In today’s competitive environment, people are inundated with marketing messages competing for their attention. Without a purposeful, efficient marketing and communications plan in place, your nonprofit’s voice could get lost. Or you could waste precious resources on activities that don’t attract the right attention for your cause.
The good news is you can easily become more intentional and strategic in how you talk to your supporters to achieve your mission. Let’s take a look at three key ingredients that may be missing from your communications and marketing to drive greater impact.
1. An Intentional Online Strategy
I have seen many nonprofits decide they need to be on social media because that’s what everyone is doing, and they should, too. Social media is an important component of an organization’s outreach to its supporters and stakeholders. However, posting just for the sake of posting will lead to a haphazard social media strategy that could include:
- Choosing social media platforms at random, instead of researching which ones their audience actually uses or what’s best for the organization’s communications needs and available resources.
- No written plan with clear goals for the content they post.
- Inconsistencies in the look and language of their posts — which means no strong brand identity.
- Irregular posting, sometimes with long gaps or not posting frequently enough to gain traction on a platform (e.g. posting a couple times a week on Twitter).
- Incomplete or dated information in the “About” section.
- Failing to include clear calls-to-action when appropriate.
- Not looking at what posts are getting engagement and which ones aren’t to clarify strategies.
Suggested Solutions: Create a simple digital marketing plan with clearly stated goals and KPIs to measure against those goals. Review other similar organizations’ social media to learn more about the digital conversation in the field and what’s working. Develop your content with your audience in mind and the right mix of posts that add value and show your thought leadership. Post consistently to maintain awareness and visibility — be selective which platforms you choose. It’s better to start small, and do it well.
If you’re doing a fundraising campaign on social media, create a strong campaign look, write a catchy slogan and include clear calls-to-action.
2. Having Brand Guidelines
In the eyes of the audience, your nonprofit is a brand — as such, a brand needs consistency to build recognition and trust. Sometimes, when a nonprofit’s marketing is someone’s part-time job, or no one is specifically responsible for the organization’s communications, materials are created without clear brand guidelines. Each person simply adds their own spin on what materials say and look like. If a nonprofit approaches branding and marketing in this piecemeal fashion, it will make the organization look less professional, and it could imply it’s less capable. It will also confuse the audience and erode their trust.
Suggested Solutions: Create branding guidelines that outline the look, which can include fonts, colors, logo guidelines and other design rules. That way, anyone who creates marketing or communications materials can make sure it’s in line. And include in those guidelines core messaging, which you can use across materials to remind and reinforce what you do and why you do it.
3. Proactive Marketing Efforts
Since resources are often tight, and most nonprofits juggle numerous priorities that can lead to a more reactive approach to marketing instead of a proactive one. The challenge with this approach is that it doesn’t give them the chance to put much thought or consideration into what they’re doing, much less leverage it for the greatest impact. Content is rushed and quality suffers. They could miss key opportunities to maximize exposure and fundraising for the nonprofit.
Suggested Solutions: Do periodic marketing planning that addresses these questions:
- What are our goals?
- How can we best reach those goals with our resources?
- What upcoming events could we use to maximize exposure (e.g. holidays, organizational milestones, activities in the larger field, appeals)?
- What materials do we need to support these plans?
Set aside time each quarter to do top-level communications planning for the coming six months to one year. Develop timelines to get materials produced in a way that supports your objectives. Establish a system to measure against your objectives and ensure you’re getting results, and revisit the plan as needed to make sure it’s still serving you. It doesn’t have to be set in stone — you just need a working roadmap.
An effective marketing and communications strategy is within reach with a little time, some planning, creative vision and proactivity. By integrating these ingredients into your communications work, you can develop stronger relationships and loyalty with your audience, raise awareness and galvanize your supporters.
Leeann Alameda has more than 20 years of experience in directing and implementing best practices in marketing, branding, communications and advertising in both the private and nonprofit sectors. She is the founder and principal consultant of Alameda Marketing Solutions, which provides marketing strategy and branding services for nonprofits, foundations and mission-driven businesses.