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Nonprofit Marketing: 10 Lessons for All Nonprofits

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By Jess Woloszyn

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Published February 16, 2022 Reading Time: 8 minutes

Nonprofit marketing is a critical part of your annual fundraising strategy, and it’s quickly evolving. In 2022, nonprofits and for-profit brands alike must master new platforms, algorithms, and donor preferences to reach the right audiences and drive them to act.

Marketing Tips for Nonprofits

Successful nonprofit marketing extends beyond just getting more eyes on your campaigns or fundraising initiatives. It means grabbing the attention of people who feel passionate and ready to take action for your cause. Rather than targeting the masses and hoping your message resonates, strategize how you can connect with those who share your vision, values, and beliefs.

Each year brings fresh challenges and opportunities as nonprofit marketing evolves around new fundraising trends. Fortunately, some best practices can amplify your marketing efforts and boost your chances of reaching your audience. Here are 10 nonprofit marketing tips that will help you catch up to speed quickly.

1. Get to Know Your Donors

Whether in the nonprofit or for-profit sector, effective marketing only happens when you know your audience. A meaningful conversation is hard to start, let alone continue if you don’t know whom you’re talking to.

Create donor personas for your organization to gain hypothetical representations of your ideal donors based on real information about your current and potential donor base.

Here are a few key insights to gather about your donors

  • Age
  • Geographic location
  • Employment
  • Attitudes
  • Motivations
  • Personality and hobbies
  • Lifestyle
  • Communication preferences
  • Relationship to your nonprofit (first-time donors, lapsed donors, recurring donors, volunteers, long-time donors)

Get to know your supporters with a personal hello, but you can also gather essential information through a survey or donation forms. According to HubSpot’s State of Marketing report, 89% of companies collect customer feedback through surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Once you know more about your donors, you’re ready to apply your findings to every other aspect of your marketing strategy.

2. Form Connections Through Visual Storytelling

As content marketing continues to gain traction as ever in the nonprofit sector, more and more organizations harness the power of visual storytelling. People donate when they feel a personal connection to a cause, and you can create that authentically through the meaningful content you offer as they interact with your brand.

Visual Content Ideas for Nonprofit Marketing:

See how this Giving Tuesday campaign increased donations by $40,000 year over year by putting visual storytelling front and center.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MqA_FqIaME&feature=emb_logo

Keep in mind that high-quality content boosts engagement and helps you appear more professional. Free tools like Pixlr, Unsplash, Pexels, and even Google Slides can help you edit and refine your pictures.

3. Get Familiar With Donor Psychology

When you know how and why your target donors behave the way they do, you can create content that they identify with and respond to.

Nonprofit marketers can use giving psychology to understand different behaviors, such as why more people donate when a campaign is closer to reaching its goal. They can also determine what motivates a donor to give a recurring gift instead of just a one-time donation. The psychological principles behind these questions provide you with insight into building relationships with your target donors.

Here are a few donor behavior takeaways from our Why America Gives report:

  • The top action donors take before deciding to donate is to check online resources to learn more about the organization’s leadership, political values, and religious values
  • Nearly half of millennial donors make sacrifices to have funds to donate to charity
  • 55% of donors completed donations when the appeal was timely, such as being asked to give after a natural disaster or event in the news

Dive into the research to start thinking like your donors and anticipate the actions they’re likely to take before, during, and after the donation process. Each marketing decision based on data brings you one step closer to achieving your desired ROI.

 

4. Segment Your Communications to Build Donor Relationships

Not every supporter has the same connection to your nonprofit. You can’t communicate with your monthly recurring donors in the same way you’re talking to a first-time donor. You want to show donors that you’re paying attention to them to deliver more personalized messages that are relevant.

That’s why segmentation is a pillar of great nonprofit marketing. Break up your donors into smaller lists—whether by acquisition channel, giving frequency, donation amount, or programs they donate to—so you can send the right messages to the right people.

Segmented Communication Ideas for Nonprofit Marketers

  • Convert one-time donors to recurring donors: Include an invitation to your recurring giving community for donors who repeatedly make one-time donations as a way to bring a more significant impact to your cause.
  • Build ambassadors out of long-time donors: Create a DIY peer-to-peer campaign to share with donors who’ve supported you for more than a year as a way to quickly set up individual fundraising pages based on events like their birthday, a holiday, or a creative idea they think their network would enjoy.
  • Build a personal invitation to events for new donors:  Take the opportunity to invite first-time donors to your annual fundraising event shortly following a thank you email to encourage them to get to know the organization on a deeper level.

5. Adjust Email Outreach to Prioritize Donor Privacy

Every marketer aims to capture more email addresses and information to target outreach for the most impactful results. When people sign up for your blog, email updates, or newsletter, they’re opening up their door to your brand. The way nonprofits capture this type of critical information is changing quickly.

