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How to Market as a Nonprofit
August 16, 2016

Marketing can be a scary, even dirty, word in the nonprofit world. But good marketing is nothing more than engaging your audience in an authentic way. Your organization’s goals are to make a difference in the world–your marketing goals are to bring people along with you.

Nonprofits generally don’t have a lot of money or resources to focus on a comprehensive marketing plan. But good communication does not require much and it can have tremendous rewards.

Create a plan

You wouldn’t build a house without some sort of plan beforehand. Similarly, you can’t expect to have a successful campaign without a plan in place.

A quick Google search will give you many results on good marketing plans for nonprofits. When you work through a marketing plan, things will come up that many have never considered before. Plus, having a solid plan written down gives you some structure for when things get busy and hectic.

Some more questions to ask yourself and your team:

  • What is our main goal for our marketing efforts? Is it to increase donations, to get more email signups, to be recognized as a leading source of information on a certain topic? Whatever it is, plan your efforts to always point to that end. If it’s donations, focus call-to-actions (buttons, links in text, etc) to donating. If it’s information, send people to learn more. If it’s signups, include newsletter signups at the end of every article. Every marketing effort should have a singular goal in mind.
  • What kind of results mean success? Set a goal, from amount of donations per month or x% increase in Facebook followers.
  • Who is your target audience? Who supports you? Who is interested in what you are offering? Where are they, what is their level of education, and what else are they interested in? Try to get as specific as possible. Do they watch late night shows or daytime TV? Do they buy iPhones or Android? Tip: The best way to discover your target audience is to speak directly to them. You can cheat, however, by researching similar organizations’ target audience. For example, spend some time with Google searching for Pencils of Promise’s target audience if you are targeting the education sector.

Find your outlets

There are hundreds of ways to connect to your audience now, from emails to social media to print ads to video. As part of your marketing plan, research where your audience is. Are they online? If so, where? Want to reach them outside of the screen? Research what they read, where they go, and what they watch. You want to be where your audience is. You want to make your organization as accessible as possible. It doesn’t matter if you are on the most expensive, prestigious magazine if your target audience is not reading it.

Good free outlets that you should use regardless are:

  • Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are the usual suspects.
  • Email newsletters – Using free resources like MailChimp are a great way to stay in touch with your donors. They offer sign-up forms that you can easily integrate with your website.
  • Content marketing – Writing thoughtful content is always a must. Have an active blog for people to learn more. You can also publish on places like HuffingtonPost, Medium, and blogs are a great place to share your own thoughts on the nonprofit world.
  • Podcasts – Making a podcast shows that your organization is at the top of its field and that your staff are experts in your mission field. Podcasts provides good exposure to potential supporters who are already interested in your work or wanting to learn more.
  • Videos – You don’t need expensive equipment to make a video. Anyone with a smartphone can capture a video of your team in action. People love video and it shows you actively working in your field. Create an introduction video about your organization, an instructional video, or capture any events you produce.
  • Speaking engagements – Get in front of any trade shows, conferences, events, churches, and organizations that may be interested in hearing about the issues your work in. (And don’t forget to promote it on social media, your website, and in email blasts.)
  • Thank your donors – Saying thank you should be part of every marketing plan. Call or email your donors to let them know how appreciative you are of their support.

Speak authentically to your audience 

Finally, be authentic and honest. Use whatever voice works best for your organization and create open conversations about the work you do. We’ve found the more upfront we are about what we do and how we do it, the more trust and respect we get from our supporters. Marketing for your organization doesn’t need to be a scary, overwhelming task. Thinking of it as communicating with the people you already appreciate and want to share your goals and success with can help.



Lauren Ellis started working as a graphic designer at 18 and by 26, she left her agency job to help start up a small web agency in downtown Austin where she worked as Creative Director. Since then, she left her home in America behind to work in Thailand with The SOLD Project. Lauren teaches art therapy classes, designs all of The SOLD Project’s work and manages the social media accounts.

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