Too often, when people think of marketing for nonprofits versus for-profit businesses, the focus immediately goes to what nonprofits often don’t have: a hefty budget, and unlimited staff. 

And it’s true: when it comes to the staffing and finances set aside for marketing efforts, many small nonprofits find themselves at disadvantage. Nonprofit staff may be mostly volunteers, and much of the annual budget is likely reserved for fulfilling and funding your mission. 

However, instead of focusing on the negatives, we want you to focus on the positives. As a non-profit, you have a critical ingredient that traditional businesses often struggle to put into words when telling their story through marketing: a mission statement!

Nonprofits have a purpose and a vision beyond selling a product or service. They help communities, inspire change, fund important causes, and champion unheard voices. By their nature, nonprofits are rockstars – they have to be in order to succeed. And despite the unique staffing or budgetary challenges that are often part of running a successful nonprofit, you can still create and maintain a marketing strategy that will help you share your story for years to come, bringing in the support you need to thrive.

Develop a thorough and specific marketing strategy 

It may sound counterintuitive to spend precious time and staff resources putting a marketing plan together. Wouldn’t you be better off just diving right into the work? Actually, no! A well-thought-out and documented marketing plan and strategy will save you time and energy in the long run. Your marketing strategy will help ensure that everyone – from your board, to your staff, to your volunteers – is on the same page with your nonprofit’s marketing approach and long-term goals. 

Speaking of your goals – they might not be as simple as you think! For most for-profit businesses and organizations, their goals essentially boil down to one thing: to sell a product, service, or experience. As a non-profit, your goals are much more varied! While your ultimate goal is likely to generate & grow consistent funding to support your mission, nonprofits need to consider more than just donations. For a marketing strategy that can facilitate the most growth possible, make sure to include these additional targets: 

  • Raise awareness of your cause
  • Nurture long-term relationships with donors and sponsors
  • Engage new volunteers, and keep existing volunteers coming back. The old adage “it costs less to keep an existing customer than find a new one” is true of volunteers, too!
  • Encourage participation at your events and activities

Know Your Audience

Your prospective audience will be as varied as your targets for success. Each of your goals – to attract donors, encourage event participation, or engage volunteers – is fulfilled by a uniquely different audience. Participants and volunteers might be friends, neighbors, or community members; long-term donors and sponsors are likely businesses or community organizations. It’s important to develop thorough buyer personas for each of these demographics. The better you understand your audience, the easier it will be to construct messaging that will attract their attention because the language you use to capture the attention of an event participant or donor is vastly different from the language you might use to encourage new volunteers!  

Utilize The Right Platforms To Tell The Story Of Your Mission 

Once you know your audience, then you can determine the best platforms for telling your story and raising awareness. For most nonprofits, those marketing platforms include: 

  • Website
  • Social media
  • Blogs
  • Email/newsletters

Communicating with consistency and utilizing your content across a variety of platforms will help give you the biggest bang for your buck. Don’t feel as though you need to reinvent the wheel for each platform – you can customize your content for the various delivery methods you’ll use by making small tweaks and keyword adjustments, giving it the longest legs possible. 

A mix of content will also help you keep your diverse audience engaged and interested. For example, if you only post about upcoming fundraisers, but forget to share results and thank participants, donors might start to lose interest and feel less emotionally invested in your cause. 

And remember, your participants also include sponsors and partner businesses – highlighting their involvement and giving them special recognition will encourage them to mention their community involvement (and your cause) to their own clients and customers, widening your reach. 

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that your story is what connects your audience with you and your mission. Why is it important for your audience to care? Who are they helping with their support for your organization? How are you giving back to your community, and recognizing their efforts? Keeping these questions at the forefront as you craft and distribute your content will keep your marketing targeted and strategic.

Engage Other Businesses

Individuals might make up the heart of your nonprofit, but oftentimes it’s the sponsors and partners that fund your operational needs – like marketing! Developing partnerships and engaging with local businesses and other organizations should be a cornerstone of your marketing strategy. 

These businesses might serve as individual event sponsors, donors, board members, or long-term mission partners. Although your nonprofit is on the receiving end of their financial contributions, the supporting business is also benefiting from your relationship – they might be fulfilling a corporate social responsibility program requirement, receiving a tax break or incentive, or simply showcasing their support and involvement in the local community to their own audience. 

To maintain these mutually beneficial partnerships, make sure to implement a set of rules or a system for regularly featuring, thanking, and highlighting your corporate sponsors and donors in your digital marketing efforts. By getting your business partners’ names in front of your audience, you’ll incentive them to publicize their relationship with your nonprofit, giving you wider access to their clients and customers – who will hopefully become future supporters for you!

Prioritize Marketing Efforts In Your Budget

Once you’ve developed a winning marketing strategy, the final step before implementation is to prioritize these efforts in your budget. Your business partners and sponsors can definitely help provide organic advertising, but it’s important to remember that in order to grow your nonprofit and expand your reach, marketing must become a budgetary priority. 

The more detailed and specific you can be with your marketing strategy, the more confident you’ll become that every marketing dollar spent is reaching the right audience and delivering on your short- and long-term goals. Empower your marketing team to identify potential efficiencies and areas for internal and external collaboration that will expand your reach to its maximum potential. 

Capitalize on the Benefits of an Agency Partner

It sounds like a great idea to empower your marketing team to help your nonprofit soar, but…what if you don’t have a marketing team? That’s where a full-service marketing agency can make all the difference. Your marketing efforts are too important to be handed off to a board of directors or volunteers, all of whom likely lack the available time or marketing expertise to develop a thorough and strategic marketing strategy. The right agency partner will work with you to train and deploy your volunteers as organization ambassadors – with the right messages on the right platforms at the right times.

Although a marketing agency may seem more expensive in the beginning, working with a team of experienced individuals who have trusted nonprofit marketing expertise will actually save you money (and time) in the long run – no more chasing your tail with ineffective strategies or underutilized campaigns. 

Even if you do have an in-house marketing team, the right agency partner can still provide a significant advantage. They can expand the capability and availability of your internal team, and give you the foundational support you need to drive your marketing efforts forward. 

There’s never been a better time to set your nonprofit up with a successful marketing strategy than right now. No matter what stage you’re at, if you need support, our team is experienced working with nonprofits across a variety of industries. Reach out to us today.