Recently we read a rather shocking statistic in Nonprofit Times from a study conducted in April – July 2020 by Tech Soup and Tapp Network. The study found that less than 50% of nonprofit organizations have a digital marketing strategy. This statistic is shocking. However, in the past year, many organizations moved toward having more of an online presence due to the restrictions presented by the COVID 19 pandemic. The nonprofits that have not made any efforts to create and execute a digital marketing strategy are most likely to be hurt by a lack of online presence. Small nonprofits specifically are the most affected. There are multiple reasons that some nonprofits are falling behind in this area. Many small nonprofits lack a budget to hire a team member to manage marketing, the time or knowledge within the organization to structure and carry out a digital strategy, and a misunderstanding of the effect a strong online presence can have. Digital marketing can be very overwhelming, which is another reason why many small nonprofits don’t adopt a digital marketing plan.
In order to dispel the fear around creating a digital marketing plan, we have compiled a list of the most common and valuable assets to help you shape a digital marketing strategy. Written with small nonprofits and low budgets in mind, the following digital marketing elements can help your organization get the most traction by investing a little time and effort.
An organization’s most important digital asset is its website so keeping it in great shape should be a top priority. Ideally, all other digital marketing assets will act as funnels to your website to help you gain supporters, volunteers, and donors. An excellent website will establish your brand, tell your organization’s unique story, and provide donors with a simple and secure way to offer support. For more information on building a website for your organization and ensuring that it has all the important attributes, check out our blog article, The Top 8 Elements a Nonprofit Website Needs – A Crash Course
2. Email Marketing:
Email marketing is usually done through platforms such as Mail Chimp and Constant Contact (both of which have free and low-priced options) and involves building lists comprised of different groups of an organization’s supporters. Email marketing is a very inexpensive way to reach supporters of your organization in a timely and targeted manner, but it does take some planning and effort. The first step is to gather email addresses. Privacy laws and best practices are more stringent than they used to be, and you will want to ensure that you have permission to contact everyone on your lists. One way to ensure that supporters understand that you might be reaching out is to include a disclaimer on your donation form with a box for them to uncheck if they do not wish to be contacted. Another way to gather email addresses is to add a pop-up sign-up form to your organization’s website to give people an opportunity to offer their information to you.
As you build your email lists, a best practice is separating your supporters into tailored mailing lists. Grouping your supporters into volunteers, event attendees, general signups, and donor lists can help you communicate more efficiently with them. You can even make your lists even more niche if you feel that it would give more value to your communications. Ideally, it is best to tailor email communications, as much as possible to the individual. If you choose to use email marketing, when shaping your marketing strategy, you will want to allow for a regular monthly or quarterly newsletter, along with email communications to accompany every planned campaign.
3. Social Media:
Social media is a great tool for all nonprofits including those that do not have a lot of time and money to invest in their digital strategy. It is also a task that is simple for volunteers to take on and when used properly, it can be a powerful fundraising tool. The most popular social media platforms for nonprofits are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but there are also newer platforms such as Snapchat and Tik Tok that might be helpful if enough manpower exists to keep them active and if you have a young enough supporter base that you need to reach.
Managing social media on every platform is a full-time job so identifying which platforms would reach your target audience the best will help you best focus your energy and perform well. It is unnecessary to be on every platform if the bandwidth or audience isn't there.
If you are unsure which platforms might be useful to your organization, keep an eye out for our social media guide (COMING SOON).
In this guide, we review each social media platform based on how it can be useful to nonprofits and give you the pros and cons to help you make the wisest use of your time when it comes to social media.
There are few things as effective as blogging. Blogging provides you with content across your marketing channels. You can share blog articles in your email newsletters, as blurbs in fundraising emails, or on social media. Sharing blog articles across marketing channels will increase traffic to your website. In addition to giving you content to share, a blog allows you to tell your story in both long and short format articles, asserting your organization as an authority in your mission, and providing you with much-needed Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
So, what should you write about? The sky is really the limit. You can use your blog to tell the story of your organization and the community members which you have served. You can share interviews with organizational leadership, profiles of volunteers and donors, and announcements of successes. It is reasonable to update your blog at least twice a month. The articles do not have to be long. However, they should be at least 300 words to rank on Google and give you SEO benefits. If you are concerned about how you might fit in the time to write, consider assigning articles to volunteers within the organization or put ads out at the local high school or university for student writers. The students will get their volunteer hours in exchange for giving you the content you need, it’s a win for everyone!
5. Pay Per Click Ads:
Using Pay Per Click Ads or PPC is a little tricky and does require a bit of a budget. But don’t let this deter you because there are some great benefits to PPCs and there is a way to pay for them that you might be familiar with, Google Ad Grants. The Google Ad Grants are funding opportunities for nonprofits from Google. Through Google Ad Grants, qualifying nonprofits can receive up to $10,000 per month to run ads through Google. These sorts of ads allow organizations to attract potential supporters that may have never found them otherwise. Additionally, they also enable nonprofits to acquire valuable information on their audience and allow them to A/B test messaging. To get started, apply for the Google Ad Grants here: https://www.google.com/grants/
Regardless of what elements you choose to incorporate into your digital strategy, consistency is important. Be clear about the needs of your organization and be realistic about the time and budget available to invest in digital marketing. Our advice is to start with the most necessary element, a website, and then budget your remaining time and funds across the other outlets. Most importantly, with any channel that you use, be authentic and tell the organization's story to the public with the goal of driving them to act and support your important work.