Nonprofit Marketing Tips from 70 Industry Leaders, Part 2
I can hear the shouts already: “Isn’t message just one component of effective marketing?” Yes, it is. And visual identity is another key ingredient.
“Understand where your donors, volunteers, staff and supporters get their information. Design your SEO program to consistently put your organization in the path of your current stakeholders and like-minded prospects with everything you do. Carefully mining your keywords will go a long way to help keep you top-of-mind with your target audience. Frequent and meaningful edits to your website content, social media content and posts to community forums/calendars will move you quickly to the top of the Google food chain when people are searching for specific services, programs or events. Make your analytics a key component of your monthly scorecard so everyone (staff/board of directors) is aware of how important your online presence is to your overall success.” — Carol Bennis, ChildSafe Colorado
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
“Less is more. Tell your story in few words. Pictures are powerful. The old adage is true, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ Be generous —link to other organizations and causes to widen your net.” — Amy McCarthy, Teton Raptor Center
Pictures Tell a Thousand Words
“I have found that Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge (TCWR) has to have good content. Take the cute photos or pictures showing something important about your cause then share it on your social media pages and in your marketing materials. Pictures do tell 1,000 words. Make sure to direct everything you do to your website, which needs to be up to date and current. It's good to create press releases letting the media know about your cause and especially about your specific events. Make sure your contact info for the press is up to date. That seems to change often. Ask for Public Service Announcement/ PSA space. Make sure all the info you summit is ready to go to press. The easier it is for the news team to adapt your press release, photos and information to their format, the better your chances of success. TCWR rents billboards, distributes brochures, produces and mails a quarterly newsletter and three special donor letters. We also mail an annual report to our top donors. TCWR is a member of all our local chambers of commerce. This is a good way to get publicity for ribbon cuttings, meet others at membership meetings, share ideas and build business relations. Most chambers have a discount for nonprofits to join. Nonprofits are businesses, and it is important to get your message out.” — Tanya Smith, Turpentine Creek Foundation, Inc.
First Impressions Count—Keep Your Visual Identity Fresh and Up to Date
"After 30 years, Hope for Haiti made the decision to refresh its visual identity with a new logo and website. Our poverty alleviation work has not changed, but now we have visually appealing tools in our new brand identity to better tell our story and demonstrate impact. My advice for fellow nonprofit marketing professionals is to ensure that your visual identity complements the work you do and your core values. First impressions are everything to our donors and partners. Make sure that you are leading with your best brand in 2019." — Stephanie Jepsen, Hope for Haiti, Inc.
It’s All About the Photo
“Invest in social and digital media, from hiring great staff, to purchasing quality video, photography and sound equipment and editing software. Nonprofits have to do it themselves, and spending in these areas will yield results.Instagram has the most engaged audience for us, and it’s all about the photo.We’ve also started working with local influencers to reach new audiences. It’s a little early to tell, but our most recent fundraiser appeared to have much more diversity—all aspects of diversity—which is one of our goals for the influencer program.” — Charlotte Donn, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Social Media Is Our Best Tool
“Always take advantage of the free options available to you and, remember to lean on your partners for support. For many nonprofits, the resources we have available to allocate toward marketing efforts are small. With that being said, social media (even if resources aren't available for paid social media advertising) is our best tool. Post regularly, but more important than that, post content with a clear call-to-action—photos and videos are always a great go to. And lean on your partners (i.e. other staff, board members, etc.) to advocate for you in their circles, including on their social media platforms!” — Meghan Camevale, YMCA of Greater Scranton
Make Marketing Pieces that Will Work Across All Platforms
“My marketing tip would be to print pieces you can use again and again. For example, we printed 20-inch x 30-inch posters with impact quotes and had them mounted to foam board for an event. We've used those again and again at performances and fundraising activities. In short, when printing marketing pieces, design them for repeat use when possible!” — Mali Anderson, Erasing the Distance
Get Creative with Your Emails!
“Get rid of the old text heavy emails with every last bit of information for your readers. Turn your emails into graphically pleasing, visually compelling emails with direct buttons to click to get more information. This way you can track what people are reading. Keep your blurbs short and concise if you do add text. Also, increase your open rate by sending the email from a person instead of your organization and include an emoji in your subject line!” — Deborah Thomas, Walker Center for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Inc.
