Every nonprofit needs a marketing plan. It's never been an optional strategy. No matter how consistent the need for a nonprofit marketing plan, the methods of implementing successful plans have changed dramatically over the years.
With the ever-changing nature of technology, marketing plans have become more and more digital as time goes on. You need to make sure you have an effective digital presence in order to best spread the word about your worthy cause.
In general, nonprofits focus on creating effective marketing plans with the goal of collecting more donations and support from those who believe in the cause.
The top 11 steps to success can be categorized into 4 main categories:
- Set up your tech.
- Create an outreach plan.
- Provide additional opportunities.
- Collect and analyze data.
Let's dive a little deeper into these categories with a step-by-step guide.
Set up your nonprofit marketing plan tech.
The first thing you need to make sure of when you start creating your nonprofit marketing plan is ensuring you have the proper tools for success.
Without the right tools to reach supporters, reaching out is useless. You need to make sure that when you reach out, your supporters have the tools to help and the content to convince them of your worthiness.
Step 1: Build a great donation page.
Because your ultimate goal is to gather supporters who will contribute, be sure to make it easy to give once your donors have mentally committed to doing so.
Build a donation page with best practices that summarize your organization's mission with text and visual elements, then make the donation process as easy as possible.
Specifically, be sure to:
- Include a single image that addresses a supporter's empathy for your cause.
- Write a skimmable summary of your mission or mission statement.
- Provide a compelling call-to-action for your donation page.
- Only ask for necessary steps to give and be sure all of the donation process steps fit on a single page.
Over-complicated, text-heavy, or scatter-brained donation pages lead to an increased rate of shopping cart abandonment and fewer donations. Successful donation pages, however, are easy to use and quickly capture and maintain a donor's attention.
Step 2: Ensure your website is navigable.
Let's set up a scenario for you: you built a beautiful donation page for your nonprofit. One supporter is telling their friend all about your incredible mission. That friend searches your organization on Google and clicks through to your website, but can't figure out where your donation page is.
It's these types of situations that represent your need for a navigable website.
Your beautifully built donation page does little good when your supporters can't find it. There are a couple of strategies you can take to ensure your site is navigable:
- Include a "Donate Now" button on your homepage. This makes it easy for supporters to see how they can contribute to your cause right off the bat.
- Check out the websites for similar organizations. Look at how they lead supporters through their content for inspiration. Be sure to also check out the top nonprofit website designs by Morweb.
- Conduct a usability test. Ask a select group of people to visit your website and find various pages. Time them to see how long it takes. Anything longer than a few seconds indicates your website could use some work.
A navigable website makes it easy for supporters to learn more about your organization quickly and easily.
Step 3: Create smart donor segments.
Segmenting your existing donor list will also prepare you for the best interaction with your supporters when you start reaching out to them.
Donor segmentation groups supporters together based on commonalities, then adjusts the message according to these characteristics for a more personal communication strategy.
Some of the segments you may choose to incorporate into your nonprofit marketing plan include:
- Donor type. This may include your first-time donors, in-kind donors, peer-to-peer fundraisers, etc.
- Demographic markers. You may group people by age, geographic location, family members, and other markers that may be meaningful to your message.
- Networking flags. Make note of supporters who attended the same university, those who work for the same company, and other nonprofits they support.
Be sure to incorporate these segmentation strategies into your larger marketing strategy by revisiting the lists, analyzing the engagement of segments, and addressing each segment's needs specifically.
Create nonprofit marketing plan strategies for outreach.
After you've provided yourself with the tools you need for success, you can move onto actually reaching out to your supporters. Your goal in these communications is always to get each supporter further engaged.
So when you reach out, you need to be sure to choose the best channel to do so to best connect with your target audience (or target donor segment).
Step 4: Set up email campaigns.
Emails are a key element for your nonprofit marketing plan because these messages are sent directly to supporters' inboxes. Instead of relying on chance that your supporter will run across your message in their day-to-day internet surfing, you can reach out and send them a direct message.
When you're drafting emails to supporters be sure to:
- Auto-populate their preferred name in the introduction.
- Brand the email to your organization.
- Write the content of the messaging with language that will appeal to your target donor segment.
One email campaign you can set up is called a "drip stream." With the right marketing software, you can automate messaging that leads your supporters to complete a specific task.
For example, your organization may write a series of emails to be triggered when someone signs up for your newsletter. They'll enter the series and be sent regular emails with varying content, reminding them to donate. Once they've donated, they can be removed from the list.
Step 5: Launch a social media campaign.
Social media is no longer an optional marketing technique that only reaches Millennials. It's a part of our day-to-day lives and impacts many different generations depending on the channel you choose to use as a platform.
When you think about your social media strategies and tools for success, you'll probably switch up your approach depending on the audience you want to reach.
For instance, consider the following situations that will likely be a part of your nonprofit marketing plan:
- If you want to appeal to younger generations for an upcoming fundraiser, you may decide to leverage your Twitter and Instagram because younger generations are more active on these sites.
- If you want to reach middle-aged donors for your upcoming family event, you may post on Facebook because that's where this audience is most likely to see the information.
In addition to using the best channels for communication, don't forget to also adjust your message to best reach the audience you target on social media.
Step 6: Create an event calendar.
Your nonprofit likely hosts various events throughout the calendar year. You place them strategically on a calendar so that you have ample time to raise money leading up to the event, to match the weather patterns, and to give yourself enough time to plan effectively.
This time built into the process is perfect for your strategic nonprofit marketing plan. It gives you time to work towards planning a successful event and to start letting the community know about your upcoming opportunity.
