September 27, 2018

Nonprofit Marketing: 5 Innovative Ways to Boost Your Efforts

Written by
Andrew Berry

You and your community know the importance of the work that your nonprofit does. You’re engaged with your supporters, your efforts help your cause, and your team is dedicated to every aspect of your work.

But there’s always something else to be done or someone new to educate about your mission. How do you reach out to these new people?

Expanding your supporter base can be difficult, especially when there are so many other things you have to do. In this article, we’ll walk through our 5 favorite easy and innovative tips to boost your marketing strategy.

Our 5 sweet and simple tips are:

  • Start with actionable and measurable goals.
  • Get to know your donors.
  • Incentivize active involvement.
  • Prioritize storytelling.
  • Update your online presence.

These 5 tips are designed to take your existing marketing strategies from blah to brilliant. Let’s dive in!

actionable and measurable

1. Start with actionable and measurable goals.

If you want your marketing strategy to really get off the ground, you need to know what you’re working towards.

The grand idea, of course, is to continually expand your community and keep pursuing your mission, but to get from here to there you need to build yourself a path of stepping stones to success.

What do we mean by actionable and measurable goals? Here are some examples:

  • Increasing your email subscriber list.
  • Increasing membership registrations.
  • Increasing event attendance.
  • Increasing matching gift matches.

These are all metrics that can be quantified and tracked over time, and also give you a specific direction in which to work.

For example, if your goal is to increase your email subscriber list, you’ll want to focus on increasing your email open rate, adding more ways to subscribe to your newsletters, and reaching out to more people who may be interested but aren’t subscribers.

If you want to increase how many matching gifts your donors submit, you’ll want to spread information about matching gifts and reach out to donors who work for top matching gift companies. (More on matching gifts later!)

You’ll find that as you work towards your one specific goal, you’ll discover opportunities to augment your marketing strategies in other areas as well. Choosing a goal allows you and your team to more efficiently organize your time and energy.

Don’t be afraid that committing to one direction will limit your ability to market other aspects of your nonprofit effectively! Finding ways to quantify your marketing success now will give you a good idea of how your other marketing techniques are performing later.

get to know your audience

2. Get to know your donors.

Your donors are your most powerful marketing metric: they are living, breathing proof that something that you did in the past was effective!

Use their proven dedication to your nonprofit to help determine your marketing strategies for the future.

If you’ve been using your campaign pages effectively, you’ve probably collected a fair amount of useful contact information. Hopefully it’s not gathering dust in your CRM.

Make that data work for you! Look at who became a donor during which campaign, what method they generally use to donate (cash, checks, online donation forms), and which campaigns garnered the most support. This information will point you towards ideas for the future.

If you’ve also been tracking personal information about your donors, like relationships, business affiliations, or other data points, use those to segment your donors and steer you in the right direction for attracting more donors.

If a segment of your members all attend the same church or send their children to the same school, work towards marketing to other members of the church or other parents.

Segmenting your donors, or splitting them up into smaller lists by identifying characteristics common to a group, is a great way to figure out which types of people support your nonprofit the most. Then, try and find more people like that!

Another easy way to get to know your donors without having the information on hand is to send out surveys to your email subscription list and post links to them on your social media.

Surveys are a great way to ask questions directly and get honest answers. Consider asking things like:

  • Where did you first hear about our nonprofit?
  • What motivates your philanthropy?
  • Through what method do you prefer to give?
  • What types of events would you like us to host?

These questions both allow you to check in with your supporters to see how they’re feeling about the direction of your nonprofit, as well as figure out what about your nonprofit is the most attractive. Then you can use that to drive your marketing tactics.

incentivize active involvement

3. Incentivize active involvement.

A frequently underutilized resource for marketing is your supporter base! People love to talk about the things that they’re involved with, especially with their friends, so keeping them involved with your nonprofit will keep your mission in the front of their minds.

How can you make active participants out of people who might be more comfortable donating with a credit card from the safety of their couch? There are so many ways to get people engaged with your mission!

First, don’t be afraid to be open and transparent about your nonprofit’s goals. Telling donors specifics instead of being vague gets them emotionally invested in your projects.