Networking can sometimes get a bad rap, but in the marketing world, partnerships and collaboration are often the quickest path to success for both parties.
“Partnering is de rigueur. Funding flows into developing countries have flipped the ratio of overseas development assistance (ODA) to private capital flows, whether remittances, domestic resources or foreign direct investment (FDI). Whereas ODA used to exceed FDI, today it is dwarfed by private capital flows. Of critical importance to nonprofits working internationally, therefore, is the ability to partner with private sector partners to work toward common goals. Think input suppliers, machinery and equipment vendors, processors, transporters, food companies, millers and banks. Even breweries! Implementing field programs necessitates a holistic and catalytic approach to achieve inclusive sustainable change. So get used to partnering—evolve your messaging to reflect that. Nonprofits simply cannot succeed alone. Market together, implement together.” - Paul Guenette, ACDI/VOCA
Don’t be a Bench Player at Networking Events
Reach Out to Local Industry Experts
“Start a marketing advisory committee with local industry experts from agencies, nonprofits and for-profits across all areas of marketing, social, PR, etc. Leverage this volunteer group as a sounding board for strategy, spend and overall marketing efforts. We started our committee a little over two years ago, and it’s been hugely beneficial, keeping us informed of trends and the best ways to maximize our marketing dollars. The committee receives complimentary memberships to our aquarium in exchange for their time and expertise.” — Caroline Ralston, Living Planet, Inc.
Keep an Eye on Pertinent Stories in the News
“Don't shy away from the media! We have a staff
member who watches for articles/stories that are germane to our work. We often comment on them, share and follow up with the staff writer or reporter.” — Cathy Maes, Loaves and Fishes, MN
People Give to People—Try to Meet them Face to Face
“A key to high-level funding, especially for small and mid-sized nonprofits with less than $5 million a year in donations are face-to-face meetings. Research a few years ago indicated that only 1% of organizations used face to face for the majority of their funding. Yet face to face were reported to be the single most effective way to raise funds and collect referrals. Face to face was also reported to be the best way to attract major gifts of a $5,000 or more a year. All partners are important yet major gifts generally account for 80% of an organization’s income. Social media, hard copy newsletters and other nonpersonal communications help maintain support by keeping partners informed, but they are a poor substitute for a relationship. The fact is people give to people… Many years ago, I met a man that raised over a $1 billion. He told me it was all about relationships. I asked, ‘How could you have a relationship with hundreds of people?’ His answer did not satisfy me. Now I know how. You start a relationship with a face to face, keep good records on a quality CRM and build the relationship around their needs—NOT YOURS! I know it sounds slow asking one person at a time, but if you make it a goal to fill your calendar with face-to-face meetings, your success will grow quickly. Powerful relationships are built around mutual interest will outpace social media or newsletters everyday! An old farmer’s saying is, ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is today.’ If someone is too timid to make ‘an ask’ in person, they are more than likely in the wrong profession. We are not shy about sharing a movie or a restaurant we enjoy with others. Why then would we be shy about sharing our vision?” — Rocky Malloy, Mission Generation, Inc.
Learn from Like-Minded Organizations
“Having the slightly untraditional job of marketing a growing church, I've relied less on my own expertise or comparison with similar organizations and more on the assessment of a curated group of people. I meet with them once a quarter to allow them space to brainstorm how to appeal to their unique demographics and what they see the church needing as we move forward.” — Carissa Steinhart, Heartland Community Church
It’s Hard to Replace a Face to Face!
“For a nonprofit such as ours, there is no better marketing strategy than the old fashioned ‘in-person meeting’ or ‘networking event.’ While digital marketing is invaluable, sharing your passion about your mission face to face makes the biggest impact in my opinion. Emails and the written word only go so far—but facial expressions, intonation and persuasiveness go a much longer way! Another must-do for our territory is spending time writing handwritten thank-you notes. Again, appreciation and acknowledgement via this media channel is a more effective way of letting a partner know you care about their service/partnership than just an email. With so many of us being inundated with hundreds of emails a day, getting something physical in the mail, and in written form, is a welcomed surprise even for the highest C-suite executive.” — Anna Tzinis, National Kidney Foundation
Partnership Marketing Via Special Events
“As a nonprofit with limited marketing dollars, I’ve started focusing efforts on partnership marketing via our special events. We target businesses or service providers that we see value in or that can help offset hard costs. We then treat these partners like sponsors at our events—we reap the benefits of their products or services and, in exchange, they reap the benefits of being in front of our 20,000 event participants.” — Clare McDermott, Active Transportation Alliance
This seems like a lot to do! Is it OK to get help? Yes, it is! Done correctly, outsourcing allows you to use others in their areas of strength, giving you more time to focus on your own distinctive core competencies.
