Find out how nonprofit marketing works and consider these tips for developing your nonprofit organization's marketing strategy.
What Is Nonprofit Marketing?
Nonprofit marketing is the use of marketing tactics by a nonprofit organization. Marketing goals may include promoting the organization and its message, raising funds, encouraging membership, engaging volunteers, and driving political or social change.
Marketing is as important for nonprofit organizations as it is for businesses and uses many of the same marketing strategies to connect with donors and volunteers.
Nonprofit marketing can be challenging, as the organization must convince its audience to give money without getting anything concrete in return.
How Nonprofit Marketing Works
Nonprofit marketing works by serving multiple functions in keeping charitable organizations running.
- Creating awareness. Like any business brand, a nonprofit must make its audience aware of the organization and the causes it supports.
- Promoting a cause and services. Donors, volunteers, and groups the nonprofit works with need to know about the work the organization is doing.
- Fundraising. Nonprofits rely on donations in order to pursue their charitable initiatives. Fundraising is an essential function of nonprofit marketing, and it can take the form of encouraging general donations or promoting specific fundraising events or campaigns.
- Encouraging memberships and recurring donations. Nonprofit marketing should be used to encourage long-term membership. This increases the relationships that the nonprofit can draw on for fundraising initiatives and helps provide recurring donations.
- Engaging volunteers. Most nonprofits need people to take action or participate in initiatives, as well as donate.
- Driving political and social change. Skillful nonprofit marketing can put pressure on opinion leaders, politicians, and ordinary people to create social and political changes addressing the nonprofit's causes.
Examples of Nonprofit Marketing
No matter what specific goals are pursued using nonprofit marketing, most campaigns fall into one of four categories.
- Traditional fundraising asks consumers to make a monetary donation to a cause or charitable campaign. Some businesses partner with nonprofits to create long-term fundraising around causes that their employees care about.
- Consumer charity is a partnership with a for-profit business that encourages consumers to use their purchasing power to assist charitable organizations. This usually takes the form of cause marketing, in which consumers buy products because part of the purchase price will be donated to a specific cause.
- Message-focused campaigns attempt to build awareness, encourage political change, or affect consumer behavior. They are generally paired with or followed by specific fundraising or volunteer sign-up campaigns.
- Event marketing is focused around a single charitable drive or promotional event, usually one at which donations will be collected or the cost of admission will go directly to the nonprofit. These marketing initiatives often include a special guest or celebrity partner whose public image and connections are used to drive attendance.
Tips for Marketing a Nonprofit
Nonprofits can use and adapt many of the tactics that traditional marketers use. A solid understanding of traditional marketing techniques is as essential for marketing a nonprofit as it is for marketing a business.
Before you begin marketing your nonprofit, take a page from traditional marketers and develop an ideal customer profile. The information you outline will help you decide where and how to effectively reach donors, volunteers, and more with your marketing plan.
- Understand your audience. Every marketing campaign should have a target audience in mind. Knowing what demographic group you are trying to reach will inform every aspect of your campaign.
- Have a goal. Are you trying to raise money or awareness? Encourage volunteering? Promote a political cause? Every marketing campaign needs a concrete goal in order to be successful.
- Make it personal. Consumers are more likely to respond to the stories of individuals than broad groups. Make your campaign feel personal in order to appeal to your audience's emotions and drive action.
- Segment your list. Like any business, you will be better able to communicate with your audience if you segment your list into groups based on demographic information and other traits. Use these segments to tailor your messaging and calls to action.
- Use current events. Is there a story related to your cause in the news? Take advantage of that public awareness to create a timely marketing campaign.
- Follow up with donors and volunteers. Nonprofits need systems in place to keep up with people who are already involved. Use a variety of email, direct mail, phone calls, and other marketing tools to encourage past donors and volunteers to stay active.
Platforms for Nonprofit Marketing
Nonprofits can take advantage of many of the same platforms for marketing that for-profit businesses use. The main difference is often that nonprofits have a smaller budget and must be strategic about how they contact donors and spread the word about their work.
There are many free and inexpensive marketing platforms out there, and nonprofits should use a variety of them to create an effective marketing mix.
- Social media. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be used to share important information, keep in touch with your audience, and comment on current events.
- Online ads. Take advantage of programs like Google's ad grants to run targeted campaigns at no expense.
- Search engine optimization. Use SEO techniques to drive visitors to your website, where you can encourage them to volunteer, donate, or sign up to receive news via your email list.
- Partnerships. Corporate and celebrity partnerships allow your nonprofit to take advantage of another organization's brand or connections to drive publicity and build public involvement in specific events or campaigns.
- Email marketing. Use an email service provider to fundraise, welcome new subscribers, spread the word about initiatives, encourage involvement, and share success stories with your members.
- Events. Organizing high-profile events to raise money or awareness for your cause can create a surge of donations, along with generating press coverage and increasing public interest.
- Public relations. Like for-profit businesses, nonprofits can use public relations campaigns to spread the word about their work, as well as establish their authority and trustworthiness.
- Infographics. Use design tools like Canva to create informative graphics that can easily share important information with the public through websites, social media, and blog posts.
- Webinars. Use free webinars to educate volunteers, roll out fundraising campaigns, and answer questions about your work and cause.
- Nonprofit marketing is the use of marketing tactics by a nonprofit organization to promote the message and the organization, as well as raise donations.
- Marketing for a nonprofit can be challenging, as the organization must convince their audience to give money without getting anything concrete in return.
- A solid understanding of traditional marketing techniques is as essential for marketing a nonprofit as it is for marketing a business.
- There are many free and inexpensive marketing platforms out there, and nonprofits should use a variety of them to create an effective marketing mix.