Cost-Effective Marketing Advice for Nonprofits

In the COVID-19 Special Edition Customer Engagement Report from the Merkle Group, it was revealed that most industries are increasing their marketing spend. However, there was one glaring exception: nonprofits. According to the Merkle Group report,  just 17 percent of nonprofits are increasing their marketing spend compared to over 50 percent of organizations in other industries.

While many nonprofits have traditionally walked a tight line with limited budgets, this year has been markedly difficult. Event revenue is suffering and members are experiencing a world that disconnects them from community events organized by nonprofit organizations. But marketing is still essential for nonprofits. Not only does marketing amplify your mission, but it raises awareness, encourages donations, and attracts volunteers.

Our team has worked with many nonprofits and our goal is to show organizations how to simplify their marketing efforts with clear, effective strategies.

With that said, here are several options that won’t break the bank:

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is how your brand increases its presence and ranking online. From fixing broken links to identifying keywords, SEO has become a foundational component for effective marketing. Searchability as a nonprofit builds credibility, increases web traffic, and impacts long-term ROI.

Being able to adapt on a dime and curate optimized content with relevant keywords, (valued highest in your posts title, url, meta-description tags, image file names, and first 100 words of a paragraph) will drastically improve your page rank, relevance, and brand authority.

We broke SEO strategy down in a previous blog post, but as a quick refresher, here are a few key takeaways:

  • Content Audit: If you want to illuminate your own path in a media landscape that is still finding its footing, it can be helpful to analyze and allocate for all existing content to understand what resonates with your current audience. This includes studying your website, social media channels, and email marketing campaigns.
  • Flex Expertise: People want to know that there are real human beings behind every brand. Show them who you are, what you offer, and how you are going to help them through tough times. Feed consumers a message and nurture leads organically from there.
  • Pivot Publishing: To keep pace with other companies also pushing out their content, explore new channels and avenues to expand into. Live streams, webinars, and personalized workshops from the safety of someone’s computer will show that you still care about educating them and providing a service while staying ahead of current trends.

Much of the way nonprofits communicate with their audience has shifted from offline to online platforms – especially during COVID. And that means that purely digital ways of reaching potential customers or members are more important than ever—paying attention to search could result in massive traffic upticks.

Social Media Micromarketing

Why wait for people to start talking about your brand when you can build the channel for them to do so? When it comes to nonprofit marketing, social media is an excellent tool. You can reach donors and volunteers on a more personal level and don’t need to commit a massive amount of time to grow your audience.

There are a few keys to a successful nonprofit social media account. You want to remain active and open with your audiences to routinely communicate your mission. Not only should your social media moves tie back into your larger brand communications and digital strategy, but it should work to build a community for your audiences. We also strongly recommend actively watching social media algorithms and staying educated on new updates to major social platforms.

If you’re wondering what to post, sharing a story, relatable news, or an engagement poll are all great options. To inspire empathy, consider mixing in visual content like video.

You can also develop custom hashtags promoting user-generated content, building a community through a private Facebook or LinkedIn group, and creating a Slack channel open to users who want to chat among themselves about the brand. This allows users to connect and generate buzz without a member of your team having to be actively involved.

Another option is to leverage community advocates or people who have a vested interest in the advancement of your mission.  It can be anyone who exemplifies what you want your brand to represent. Users respond well to others who are passionate about your mission and your work. Vibrant Emotional Health is a great example with their “Stories of Hope” page, amplifying the stories of individuals that Vibrant has helped. These advocates are everyday people showcasing the benefit of Vibrant’s work through their own eyes.

List Segmentation

List segmentation in email marketing means that you’re able to deliver more relevant content at optimal frequencies to your email subscribers. This comes in handy given that email is a tipping point for permission marketing, meaning that your supporters are giving you permission to interact with them on a deeper level than social media or your website.

In searching for public support, a common outreach tactic is to cast a wide net and get as much communication out there to as many people as possible. While this is a helpful advocacy approach in some situations, this may reduce alignment between brand and member.

Instead, nonprofits can use segmentation to develop targeted communications and advocacy approaches.

Here are a few ways to segment your email lists:

1. Past volunteers

Share updates on new opportunities or give past volunteers first access to events at your organization.

2. Event attendees

If someone previously attended, they’re likely to attend again. You’ll communicate with these supporters in a different way than you would talk with audiences who have yet to join you for anything.

3. Lapsed users

These are users who signed up for your email list but haven’t taken action since that sign-up.

4. Demographic segmentation

Centered on age, gender identification, or location —this is helpful to bring in new data and insights to your organization while catering your message to meet specific audience needs.

5. Geographic location

Useful if you have nationwide affiliates. And if you run local programs, you’ll also want to speak to users in your neighborhood differently than those who subscribe to your list but live on the other side of the world.

6. Donors

Like event attendees, these are going to be people more invested in your work. Also, consider segmenting between current donors and lapsed donors.

Once your lists are segmented, you can start using gated pages, or content that is hidden behind a form. Companies often use gated pages to generate leads while providing the user with a piece of valuable content.

Leverage Marketing to Promote Your Cause

Your organization might not operate for profit, but it can still value from the traffic, funds, and awareness that effective marketing strategies bring in. Not only will these tactics help promote your organization, but they’ll free up more time to dedicate to your cause and constituents.

Jonah Malin's headshot

Jonah Malin

Jonah Malin is a creative marketing professional, crafting story-driven content to execute a diverse range of digital, print, and social deliverables.

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