Nonprofit Marketing : Challenges, Strategies and Best Practices

Nonprofit organizations are inherently unique. Spanning nearly ever sector and industry, nonprofits are driven more by a mission than simply the financial bottom line.

Most nonprofits promote a purpose that tugs at the heartstrings, giving people a reason to care—and still, many organizations struggle to use this as a foundation for their marketing efforts. While a number of the obstacles nonprofits face in their marketing efforts can be attributed to budget and staffing shortfalls, nonprofit marketing success is, by all means, possible.

By investing in tactics that provide the most value for your dollar, nonprofits of any size can create and nurture a marketing strategy that will further their organization’s purpose and build a strong community of supporters.

Use earned media to your advantage

Unlike traditional paid advertising campaigns that can quickly deplete any budget, investing in public relations and earned media is an effective way to deliver your organization’s message to your target audience without forking out loads of cash.

A major benefit to leveraging earned media is that it is an effective tool for nonprofits of all sizes. While it’s not always possible to attract national attention from the start, a regional nonprofit could pitch local media outlets for broadcast interviews during events to raise awareness of its programs and services. Once that media relationship is established, the initial coverage can be leveraged to bring in bigger media outlets.

Media coverage is a cost-effective tactic that allows your organization’s leaders to drive home the impact the organization is making through effective, personal storytelling.

Sage worked with Washington, D.C.-based Halcyon House to promote the personal stories of the fellows and the organization’s support of their work to establish several personalized stories in target media outlets.

Use email to directly engage with stakeholders

According to Campaign Monitor, personalized email marketing for nonprofits is 40 times more effective at engaging new supporters than social media. With that being said, an effective email marketing campaign allows nonprofits to build relationships with people who have already expressed interest in your cause.

For any email campaign, an organization should aim to execute the following tactics:

  • Tell the organization’s story and promote the brand
  • Show donors how their donations are making an impact
  • Initiate a call-to-action at the end of the email

Recently, Sage worked to create a three-month, two-tier email influencer campaign to give away unique experience through an online contest to raise funds and awareness for Halcyon House through the “I am Halcyon” campaign.

Use your website to tie your campaigns together

For any nonprofit, the website should serve as a focal point for your target audience to learn about and engage with the organization. A well-designed website can be instrumental in engaging new members, raising funds and communicating with decision-makers.

A nonprofit’s website should be optimized to drive traffic to the website, connect with other marketing campaigns and intertwine with social media content.

Sage has worked with a number of Washington, D.C.-based organizations to create a website that houses the information needed to inform and engage their target audiences, including Halycon House, DC Jazz Festival and Capitol Riverfront.

Use authentic, targeted content to reach your target audiences

Cause-driven organizations have to communicate with members of their audiences in a personal and genuine manner. And unlike other industries, this means that nonprofits must generate content that is authentic and hyper-targeted to each segment of the target audience in order for it to be effective.

For nonprofit organizations, content development can make a significant positive impact on achieving their mission. In order to develop and maintain a strong pipeline of content, organizations should do the following:

  • Develop a hierarchy for target audiences so that content tailored to primary stakeholders is prioritized
  • Create a content calendar on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis
  • Identify key themes to address throughout the year
  • Publish content on a central location and share through all available channels
  • Repurpose content to save time and make the most of what you’ve already created

Use social media to promote your message and engage with members of your audience

Social media marketing is a one-on-one, relationship-building tool for all organizations. By cutting through the barriers established between an organization and the average person, a nonprofit is able to reach a large audience and engage with them on an individual level.

Best practices when it comes to social media include:

  • Targeting your audience through tailored content and posting times
  • Prioritize certain platforms based on your organizational mission (Facebook may reach more of your target audience than Twitter)
  • Interact frequently with your followers
  • Leverage analytics to improve and reposition your overall strategy

In addition to what organizations are doing right, we’ve all seen the negative impact mistakes can have on organizations when it comes to social media. It is important, even for nonprofits, to avoid making common mistakes on their social media accounts, including using generic messaging, failing to post regularly and ignoring individual comments.

There are numerous opportunities for nonprofits when it comes to a marketing strategy. Despite budget, staffing and other restrictions that exist, today’s expansive communication landscape has made it possible for any organization to reach their target audience with their messaging.

Nonprofits already have the upper hand when it comes to marketing—their purpose. A well-planned and executed marketing strategy can turn any nonprofit’s purpose into a major phenomenon among individuals who identify with the cause.

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