Imagine: will you be more interested in a nonprofit that is currently in the middle of restocking a middle school library after a flood, or a nonprofit that’s simply collecting books for a school?

The first one, because you’re now aware of middle school students who want to read and recover after this tragedy ruined a part of their school. You probably want to help in at least some small way.

But what can you do to increase the engagement of supporters beyond what they already do? Offer them options!

  • Promoting matching gifts policies is an important part of any fundraising strategy. A lot of donors don’t know if they’re eligible for these matches or even if their employer has a program! Give them a way to search for their employers’ matching gifts program and ask them to submit a match to double the impact of their original donation.
  • Tie merchandise fundraising into your next campaign, or give away merchandise as a thank-you gift. People love things they can wear or use, and if it has your nonprofit’s name and logo on it, then your supporters will become walking advertisements!
  • Host a peer-to-peer fundraiser. This is a great way to engage your dedicated supporters as well as expand your nonprofit’s range of visibility through the social networks of other followers.

By getting your supporters more actively involved with your nonprofit’s efforts, you can effectively market to more people than you could ever reach on your own.

prioritize storytelling

4. Prioritize storytelling.

Marketing is about far more than just convincing audiences that your nonprofit needs donations. It’s also about telling your nonprofit’s story, and the stories of the community that you help.

Just like communicating specifically engages more people in your projects, using individual stories in your outreach will help people emotionally connect with your mission.

So how can you make sure that people hear your stories?

      • Use visual storytelling in your emails and social media posts.
      • Create videos of your community in motion.
      • Collect stories from donors, volunteers, and constituents ahead of time.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so make sure every post is worth a thousand and then some! Use high-quality pictures of people involved in your mission in some capacity, and then add a caption detailing who they are and how they’re connected.

Instagram and Facebook are especially powerful social media platforms for images.

Both of these platforms also host videos, which can be employed as a powerful visual storytelling tool. Use a nice phone or good camera to film your team in action as well as the community that your nonprofit serves.

Videos demonstrate more than a picture can by conveying the energy and passion carried like a current through your team.

And don’t forget to keep this tactic in mind at all times! Take pictures at every event, interview constituents ahead of time, and keep their stories carefully saved so that they’re ready to go when you need them.

Bonus: ask your supporters to be active spreaders of your nonprofit’s story by giving them ways to take your organization everywhere: t-shirts! Read this t-shirt fundraising guide from Bonfire for more help with designing merch that can show your nonprofit’s heart and soul.

update your online presence

5. Update your online presence.

In the middle of all your in-person marketing activities and engagement strategies, don’t forget to take care of your online presence for mobile marketing purposes.

In the age of the Internet, potential donors who are interested in your cause aren’t going to call your office for more information. They’re going to google your organization, search for you on social media, and ask their friends for more information.

To put your best foot forward with those seeking you out, make sure that your online presence is up-to-date.

Your online presence should consist of social media platforms and a dedicated website, and both should be managed regularly and include the same content.

Some best practices for building a cohesive and professional online presence are:

      • Brand everything to your organization’s logo and colors.
      • Maintain a similar tone across your posts on different platforms.
      • Include a calendar of events, ways to get involved, and contact information.
      • Use a unified communication strategy, so every platform is using a similar script.

With these ideas in mind, no matter how a person comes across your organization, you can rest assured that their first interactions with your nonprofit will be accurate and pleasant.

Another very important best practice for maintaining your website (and your email campaigns!) is to make sure that everything is mobile optimized. This means that everything is functional and readable on smartphones and tablets, as well as on a desktop computer.

Your online donation form also needs to be mobile optimized, so that people can donate from wherever, whenever.

Having your website and social media handles prepped and ready for visitors is a vital, yet easily overlooked, part of any nonprofit’s marketing strategy.

Marketing your nonprofit can seem daunting, but never fear! With our 5 smart and easy tips, you can spread the word about your mission and inspire more people faster and more effectively than ever.

Andrew is the head of marketing and customer success for Donately. After getting involved with nonprofits at a young age, he discovered a passion for helping the organizations that are making the world a better place. Knowing how vital online fundraising has become, his goal is to help nonprofits raise more money online each year! In his spare time, you will find him cooking up dinner, playing with his dog or cheering on Boston sports teams.