Finding the most cost-effective way to reach the right people is particularly important to the non-profit sector. It’s part of the reason non-profit marketing is becoming increasingly digital-based. Here we cover five nonprofit marketing strategies for philanthropic success.
Working on a limited budget
When your goal is to stretch the budget, online marketing strategies are key. First, it is important to identify a specific, measurable, and time-oriented goal. Answer the question: What is the campaign trying to accomplish exactly? A ten percent increase in donations? Adding 100 new members? Or perhaps it’s more about generating public awareness and driving individuals to complete a specific action for a cause. A necessity for any campaign – no matter what your budget – is to set measurable key performance indicators (KPI’s) that will determine the success of your campaign.
One example is a public awareness campaign that Priority Marketing created for an alliance of more than 60 local, state, and national non-profit conservation and environmental organizations. The budget was limited, but the goal was clear – drive community members to take action. The alliance wanted Florida residents to contact their legislators about supporting legislation to reduce harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, and in turn, pass the legislation required.
Priority Marketing created a digital media campaign that drove traffic to the landing page where supporters could take action and email their legislators to voice their support for sending clean water south. With the key objective to pass the legislation, it was important that we drove enough distinctly targeted traffic to the landing page during the legislative session. We’re proud to report that our efforts generated 5.4K visits to the website, and 1.76M impressions that successfully allowed the legislation to pass! A blend of digital marketing tactics led to the success and visibility to the right audience through this campaign. Through paid search, the Send Clean Water South keywords garnered 49K search impressions. Display banners garnered 1.2M impressions and Mobile Ads generated over 275K impressions.
Note the use of digital advertising in the above example. Digital advertising has become an increasingly popular way to effectively reach the right people and eliminate any waste that may occur with traditional mass media. Through digital marketing, you can use programmatic advertising tactics to reach the right people for your organization. The campaign above targeted Florida residents who were not yet necessarily following these nonprofits, but their online behaviors told us they had a vested interest in the passing of this legislation, so they became our audience. Because the legislation focused on a solution to reducing Lake Okeechobee water releases that negatively impact waterways across south Florida, the targets included tourism professionals, people in the commercial fishing and boating industry, residents with an interest in recreational fishing and boating, Florida real estate professionals, and waterfront homeowners/residents in the most heavily impacted areas.
For a more nationally recognized example, let’s take the onset of the recent hurricanes affecting the Atlantic. Suppose you want to engage potential donors and volunteers to help with hurricane relief efforts. Through programmatic and social media advertising tactics you could:
- Target individuals geographically – those who live near the disasters areas you serve who are able to help
- Target individuals with an inclination for aiding in storm-related relief efforts
- Target individuals who have an affinity for charities such as the American Red Cross and Salvation Army
The best part about these types of strategies is that you can typically set your own budget. Where there are minimum budget requirements, they are low.
Leveraging special rates and grants
Have no marketing fear! There are many resources out there for nonprofits with little to no budgets.
- Techsoup.org offers a variety of solutions and resources for members at a non-profit rate including business and technology solutions, communication tools and website and design software.
- Partners such as Google offer grants for their products such as pay-per-click advertising (Google Adwords). The grant also covers access to their suite of products from YouTube fundraising to mobile giving capabilities.
- If you work with a local or national digital media partner there may be opportunity for a sponsorship trade. It works like this: They run your advertising, and you give them sponsor benefits, mention them on social media or in emails, etc.
For example, we recently secured a $10,000 per month AdWords grant for The Guadalupe Center, a non-profit that provides early childhood education, after-school tutoring and high school mentoring programs for kids in need. Best of all, this grant is promised to increase with usage. In fact, within a few months, it could reach as high as $40,000 per month.
Leveraging ”owned” media
Owned media is communication channels that are within one’s control, such as websites, email and social media. Through these tools, there is a range of tactics that can be enabled – you just have to take the time to learn and develop processes for putting these outlets into play.
Make it as easy as possible for your network to donate, learn and engage. Nowadays, this is vital to the success of your organization. Simplify the donation process, set up a blog and continue to post updates, set up a link to capture email addresses, and make sure your social networks are clearly shown on the homepage of the website. A good example is the website we created for the nonprofit, Lung Cancer Research Council (www.LungCancerResearchCouncil.org).
As a nonprofit organization, you are developing content every day, whether you realize it or not. This content is essential to a digital marketing strategy and can be utilized across various digital platforms (which all help with SEO—but we’ll get to that later).
One way to share this content is through email. Develop an ongoing email marketing plan. Outline the frequency of your emails, who you will send them to, and what the content will be. Finally, make sure to include a call to action such as make a donation, sign up to volunteer, or attend an event.
Once you’ve developed an outline for your email strategy, you will find this content can then be repurposed on social media channels. Perhaps in this month’s email newsletter you added a little section about a donor appreciation event your organization held, and linked to the full article on your blog. Post a link to the same blog article on your social media pages. Voila! You have a nice, digital marketing circle of communication that helps you reach your organizational goals, adds credibility to your organization, and benefits your search engine optimization (SEO) score.
Engaging existing key individuals
Your network contains a blend of donors, employees, volunteers, board members, partners and more. One main tactic we’ve often seen overlooked within a business or vertical (not just nonprofit) is the opportunity to transform your network into ambassadors for the organization.
Think about the individuals who already have a stake in the organization. They have a passion for your mission and an understanding of the goals. They also have a complete social network of connections that might not relate to your organization at all yet. By developing a plan to engage these individuals and encourage them to share your stories, you amplify your organization’s reach, sometimes more than your budget could do with advertising alone.
Following Hurricane Irma, we engaged The Guadalupe Center’s board, donors and partners to help spread the word about hurricane relief efforts in the Center’s service area, which suffered severe damage. By doing so, Guadalupe Center received much-needed donations for hurricane relief and drew the connection between the Center and a community that was suddenly thrust into the spotlight.
Earlier in this article we briefly discussed how owned media relates to search engine optimization from an off-page level, but onsite SEO is another vital component to your marketing efforts.
If nothing else, make sure the following elements are being implemented on your current website.
The right keywords within the copy of the website.
Make sure they are relevant to your organization and are ones that would frequently be searched for. Two tools are the Free Keyword Suggestion Tool and the Google Keyword Tool that can help you generate your keyword list.
Optimize your site with relevant keywords and descriptions within the code of your site.
This includes your Title Tag, Meta Description, Image Name, and ALT tags. If the technicality gets in the way here, have a professional take a look – it’s worth the cost to make sure it’s right. Not having appropriate SEO measures in place could cost your organization thousands of missed impressions and donations.
Make sure content on the website is useful, relevant and updated.
By incorporating a blog into the site as mentioned in the “owned” media section, you provide ever-curious search engines like Google with fresh and new content—and they love that. You can post news releases and news stories you were featured in, donor testimonials, pictures from events, and much more! Fresh content is key!
Link building to the site.
Aside from new content, search engines also love websites that are credible. How does your site become credible, you ask? By outside links that point to your website. This shows the search engines that lots of people are talking about you—so you must be relevant to that keyword or topic. There are many ways to drive additional links to your site. A few examples include reaching out to partners and asking them to link to your site (in exchange for you linking to theirs), submitting guest blogs to websites, making sure your organization is submitted to charity directories online, and getting featured in news articles.
By following these proven marketing strategies for nonprofits you’ll reach the next generation of donors, expand your reach, and engage your current community.