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Nonprofit Strategies

Cut through the noise: What nonprofit marketing is — and is not

Set yourself apart with these actionable tips on launching a nonprofit marketing campaign that will capture the attention of your donors.

Rachel Mills
August 13, 2021

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Nonprofit marketing is what sells your mission to your audience. So how are you leveraging marketing to capture people's attention?

Every day, you fight for your supporters’ attention against every other ad, blog post, and Instagram caption on the internet. To win the battle, you must create scroll-stopping content centered on your mission and values — a feat that's easier said than done.

On episode 144 of the We Are For Good podcast, co-hosts Jonathan McCoy and Becky Endicott dive into how to establish a framework for nonprofit marketing. Below, we share some of their favorite strategies from the podcast and toss in a few of our own. These ideas will help you raise awareness for your cause and ultimately hit your fundraising goals.

Set your foundation: Nonprofit marketing begins with your ethos

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You don't need to have a marketing degree in order to develop a quality nonprofit marketing strategy. Instead, you simply need to be a human.

As you develop your marketing plan, return to the ethos of your charitable organization — your reason for being, if you will. What makes you unique? What problem(s) are you trying to solve? How do people perceive your organization?

Marketing is really nothing more than finding different ways to inform supporters on your mission and values.

Sure, there are countless tactics to accomplish this, but in the end, marketing is just striking up a conversation with your supporters. And what's the best way to initiate these conversations? By being your authentic, most unapologetic self.

To understand marketing, sometimes it's helpful to remember what marketing is not.

3 things marketing is NOT

When developing a marketing plan for the first time, sometimes we get so caught up into the minute details we forget about the big picture. So before diving in further to this subject, let's clear up a few common misconceptions.

1. Marketing is not just a logo 🙅

Marketing is the accumulation of conversations, stories, content, and graphics shared about your organization. It involves your tone, voice, and personality. It's not just limited to your logos, color palette, or typography chosen for your website.

2. Marketing is not the conversations about yourself 😱

Marketing is meant to be a two-way conversation. In other words, marketing is not just the content you publish and push out into the world.

Instead, it involves the conversations you can't control — the comments on your social media platforms, the questions asked within your blog posts, the questions emailed in for your next podcast episode, and the testimonials or word-of-mouth side comments spoken at the water cooler.

3. Marketing is not just paid advertisements 🙈

Decades ago, marketers focused on paid-for advertisements, particularly in the form of mass media. Brands connected with potential buyers through TV, newspapers, radio, and other channels — which often limited their ability to dial into a very specific niche.

Today, marketers have the ability to tailor their message directly to their target audience. You can find “your people” through online community forums, via influencers in your industry, or by connecting with podcast hosts. Marketing isn’t just about publishing the most creative campaign — it’s about getting creative in how and where you connect with your audience.

Develop your messaging: 6 marketing truths to live by

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To get the most out of your marketing efforts, you want to focus on your values as an organization.

More importantly, you want to find people who share these same values.

To do this, ask yourself a simple question: What do you care about?

Do you care about safety within your children's school walls? Do you care that people of every race and creed are treated fairly in the eyes of the law? Do you care that small businesses always serve as the foundation of your town economy?

Once you nail down what you care about, you need to devise various tactics to communicate those deep-rooted values in every last piece of content you share.

To devise your messaging strategy, Jonathan and Becky focus on six marketing truths, including:

  1. People matter 👪: Communicate like a human being. Don't look for a perfect, textbook-style way to speak to your audience, because you would never speak that way in a real-life setting.
  2. Optics matter 🎨: Create a visually appealing, compelling library of assets. (Pro tip: Givebutter's beautifully branded landing pages and emails can help with this!)
  3. Story matters ✍: Within the nonprofit sector, you are looking to make a difference in society. So leverage real-life case studies of those who have been directly impacted by your organization.
  4. Resonance matters 💓: How do people connect with your mission? Return to your "why" and carry it across content, SEO (search engine optimization), and social media marketing channels.
  5. Authenticity matters 👯: Sometimes, nonprofit organizations fear being too "salesy" within their marketing campaigns. However, if you show up as your authentic self, it will never be salesy (the worst thing people can say is no!).
  6. Your brand matters 🎉: So don't water it down! Carry your brand through every webinar, email template, and social post you create, allowing your personality and values to shine through.

Launch your campaign: 5 marketing tips to generate brand awareness

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Now that you've laid the foundation for your marketing strategy and nailed down your messaging, it's time to launch a campaign.

We could easily write an entire series of blog posts focused on how to launch a marketing campaign, so for now, we will focus on a few best practices. As you develop your digital marketing strategy, keep these tips in mind.

1. Set yourself apart 💃

Many times, fundraisers and marketers will try to replicate successful campaigns when devising their own. But here's where that poses a problem: Every organization is different, and you will see limited success by trying to mimic someone else.

Instead, focus on what makes you different, and try to stand out to your potential donors. What can you say that no one else in your sector can say?

Sometimes, marketers worry that they will alienate a potential group of supporters by getting specific about their offering. Instead, avoid generic jargon and to-the-masses messaging, focusing on stories that are specific to your organization.

2. Leverage brand ambassadors 💪

Here's a bit of truth that no nonprofit marketer wants to hear: You can't control every conversation about your brand.

There will be media mentions, public relations headaches, and word-of-mouth marketing that you can't — and won't — be involved in. And that's OK! But to help communicate your message, you can leverage brand ambassadors. Train your volunteers, staff, and loyal donors on your organization's mission, values, and voice, thereby helping to infiltrate these conversations.

3. Remember that people absorb information in different ways 💬

People learn, think, and ultimately absorb information differently. Therefore, to spark conversations with as many people as possible, you have to use cross-channel marketing.

Cross-channel marketing is just a fancy way of saying you should communicate across multiple platforms. For example, you could launch TikTok videos and Instagram reels for the Gen Z supporters, publish white papers and annual reports for the baby boomers, and devise clever infographics and email marketing campaigns for millennials.

4. Segment your audience 👭

Age isn't the only way to segment your audience. Instead, you should take a step back and try to understand different groups of people within your umbrella audience. What different demographics, lifestyles, personal choices, or career paths make up your audience?

Try to attach marketing personas to different segments, then tailor your communication styles to each segment.

5. Set a marketing goal, and work backward 🎯

Before we wrap things up, allow us to leave you with this back-to-basics piece of advice:

Always, always, always start with a plan.

Your marketing strategy should have clear goals attached. A goal could add 500 new subscribers to your email list, increase web traffic by 1,000 visitors per month, or increase mobile or online fundraising by 25% within the next year. Once you have a clear goal attached, you can work backward, developing a nonprofit marketing plan to reach those goals.

While marketers should never be afraid to experiment (on the contrary, experimentation is encouraged!), you shouldn't approach marketing as a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants solution. Instead, agree upon a goal, then develop the steps to see that goal to fulfillment.

To develop a nonprofit marketing strategy, you need the right tools

To raise money for your cause, you need to develop a marketing strategy. A nonprofit marketing strategy is your way of communicating your mission and values to your target audience to spur action (such as making a donation).

The best marketing strategies have clear goals attached, are communicated in an authentic way, and place people at the center. But to transform a strategy into an actionable marketing campaign, you need the right tools.

Givebutter's online fundraising platform offers 70+ features to help you launch your next campaign. With branded landing pages and emails, one-click social sharing, SMS invites, and custom thank-you messages, it offers countless ways to connect with your audience. Ready to see how Givebutter can help you reach your fundraising goals? Start your free account today.

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