effective channels. 

If Twitter and Facebook are the clear winners, you may want to focus your energy and becoming an expert in those two platforms. Why spread yourself thin?

3. Produce Content that Your Audience Craves

This goes back to the point about understanding your target audience. Once you really understand your target audience, you can produce content that they crave. 

Let’s say you’re an environmental nonprofit who understands that their target audience is millennials who are very concerned about the future but are frustrated because they don’t know how to make a difference. You could create a series of videos or blog posts on ways that members of your organization have made an impact on the environment through your nonprofit.

Knowing that millennials are likely to be very active on social media and are consumers of video content are two important things to be aware of when considering what content to create. 

4. Understand How to Communicate on Different Social Media Platforms

No two social media platforms are the same. So why blast the same message across all your platforms?

Take Facebook and Twitter. You can really marinate in your storytelling with Facebook, but the character limits make Twitter better for short, real-time bursts of information. If you send a blast to both, you’re going to inevitably short-change one of those platforms. For example, you’ll have to cut your story short for Twitter. Or if you post all you can to maximize the character count, you’ll be limiting tweets reach on twitter.

Bottom line, whatever social media platforms you prefer, learn the platforms well, and make sure to maximize their unique strengths by using them as they are intended.

5. Communicate Consistently

Nonprofits do pretty well at posting regularly on Facebook, probably because it’s been the go-to social platform for nonprofits since its inception. 

But what about your other platforms? Are you constantly communicating with your email list in a way that encourages engagement? My advice would be to treat email like a social platform; communicate consistently, ask questions, encourage interaction, ask for support very strategically. 

Same goes for your blog. Are you consistently writing content that your ideal audience would valuable? Share stories about the inner workings of your nonprofit. Share your successes and challenges. Keep your following on the edge of their seats!

If you’re great at communicating via video, do so on a regular basis. For instance, if you like Facebook live, make sure you’re jumping on there regularly, interacting with your nonprofit’s followers.

6. Hone Your Storytelling Skills

Stories are the currency of the nonprofit world. Are you using storytelling consistently and effectively? 

Understanding that you are a storyteller is step 1. We’re all storytellers on a daily basis. Every interaction we have with those around us involves storytelling, regardless how short the story is.

Getting comfortable with storytelling will open doors no matter what marketing you’re doing. We all LOVE stories, and for many people, this is the primary purpose of consuming any content. We want to learn, and learning in the form of stories is probably the most effective way of retaining learned information.

Here are some key elements to every story: 

  • Character: This is the subject of your story. This could be you, a person who receives your services, a donor explaining their story, and beyond!
  • Conflict: This part should be easy to rhapsodize about - what is the challenge your character is facing? 
  • Resolution: How was the conflict resolved for your character? How did your organization make a difference?

Using these key story elements in your marketing is crucial. Continuing to hone your storytelling skills is as well!

Nonprofit web-content expert Heather Ratcliff notes:

“When we were children, we all knew how important stories were. Many of us demanded them every night, sometimes over and over again. We like to be entertained, and we definitely like to hear about the impossible.

So, isn’t it obvious that’s how you should be reaching your audience? And I don’t mean rhymes, but really high-impact, emotional stories, true stories. Because there are many out there waiting to be told.”

Working on your marketing strategy? You may find this Nonprofit Marketing cheat sheet useful!

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7. Make Sure Your Website is Working For (Not Against) You

For many nonprofits, even the TOPIC of the website is a sore subject! You know how important it is to have an attractive, functional website, but how do you get to that point? How do you know if your website is working or not?

For me, there are a few things I look for immediately when I’m evaluating a website:
Is there a prominent ‘Donate’ button above the fold (showing on the top of the screen before you scroll down)? You need to make it easy to donate, become a member, and volunteer, and make it obvious where to do so.

Is the site mobile-responsive? I don’t even have to quote stats here. The trend is clear: people are using mobile devices at a rapidly increasing rate. If your site isn’t mobile responsive, visitors will leave almost immediately. 

Is there an email sign-up offer? Don’t let visitors slip away without making contact! Find something to offer visitors that they’ll be happy to exchange their email for. This way you can keep in touch and develop a relationship!