Don’t be Afraid to Hire a Professional
“If you want to get your message out, you need to speak using the online tools that your audience uses. And, you need to hire professionals for this. Your staff might be able to tell a story, but won't be able to understand the details of Facebook/Instagram Ads or Google Analytics. We create the content and pass it on to professionals to help us spread the word. Bonus tip: Your Millennial intern is not a professional marker.” — Wayne Walker, Our Calling, Inc.
Invest in a Marketing Plan
"I have two marketing tips. The first of which is, DO it! Most of us come to the nonprofit world because we are motivated by the mission and work of our organizations. The elements of our jobs that exist outside of our mission feel secondary to the purpose. But in reality, the strategic promotion of your work is critical to meeting your overall goals. My second tip is to invest in your marketing plan. A resolute and consistent investment of time and resources in the tactical development and implementation of your marketing approach will reap you the visibility, consumer/donor confidence and ultimately the assets needed to help sustain your work." — Alicia Horton, Thrive DC
Spending Nothing on Marketing Is Not for the Fainthearted
"A lot, of course, depends on the budget for your organization. From what I have seen in my experience, the charities that tend to pay for marketing (no surprise) reap the most donations. Spending nothing on marketing (as I have done for so many years) is not a tip I would recommend for the fainthearted. Sometimes I think too much about what the donor wants from their donation, but if you are not even reaching the donor, you are not getting anywhere fast." — Toby Tanser, SHOE4AFRICA INC
Marketing Must Be Prioritized
“Make marketing a priority! Budget for social ads and boosting, and hire someone to focus on marketing and PR. Have a comprehensive marketing plan as if you were a for-profit business. When Vinacapital Foundation took this leap, we went from consistently raising $1 to $1.2 million a year to averaging $2 million." — Robin Austin, Vinacapital Foundation
Finally, what about dollars and cents? Marketing done right should ultimately lead to easier fundraising success.
Fundraising Is Like Dating—You Have to Ask!
“Do your homework. Know who your prospects are and what their charitable hot buttons are. Don’t be afraid to ask for money because the worst thing that happens is that someone says no, because… fundraising is like dating. You can’t date the person you like unless you ask them.” — Howard Schultz, North Suburban Young Men’s Christian Association
Use Peer-to-Peer Crowdfunding
“Everyone has heard about crowdfunding. Peer to peer is a specific type of crowdfunding and can help your nonprofit accomplish a number of strategic goals beyond just greater awareness for your mission—like increased website traffic, new potential supporters and the potential to raise more money. Your current givers aren’t just volunteering their time or making personal donations, they are actually helping you raise money by reaching out to their personal networks and requesting donations on your organization’s behalf. Sometimes this personal appeal is a much easier “sell,” because potential donors often prefer to give to a friend versus an organization they don’t have a personal relationship with. It’s easy to get creative and you don’t need to be an expert to try out starting with a small campaign.” — Kathryn Tolo, Angel Foundation
Sustainability Sells (to Donors)
"Too many nonprofits put an emphasis on the NON. Run your nonprofit like a business—make profits (when possible). A self-sustaining nonprofit is attracting to donors." — Jim Devarennes, Sober Living America
Whew. That was a lot to process! Do you have any tips that you would add to this list? Which of these nuggets are you looking forward to applying in your own work?
To read part one, click here.
Grant Hensel is the founder of Nonprofit Megaphone, an agency focused exclusively on acquiring and managing the Google Ad Grant for nonprofits. His team takes pride in their 100 percent success rate helping nonprofits receive the grant and in helping dozens of organizations use the funds to make a difference.