To track all of these events, you probably use an internal calendar at your organization. But, your supporters, donors, and attendees would also benefit from access to this type of calendar.
We recommend creating a digital calendar on your website. This helps your organization's supporters to:
- See what upcoming events you're offering.
- Plan ahead to attend your events.
- Register from a link directly in the calendar.
When your event attendees go home from one of your events, they're likely incredibly excited about how much fun they had. Therefore, this is a great time for them to start looking for your next available event. Be sure you have that information ready and available for them to register!
Step 7: Start a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.
Once your nonprofit has events set up and ready to go in the calendar, you can start using peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns to market the next upcoming event while simultaneously raising money for it.
Anchor your peer-to-peer fundraising platform with the event as an effective nonprofit marketing plan strategy. Once you've built your fundraising page, encourage your supporters to also build personalized fundraising pages.
Your supporters can share their individual pages with their respective networks of friends and family. Encourage them to share the page on social media, by email, and by word-of-mouth. Don't forget about some of your campaign best practices such as:
- Ensuring mobile-responsiveness of fundraising pages.
- Setting up peer-to-peer fundraising teams.
- Capturing your peer-to-peer fundraising data.
Essentially, with the right software, peer-to-peer fundraising gives your supporters the power to market your organization's brand and raise money for your cause.
Step 8: Apply for Google Ad Grants.
Google Ad Grants help nonprofits everywhere amplify their marketing strategies for free! Google Ads are the ads you see at the top of the search engine results page (or SERP) for particular keywords. The ads look something like this:
These grants are used to better:
- Reach your donors for targeted keywords.
- Market multiple campaigns with adgroups.
- Analyze organic search metrics as they relate to your ad.
As a valid 501(c)(3) organization, you can receive up to $10,000 of free advertising from these grants per month.
You can learn more about the ins-and-outs of Google Ad Grants with this crash course guide from re:Charity.
Provide additional opportunities in your nonprofit marketing plan.
Many times it's not feasible for donors to give money each and every time they want to help out your organization. And many times, when organizations frequently pester their supporters to give financially, the supporter may begin to feel unappreciated.
Instead of asking for more and more money from supporters, focus on asking for additional engagement opportunities in addition to financial contributions.
Step 9: Create a volunteer program.
One of the top ways to get your supporters involved with your organization, without asking them to give financially, is through volunteer work.
Creating a volunteer program provides opportunities for your supporters to get involved with your organization by donating time rather than money.
Sometimes, donating time is more amazing than donating money. Between the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, the fact that a supporter wants to use some of their precious little free time to help you is a rare feat. It would be much faster to give financially.
Craft a volunteer plan that will help your organization:
- Encourage truly helpful work from volunteers.
- Best match the work that volunteers do to their areas of interest.
- Not overbook volunteers for certain activities.
Therefore, don't take volunteers for granted. Use your donor database software to store data about volunteers and your marketing software to get the word out about your opportunities.
Your software ecosystem should allow you to craft volunteer schedules and register supporters, while streamlining the collected data into your existing records.
Step 10: Provide advocacy opportunities.
Does your organization work with a humanitarian cause? Would you benefit from the attention of your legislators, CEOs, and community leaders in your sector?
Advocacy campaigns provide the opportunity for your supporters to collectively communicate with representatives and leaders who have the capability to enact immediate change.
Use the steps you took in your nonprofit marketing plan to promote fundraising to also promote your advocacy opportunities.
For instance, your organization should:
- Target a segment of donors who are most likely to participate. This may mean asking someone who signed a petition in the past to also participate in a click-to-call advocacy campaign.
- Email opportunities directly to your supporters based on these segments. Try to target donors who have recently given, volunteers, or those who have participated in other advocacy activities.
- Use social media to release action alerts on various platforms as soon as your petition, click-to-call, Tweet a rep, or other advocacy campaigns are ready for people to participate.
Providing advocacy campaign opportunities gives supporters a non-financial method of contribution while still accomplishing some major objectives for your mission.
Collect and analyze nonprofit marketing plan data.
After you've implemented your nonprofit marketing plan for a few months, or maybe even a year, you may start seeing some trends in your strategy. Are there some things that appear to be working effectively? Others that seem to be less effective?
While you may notice that some techniques working better than others on the surface level, the only way to know for sure is to collect data about your plan.
Step 11: Analyze data and determine next steps.
Collecting data is only half of the process for determining the best next steps for your nonprofit marketing plan. The other half of the process is analyzing and evaluating that data.
After all a collection of numbers is of no use to you if you can't apply it to your nonprofit's strategy.
Analyze metrics such as:
- Where traffic comes from. Determine how much of your organization's web traffic and how much involvement comes from your email campaigns, social media, and Google Ad Grants.
- Your donor retention rates. Look into how many of your supporters are coming back month-after-month and year-after-year to see the effectiveness of your nonprofit marketing plan for building relationships.
- Responsive audiences for campaigns. Check to see if some donor segments are over- or under-represented in your database of supporters. This will show you how effective your targeted outreach has been.
Of course, you should also watch your overall growth as an organization and your donation metrics as a whole. If they seem unchanging, you may not be putting enough time and energy into your nonprofit marketing plan.
When you spend more time and energy on this plan, you should see a boost in your organization's brand recognition as well as a spike in donation amounts.
Your nonprofit marketing plan is the key to unlocking an expanded donor base and more effective relationships with existing supporters. When implemented correctly, it can help you build your brand recognition and share your mission with the world!