Is the menu concise, clear, and easy to navigate? Many nonprofits over-do the menu, basically displaying a whole sitemap in the website header. Simple, well thought out menus with descriptive titles and brief, well organized sub headings make site navigation much easier for visitors.

One more pro-tip: Look at the websites of the most successful nonprofits in your field. You may not be able to afford the design, but you can emulate the language, basic structure and layout pretty easily with a little help from a local developer.

8. Always Look For Ways to Build Your Email List

According to Adobe, email has an ROI of $40 for every $1 spent. That beats organic search and paid search combined!

According to Adobe, email has an ROI of $40 for every $1 spent. That beats organic search and paid search combined!

As I mentioned above, finding ways to bring visitors into your community should be your goal. Most aren’t ready to donate or volunteer right away, but many are willing to exchange their email for access to something they value.

Nonprofit Marketing Coach Jeremy Koch explains how nonprofits can get more email subscribers:

“Take the time to really think through what you have to offer your website visitors and then craft a compelling call-to-action to subscribe that gets them excited to be on your email list.

When you’ve done this well, you’ll find not only that your number of daily subscribers goes up but that your subscribers are also more engaged.”

Here are a few examples of resources you can offer that your target audience might like:

  1. Create a guide that tells your story or solves a problem for your audience: educating people about your cause, your organization, or other key info that your followers should know. 
  2. Create a petition. This has the dual purpose of getting signatures for a cause, plus building your email list.
  3. Another dual purpose list builder is a survey. Get key information from people who share a common interest with your nonprofit’s mission and build your list at the same time.
  4. Create an email course on a topic that your target audience would want to know.
  5. Create a video series based on your most popular blog posts and send them out in 5 emails.
  6. Make a cheat sheet: For example, if you have a focus on nutrition or local foods, make a PDF of a list of all the local farms and their specialties in your area. 

In lieu of the traditional ‘sign up for our newsletter’, focus your efforts on asking people to sign up to your email list in exchange for access to one of the above. There’s much more incentive for website visitors to do so, and you’ll start off on the right foot by providing value to their lives, and welcoming them into your community! 

9. Find Tools and Resources That Will Help Your Marketing Efforts

Marketing is SO much easier when you have an arsenal of tools and resources to help you do better work and save time and money. Everyone has different needs and interests so I’d suggest doing your research to find the tools that will help you.

Here are a few that I find valuable. I don’t have any affiliation with any of these. I just use and like them all: 

  • Google Drive: Word style docs, Excel style sheets, and PowerPoint style docs? Yes please! All in the cloud and a whole team can edit at once.
  • Coogle: Brainstorm all your projects with this interactive drag and drop mind-map builder.
  • Hootsuite: I’ve recommended using each social channel in a that’s unique to the platform, but when you’re in a pinch for time, Hootsuite is free and you can post to Facebook, Twitter and Google + all at once.
  • Creative Commons: Search for free photos that you can modify and legally use for commercial purposes.
  • Persona Creator by Xtensio: Remember point 1: Know your target audience? This will help you create that persona of your ideal target audience.
  • OptinMonster: Create optin-forms for those email list building resources I mentioned above.

10. Use ‘You Marketing’, not ‘Me Marketing’

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Who is the focus of your marketing materials? Is it your organization or your audience? Sure, you do need to communicate what your nonprofit is all about, but how are you fitting your audience into the storyline?

People are accessing your organization from many different area and many levels of awareness about what you do and how you involve your community. Your job is to make sure you guide visitors at every stage and present attractive options for them to become involved.

The more you think about your target audience and their interests, expectations and goals (as opposed to your own), the better your organization will be.

How to Market More Effectively: 3 Easy Wins

It’s great that you’re working to hone your marketing skills. Nonprofit marketers probably face more challenges that their business counterparts so it’s really important to keep learning and discover ways to help your NP grow!

To help you get some instant takeaways you can put into action right away, here are 3 easy wins you can implement right now:

  1. Create an audience persona using this tool. Just think about everything you know about your ideal target audience right now, and create a bio of that person to guide your marketing. As you move forward, you can do more research and update the persona.
  2. Tell a story about your organization on social media. If you don’t manage your nonprofit's account, just share something on your preferred social media platform. 
  3. Audit your organization’s website. You don’t need to necessarily share your audit with the executive director, but see what you can find that would improve things, based on point #7 and compared to other high-profile websites you find.

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