4 Nonprofit Marketing Tips to Stand Out and Attract Donors
Fundraising is never easy and more than ever, nonprofits are facing tougher challenges. The fundraising landscape has become more crowded, but less abundant. We’re seeing a steady increase in visibility of charities—more crowdfunding platforms, campaigns for natural disasters, tragedies and political action groups. In addition, the National Council of Nonprofits estimates that charitable giving will shrink by $13 billion or more each year due to the decrease in itemized deductions caused by the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
The result is a saturated and competitive market and to stand out, nonprofits can benefit from integrating marketing and branding strategies to strengthen their fundraising efforts and ensure they are well positioned to attract and keep donors.
Honing your marketing and messaging can make a real difference. I once worked with an organization that had alienated potential supporters with inconsistent and complex messaging that was filled with jargon. When surveyed, people told me they didn’t understand what the nonprofit did! As a result of using simpler, more compelling and relatable storytelling, a long-time board member’s spouse said she finally got what the nonprofit did and was inspired to host fundraising events at her home.
Here are four tips to improve marketing and communications to build donor awareness and loyalty:
1. Clarify your donor message: In today’s crowded advertising and media environment, you only have a few seconds to grab people’s attention and interest. Consider your target audience, their priorities for charitable giving and their motivations. What impression are you trying to make and what action do you want them to take? With that in mind, develop an authentic core message based on your values and illustrates your unique approach in an aspirational way. Keep it simple and stay away from insider language, acronyms and complicated details.
2. Be consistent: Just like any business, a nonprofit’s brand suffers from inconsistency. Each point of contact with your donors, volunteers, partners and staff is an opportunity to build the relationship and that communication should be cohesive. If people don’t know what to expect from you, it can erode trust. All content on the website, print brochure, case statement, annual report, presentations, social media posts and emails should fit into the overall brand message, tone and look to ensure easy recognition and foster loyalty. Personalizing messages for specific audience groups is fine, but don’t stray too far.
To help with greater consistency in the visual brand identity, create a simple guidelines document or style guide that outlines your design elements. Review your current print and digital content. Does it all appear to come from the same organization or is it fragmented? If the answer is yes to the latter, then it is time to revise.
3. Develop great content: I know it is easier said than done, but strong creative content can set you apart and is beneficial when you’re approaching larger donors, corporations or potential partners. Does your website look modern and is it mobile-friendly? Do people land on your homepage and see strong visuals, results and a compelling statement or tagline? Is your brochure dense with copy? Is the design pleasing and accessible with the most important information as the primary focus? Keep in mind: One piece doesn’t need to say it all; it should be part of a multilayered outreach strategy that tells a cohesive story. And if design budgets are tight, look into more affordable options such as Upwork, Freelancer and Fiverr.
4. Use data to couple with success stories: In order to build trust with your donors, you need to demonstrate your impact and show that can you deliver. When presented well and in context, numbers can speak volumes and can also convey the “so what”—why people should care. Take for example how Periscope presents data for gun deaths. Even though it uses minimal data points, it tells a clear story. Combining results with success stories that help your audiences feel empathy and reinforce your mission is powerful.
Integrating marketing strategies will help you attract donors, foster loyalty and boost your fundraising to a new level. By creating more compelling, concise and consistent messaging, visuals and outreach content you will be able to rise above the competition and attract the support you need to sustain and propel your mission forward.
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.