How to Improve Your Nonprofit Marketing Strategy
Your nonprofit is established and well on its way to doing good; maybe you’re reaching the end of the fiscal year and want to take a look back at your nonprofit and how much it has gotten done in the past year. Either way, we feel it is part of your nonprofit’s healthy diet to look back and see how it can continue to improve and expand.
Go back and assess your nonprofit’s long-term and short-term goals at the organizational, marketing, and mission-based levels. If needed, refocus your mission by asking yourself a few questions: Are there more effective ways to assist the at-risk group your nonprofit was created to help? Is there a more effective way to raise awareness for your cause, for the social issue your nonprofit has chosen to fight against or remedy? Are there better ways to continue moving your mission forward?
At the organizational level, analyze a typical day in your nonprofit. Think about the everyday happenings that come with running your nonprofit. Is your boat in ship shape? Is your ship still seaworthy, your crew still competent and efficient? Is your ship still adequately supplied for its trip on the high seas? Similarly, with marketing, take a look at how much exposure your nonprofit was able to achieve in the past. Has that exposure increased? Do you have more email and newsletter subscribers? Has your donor base grown?
If some of these questions produce a less than favorable answer, it might be time to adjust or shift your strategies, specifically in the marketing spectrum. It is within the marketing spectrum that all other areas, mission-based and organizational, will be enhanced. Consider your most recent and current, ideas, tactics, and programs; evaluate them and see if have done well or if they don’t have a very successful track record. A new set of goals might be needed in order to give your nonprofit the boost it deserves, goals that can be determined after making a few adjustments with our suggestions below.
Update. Target your audience.
Let’s begin with one of the most important and influential groups in your nonprofit: your donors. Has there been in a shift in your target audience since you last evaluated them or since you started your nonprofit? Has your demographic changed due to shifts in the economy or because of growth in technology? These questions and more can be answered by using analytical software on your nonprofit website, the best of which, we believe, is Google Analytics.
By now if you are revisiting your marketing strategy, you should already have a website in place. Your website is one of the main ways potential and established donors can access your nonprofit to learn more. Google Analytics will look through user traffic and experience on your website in order to give you valuable stats on your audience: Their demographic, the duration of their visit to your website, their geographical area, and more. Using this information, your nonprofit can figure out whether or not your target audience has changed (in age, location, possibly economic status) and work on a better way of reaching them. This leads us to the next section.
Is your messaging strategy still relevant? By this we mean your Mission Statement, vision statement (if you have one), and your one liner tagline. Is your mission/message still clear, understandable, and engaging? Is it consistent across all platforms? Is your mission even the same as when you first started out?
When it comes to your messaging strategy, we also mean the ways in which your nonprofit communicates with others. Are your communication lines still open? How is your relationship with donors? Email or direct mail, which has been the most effective? Have you been asking your donors for feedback? Do you need to rethink how your organization is reaching out to them? How is your Call to Action – is it working? Communication of your mission is essential to marketing your nonprofit, how you broadcast it is also equally important, covered next.
You need a blow horn to spread the word about your nonprofit and its mission, and that is all dependent on a number of avenues your nonprofit can either expand on and/or use.
- You website and donation page: We’re sure you’ve already combed through the many pages that talk about optimal nonprofit websites and donation pages. That being said, this should just serve as a reminder of how these things are directly related to your marketing strategy. The navigation of your website and donation page should be clean, easy to navigate, and branded. Do your pages still look good? Is your website responsive? Are all your links still operational? Is there more that can be done to streamline your pages’ aesthetic? How’s the user experience, can you do better? Are they properly branded with your nonprofit’s specific color scheme and logo? If you’re stumped or looking for a few options for websites to create your donation pages, we have a few suggestions here.
- Social Media: Measure your presence on your social media platforms and the kind of content you are posting. Ensure that your content is equal parts your mission, your affiliates (similar organizations), and awareness boosting.
- Blogging: Does your nonprofit have a blog? How would rate the content your blog is producing? Content marketing has been all the rage and is continuing to grow in influence in the nonprofit sector, so if you don’t have a blog yet, address that and see if blogging would be beneficial to your nonprofit.
- Press Releases: Has your nonprofit put out any press releases? These could give you a bit of press and media attention if done well, at the right time, and consistently. That, along with blogging, newsletters, your website, and social media handles can serve the role of providing information and educating the public about your cause (the communities your nonprofit serves or the social issue your nonprofit is trying to address).
- Video: Alongside images, has your nonprofit considered including video in its visual portfolio? An animated explainer video, about 2-3 minutes long, could mean all the difference in raising awareness and educating viewers about what your nonprofit is doing to help.