The Email Marketing Privacy Shifts of 2021

Nonprofits are changing the way they capture essential information to engage donors. In June of 2021, Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) rocked email marketers across industries. With MPP, Apple users can now mask their email activity. Read more about the iOS 15 implications for nonprofits here.

Nonprofits need to adapt the ways they connect with donors, which may include:

  • Allowing donors to choose how and where their information is shared and how they would like to be engaged
  • Leaning into data you collect firsthand from donors on subscription forms and surveys, and focusing on opt-in permissions that guide outreach
  • Collecting phone numbers to send more direct text message updates around key campaigns

6. Master Mobile-Responsive Donation Pages

Supporters want to interact with your organization from their smartphones. If you don’t have a mobile-friendly donation page, odds are you might lose many donors midway through the process who pause to get in front of a desktop, to never return–or all the donors who just abandon the checkout process completely.

Twenty-eight percent of U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are smartphone-dependent with no other form of internet access, which we can expect to only rise with time.

Make sure every touchpoint you have with your donors is mobile-optimized so they can make a gift on the spot, wherever they are. One way to do this is to add a donation or campaign modal checkout experience on any page.

Pro Tip: Check if your fundraising software allows your donation pages to display properly on any smartphone or tablet, as shown by a Classy donation page below.

mobile donation webpage

7. Establish a Unique Presence on Each Social Media Platform

Chances are your nonprofit is active on social media. As social media platforms continue to evolve, opportunities for nonprofits do too. Below is a cheat sheet on how to crush your social media marketing.

What’s New on Instagram for Nonprofits

What’s New on TikTok for Nonprofits

What’s New on Pinterest for Nonprofits

  • Build Idea Pins to make more of an impact with a single post
  • Participate in Pinterest TV to bring in donations through video
  • Lean into Shopping Updates that make fundraising on Pinterest simpler

What’s New on Twitter for Nonprofits

  • Boost interaction with Tweet Take to react to another post
  • Use the Topic Tags Bar to interact with users interested in your cause
  • Create or join a Twitter Community around your cause to share updates and fundraising initiatives

What’s New on Facebook for Nonprofits

What’s New on Snapchat for Nonprofits

What’s New on LinkedIn for Nonprofits

8. Bring Your Brand to Every Donation Touchpoint

Branding matters in nonprofit marketing—a lot. Use what you learn about your target donors to build a brand that welcomes and fuels their emotional drive to give.

Think about your brand as a continuous flow from your website, to your emails, to every campaign you host. Lean on custom donation forms to bring your brand to life in new campaigns and consider branded campaign templates for pages you’re recreating over and over again.

BONUS TIP: Nonprofits can sign up for a free Canva Pro account. Use Canva’s brand kit feature to upload the essential elements of your nonprofit’s brand and easily apply them to anything you design, from campaign page headers to Instagram stories. You can even manage multiple brand kits for unique campaigns like Giving Tuesday.

brand colors example

9. Test Your Donation Experience for Quality

Testing is a component of intelligent marketing. When the outside world shifts, testing can help you make data-driven decisions that put your marketing efforts in the best position for success.

You can test several elements in your marketing campaigns, including:

  • Email subject lines
  • Donate button shape, color, size, placement, copy
  • Storylines in appeals
  • The language you use for your ask
  • Types of visual content included in your emails

You should only test one thing at a time. Split your donor base into separate groups, send each group a different version of your variable, and track which version performs better. If you’re testing your emails, use your CMS or email marketing software to review your open and click rates. Continual testing will help you learn what content your supporters respond to and ensure the success of your nonprofit marketing campaigns.

10. Keep a Personal Touch in the Digital Age

Nonprofit marketing is just as much about following up with donors as drawing them in. The main ingredient of donor retention is helping donors see themselves as part of the solution to the challenges you’re tackling with a personalized thank you. Why America Gives 2021 revealed that personal connections drive the decision to donate, and today’s donors care about your organization’s values.

Here are some tips for personalized donor appreciation:

  • Customize your thank you message and donation receipt to explain the impact of a specific donor’s gift during a campaign or timeframe
  • Add details that show donors their contributions make a tangible difference
  • Add a personalized email in addition to your first thank you to establish a lasting conversation with your donors
  • Demonstrate the impact a donor has with customized thank you notes from beneficiaries or team members

When online interactions surround everyday experiences, the idea of a mailed letter or physical thank you now can surprise and delight donors. Prioritize handwritten notes whenever possible, and rally your staff, volunteers, and interns to put pen to paper. One personalized thank you can go a long way toward boosting donor satisfaction and loyalty.

Step Up Your Nonprofit Marketing

Review our tips and look at what your existing marketing strategies have contributed to your overall fundraising strategy. If you can start by pinpointing areas you know work and those you’d like to revamp, you’re already one step ahead of the game.

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