A strategic approach to marketing and communications is vital to the success of any business. For a nonprofit organization cognizant of tight budgets, the marketing and communication plan must be built with careful consideration and strategies that will help meet the organization’s goals and objectives.
The nonprofit business model is unique because it often relies heavily on donations and grants rather than consumer revenue. This means the strategies used to advertise and communicate with potential customers, donors, and volunteers must be specifically tailored to each audience.
This article will explore some effective marketing and communications strategies for nonprofits and discuss how to implement them to drive awareness, growth, and sustainability. Whether a local, regional, or national organization, these strategies can help reach your target audiences and achieve the organization’s goals.
Begin with the End in Mind
A successful strategic plan is always rooted in knowledge, so it’s essential to begin with the end in mind, connecting data to insights from the start. Whether launching a brand from scratch or rethinking the organization’s existing strategies, success comes from establishing big-picture goals and well-defined marketing objectives broken down into strategic, actionable SMART goals.
These smaller, digestible objectives help you create a pathway toward achieving the bigger organizational goals.
Develop Audience Segmentation & Communication Funnels
Once the goals are established, the next step is understanding the target audience and their specific needs and desires. This means identifying the desired types of supporters and consumers (the people you serve) and crafting key message points to help engage with them.
With a clear understanding of audiences, segmenting your marketing plan into communication funnels for each is vital. A communication funnel refers to a potential customer or donor’s journey, from the initial awareness of your service to a purchase or donation.
Creating a separate communication funnel for each audience helps ensure your marketing messages and tactics are tailored to each group’s needs and interests. Doing this will increase the chances that your marketing efforts will resonate with the target audiences, ultimately leading to more individuals served and a higher level of donations.
Use A Content Calendar
To successfully manage any strategic marketing and communications plan, especially when using audience segmentation and various communication funnels, it’s critical to create and use a content calendar that will enable you to successfully achieve the marketing objectives across all platforms.
The content calendar should include all aspects of your marketing and communications efforts to reach the defined target audiences throughout the year, from monthly themes and significant events to blog posts and news releases across paid, earned, shared and owned media.
Doing so ensures cohesion throughout the organization enabling everyone involved to plan and track upcoming marketing initiatives and deliverables needed to execute them.
Aside from the organization’s business-driven news and events, it’s important to proactively identify content pillars and stories that can be leveraged throughout the year to maintain visibility among the target audiences. By definition, nonprofits operate for social good. With that in mind, the first natural path for seeking out content is collecting stories and testimonials from anyone who benefits from or supports the organization. These stories not only speak to the product or service you provide and its importance, but they also serve as social proof of the effectiveness of your programs.
Know Your “WHY”
Your brand purpose is the “why” behind an organization’s existence. It is the higher purpose, the change you want to make in the world for your participants, community, or society at large. Every organization needs to know its “why” and craft key messages that support and show the impact of it.
Once an organization embraces its “why” and begins to use the messaging in its marketing and communication efforts, those messages will resonate with target audiences, building brand authenticity and supporter loyalty. Further, ensure that your “why” is communicated in detail to everyone on the internal team who represents the brand, including executive leadership, board members and staff. Every person in the organization should know the “why” and how to explain it to someone succinctly.
Plan and Execute Strategically
It’s unnecessary for nonprofits on a tight budget to utilize every platform and channel to its fullest extent to achieve their marketing goals. Start with the strategies and tactics that will have the most impact and effectively reach your audience. Dedicate your efforts to making those work hard for you.
While advertising alone is not the best tool for attracting donors or fundraising, it can be used to increase the reach of PR campaigns and messages. Typically for nonprofits, PR is the most effective and affordable tool for telling your story and raising awareness and community support. A few of our nonprofit clients have received $1 million+ gifts from a single benefactor following the donor seeing a touching news story on the organization’s efforts and impact. One perfectly crafted and well-timed story pitch can result in earned media coverage and impactful donor responses.
For example, after seeing the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast’s Pursuing Greatness capital campaign announcement in The Orange County Register, an article our PR team pitched, Julia Argyros and her family, one of Orange County’s most prolific philanthropic families, gave a $1.5-million gift to support renovations at the Club in Costa Mesa. Similarly, following a segment our PR team pitched on behalf of our client, Boys & Girls Clubs of West San Gabriel Valley, touting its pop-up party for healthcare workers, philanthropist Mackenzie Scott made a nearly $3 million gift to support the Club’s kindness initiatives.
Another excellent earned media tactic for nonprofits is utilizing opportunistic PR or “newsjacking.” This requires thinking and acting quickly but is highly effective in getting your organization in the news. Newsjacking connects your activities (programs, initiatives, key messages) to a current news cycle or topic. For example, if there is a national story around workforce development, consider how you can best leverage that to describe and pitch what your organization does locally to develop the workforce of tomorrow. Use the news cycle to your advantage and connect your organization’s actions to those stories.
Our PR team took advantage of a newsjacking opportunity with the recent national egg shortage. This was the perfect time to pitch our client Dole’s take on why breakfast does not need to include eggs and offered some delicious egg-free breakfast recipes. The story was picked up by USA Today, garnering more than 63 million impressions.
Nonprofits should then leverage any earned media (news coverage) or original content by repurposing it across all their “owned” and “shared” media channels, such as email, social media, a note to board members, or mailings to donors and prospects. Resharing the same content across many channels helps reach multiple audiences maximizing the impact of that content with minimal effort.
Create an EPK
Establish an online resource or electronic press kit (EPK) to send media information about your organization quickly. The EPK can include an organization fact sheet, images and b-roll, executive leadership profiles, impact numbers, and data for your organization’s “WHY.” Make it easy for the media to learn about your organization and pull assets if needed. But be sure to keep the information and content in your EPK up to date as your organization evolves.
Utilize Google Grants
In most cases, nonprofits should explore and leverage Google’s Ad Grants program, which provides access to up to $10,000 of in-kind advertising every month for text search ads. This program provides advertising dollars to show your message to people searching for similar organizations. It can result in quickly expanding your reach to new audiences.
Hire An Agency
An agency that truly understands nonprofit organizations’ budget and resource constraints will work hard – with you – to ensure you get the best return on your marketing and communication investments. A marketing and PR agency like Rocket Launch, experienced with delivering results for nonprofit organizations, can provide the right blend of experts up-to-date on the latest strategies, trends, technologies, and best practices. Hence, you get full agency support without paying for full-time support across each discipline.
Contact us today to learn more or start your launch sequence!