Nonprofit Marketing: 10 Lessons for All Nonprofits
Nonprofit marketing techniques are critical to your annual fundraising strategy, and best practices are quickly evolving. This year, nonprofits and for-profit brands face new platforms, algorithms, and donor preferences to reach the right audiences, stand out, and drive them to act.
If you’re ready to create your nonprofit marketing plan with confidence, we’re here to help.Guide Your Marketing Plan With Fresh Donor Data
10 Marketing Tips for Nonprofits
Successful nonprofit marketing extends beyond getting more eyes on your campaigns and 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 to 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 tried-and-true 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 a nonprofit organization or a for-profit building brand awareness, effective marketing only happens when you know your audience. After all, a meaningful conversation is hard to start, let alone continue if you don’t know who your audience is.
Creating donor personas for your organization to gain hypothetical representations of your ideal donors based on real information about your current and potential donor base and their demographics can help.
Here are a few key insights to gather about your donors:
- Geographic location
- Employment status
- Personality and hobbies
- Communication preferences
- Relationship to your nonprofit (e.g., first-time donors, lapsed donors, recurring donors, volunteers, or long-time donors)
Check out a full list of donor data to personalize your fundraising.
You can also get to know your supporters with essential information through a survey or on your donation forms. This best practice follows the many companies who collect customer feedback through post-purchase surveys, market research groups, interviews, and events.
Once you know more about your donors, you’re ready to apply your findings to every other aspect of your digital marketing strategy.
2. Form Connections Through Visual Storytelling
Content marketing continues to be a priority as more organizations harness the power of visual storytelling to deliver more intentional and sophisticated content. After all, people donate when they feel a personal connection to a cause.
You can create that authentically through the meaningful content you offer as they interact with your nonprofit brand. Visual elements are also critical to the search engine optimization (SEO) equation.
Visual content ideas for nonprofit marketing:
- Photos and videos of those impacted by your mission
- Infographics relaying statistics about your cause
- Short-form videos to share on Pinterest, TikTok, or Instagram
- Vlogs or testimonials from fundraisers, staff, or volunteers
See how this Giving Tuesday campaign increased donations by $40,000 year over year by putting visual storytelling front and center. Keep in mind that high-quality content boosts engagement and helps you appear more professional. Free tools like Pixlr, Unsplash, Pexels, and 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 they identify with and respond to effectively.
Nonprofit marketers can also 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 a one-time donation.
The psychological principles behind these questions provide you with insight into building lasting relationships and elevating your donor stewardship strategy.
Here are a few donor behavior takeaways from our Why America Gives report:
- Donors still give in an uncertain economy: While 77% of US donors made financial changes in response to the economy in 2022, 90% expected to give the same or more as they did in 2021.
- Donors are motivated to take action: The top donor motivations for increasing a donation are an increase in passion, cause relevance, and the rising need for donations.
- Donors are prompted to give by current events: Gen Z is the generation most likely to donate to a current event, and 70% of Millennials gave to new causes in response to timely appeal.
- Donors rely on those they trust to find new charitable causes: Trust matters to spread cause awareness, as 70% of all donors cite family and friends as their top source to learn about new charitable giving opportunities.
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. Meaning you can’t communicate with your monthly recurring donors the same way you talk to a first-time donor. Instead, you want to show donors that you pay attention to them to deliver more personalized, relevant messages.
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 to increase the impact to your cause.
- Build ambassadors out of long-time donors: Create a do-it-yourself peer-to-peer campaign to share with donors who’ve supported you for more than a year 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 open their doors to your brand. Nonprofits capture this critical information by changing quickly.
The Email Marketing Privacy Shifts
Nonprofits changed the way to capture essential information to engage new supporters with the ongoing email privacy shifts. We saw these shifts start back in June 2021 when Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) rocked email marketers across industries.1
With MPP, Apple users can mask their email activity. Email providers like Gmail also give users a simple one-click option at the top of emails to unsubscribe, which makes it more important to send meaningful messages at the right time to the right people.
Nonprofits need to adapt how to connect with donors, which may include:
- Allowing donors to choose how and where their information is shared and how they want 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. Win With Mobile-Responsive Donation Pages
Supporters want to interact with your organization from their smartphones. If you don’t have a mobile-friendly donation page, you might lose many donors midway through the process who pause to get in front of a desktop, only to never return—or all the donors who just abandon the checkout process completely.
In fact, 28% of US adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are smartphone-dependent with no other form of internet access, which we can only expect to rise with time.2
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.
Chances are your nonprofit is active on social media. As platforms continue to evolve, opportunities for nonprofits do too. From partnerships and collaborations to engaging social media posts that can transport your vision to supporters around the globe, there’s a lot of potential in choosing a few platforms. Below is a cheat sheet on how to excel with your social media marketing.3,4
What’s New on Instagram for Nonprofits
- Interactive profile pictures that showcase a custom avatar
- Reels “topics” that help videos surface to new audiences
- A new focus on photos and carousels to boost engagement
What’s New on TikTok for Nonprofits
- Keyword insights that help you see top-performing phrases in ads
- A “heating” feature helps you boost views of videos to a broader audience
- A TikTok Shop to let people purchase right from the platform
What’s New on Pinterest for Nonprofits
- A Shuffles app to let you create mood boards and collages from pins
- Social commerce features to make on-platform shopping easier
What’s New on Facebook for Nonprofits
- The Creator Studio is now a part of the Business Suite to give you one dashboard for managing a Meta business profile
- New Facebook Group features to help you boost engagement and build communities
What’s New on LinkedIn for Nonprofits
- Company pages are getting post templates, link stickers, pinned comments, and page commitments to help you showcase your values and build more engagement from your nonprofit’s page
8. Bring Your Brand to Every Donation Touchpoint
Branding matters in nonprofit marketing—a lot. That’s why it’s crucial to 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 recreate over and over again.
Pro 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 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.
9. Test Your Donation Experience for Quality
Testing is a component of intelligent marketing activities. 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, and copy
- Storylines in appeals
- Wording of your ask
- Types of visual content included in your emails
Keep in mind that you should only test one thing at a time. First, split your donor base into separate groups, then send each group a different version of your variable, and follow that by tracking which version performs better.
When you test your emails, use your content marketing system 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 getting their attention. The main ingredient of donor retention is helping donors see themselves as part of the solution.
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 can surprise and delight donors. So 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.
Achieve Your Nonprofit Marketing Goals
Take some time with your marketing team or point person to review our tips and look at what your existing marketing tactics have contributed to your overall fundraising strategy. If you can pinpoint areas you know work and those you’d like to revamp, you’re already one step ahead.
- “Use Mail Privacy Protection on iPhone,” Apple, accessed March 23, 2023, https://support.apple.com/guide/iphone/use-mail-privacy-protection-iphf084865c7/ios.
- “Mobile Fact Sheet,” Pew Research Center, last updated April 7, 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/mobile/.
- “All the New Instagram Features & Updates (in 2023),” The Preview App, last updated Feb 17, 2023, https://thepreviewapp.com/new-instagram-features-updates-2023/.
- “Social Media Updates,” Hootsuite, accessed March 23, 2023, https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-updates/tiktok/.
Unveil the Motivations Behind Donor Loyalty
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