- Newsletter: With an average newsletter click rate of 25%, your nonprofit could stand to use that number to increase awareness and donations for your cause. If you find that your newsletter needs a revamp, we suggest implementing the Simplistic Newsletter Strategy, which includes 1 image (i.e. an image of a child or animal in need), 1 description (a small blurb), and 1 button (your Donate Now button). Less is more, and streamlining your newsletter will increase user engagement and increase your click rate.
- Mobile: Your donor base is constantly on the go. Your nonprofit should invest, if it hasn’t already, in making all of your nonprofit’s platforms mobile-friendly across all devices. According to the Classy blog, 66% of people read emails on their smartphones, 80% of mobile user delete emails that don’t integrate well with mobile device with 30% who will end up unsubscribing. Don’t lose potential donors because you are unable to reach them anytime, anywhere, on any device.
Whereas for-profits are focused on making the most money by selling a specific service or product, nonprofits are created to act for the moral good and eliminate social ills. The changing face of the economy has forced nonprofits to be more creative and business-oriented in finding ways to fund themselves outside of the traditional model of donations and fundraising (although those two are still tried and true tactics!). Howard Adam Levy, nonprofit specialist in branding and marketing communications and Principal of the Red Rooster Group suggests nonprofits pursue “Program-related investments such as loans to nonprofits at below-market rates and recoverable grants, where nonprofits return funds with no interest payment” and private ventures that “establish[es] an earned income base for nonprofits…as a number of high-profile business leaders adopt this model for charitable giving.”
Nonprofits also shouldn’t be afraid of producing some revenue for operation costs. Some ideas to produce revenue, to use as applicable for your nonprofit, include (but are not limited to) shirts, caps, hats, coffee cups, mugs, jackets, etc. with your nonprofit logo on it. Your nonprofit can also provide educational materials, brochures, and workbooks. Fundraising ideas for revenue also include silent auctions, golf tournaments, raffles of donated items, candy sales, etc. This takes us to the next area of business, money.
Sit down with your financial team and talk budgeting. See how revenue was distributed along your nonprofit, take note of how much went to event planning, to the needy, to operation costs. See what divisions seemed to need the most financial attention, which areas may have suffered cuts. To help direct the conversation and keep yourselves organized, create a chart that tracks your expenses either by quarter or by month. Calculate how much money would be needed for operational costs, management of public relations, website, social media, email, donation pages, and how much should be set aside for marketing and advertising.
This is one area we believe your nonprofit should not skip out on. We’re not saying that your nonprofit has to go out and pay for space on a billboard along the freeway, we just think that there should be room in the budget to help get your nonprofit out there in the public eye. If funds are tight, however, or you want to pursue a more cost-effective way to advertise, why not look into the Google Grants program? Has your nonprofit considered it? Google Grants will give your nonprofit, if it qualifies, $10,000 in free advertising credit with Google using specialized keywords to drive traffic to your website. If you already have a Google Grant, are you using it to its greatest potential? (If not, give us a ring here Elevate Clicks, we’ll gladly help you out.)
All that aside, when your nonprofit is able to get around to it, make sure that it sets the right tone with donors. Network for Good’s, 7 Steps to Creating Your Best Nonprofit Marketing Plan Ever, warns nonprofits to avoid “You marketing: The kind of communication that centers on the organization. When I pick up your brochure as a prospect, I am learning about you. You are talking about you. You are telling your side of the story.” They instead suggest you shift gears to “Me marketing: Most people are tuned into what matters to them. They care about messages that speak to their needs. If I pick up your brochure and it is talking about me, I am far more interested. This approach forces you to find the benefits of what you are offering to people.”
All these things are well and good but a ship and its voyage is only as successful as its crew. Does your staff need a reboot? A refresher? A reminder of the nonprofit’s mission? Does everyone understand their roles and what their responsibilities are in the organization? Does your staff need addition training? Consider having your staff attend a retreat or short workshop to help them refocus and continue expanding on their skills. Just like a captain can’t use a sailor who can’t tie knots at the sails, so can’t your nonprofit function if your staff is not made alert to what needs to be done.
Implement , monitor, reevaluate (again).
Use a calendar to structure your marketing plan; this will help in breaking down each area in your plan and the tasks related to it. This will also help in determining how much time and money is needed for each marketing area.
Test out the new things you have implemented over a course of a month, two months, three months. See which things have a harder time getting off the ground or are just not effective, and tweak them accordingly. Those updates that end up working out, keep them around with the schedule to check on their effectiveness again when six months pass, and then at the end of the year. All assessments should be done by year’s end to get a head start on preparing for a new year.