Mar 17 2021
Ben Larrison

Digital Strategies for Nonprofit Marketers


Marketers crafting nonprofit campaigns are typically starting from a disadvantage compared to their for-profit peers. Budgets are smaller, resources more scarce, and teams all-too-often spread thin.

It doesn’t take much more than opening your mailbox to recognize that, traditionally, much of a nonprofit’s marketing spend goes toward snail mail donor appeals. But there are major opportunities for nonprofits in the digital space, too.

Of course, due to the aforementioned resource restrictions, it’s all the more important to embrace and implement best practices when crafting your nonprofit marketing campaign. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the key elements of successful nonprofit digital strategies:

Develop a (Budget-Friendly) Nonprofit Marketing Plan

When you have the budgetary constraints facing most nonprofits, you’re going to want to develop a lean, mean marketing plan. At the start of the fiscal year, be sure to ask yourself how you want to allocate your time and your budget, with an eye toward a marketing mix that will help you efficiently connect with your target audience.

For instance: Who do you want to reach? Are you trying to create awareness, drive new donations, or connect with the people you wish to serve? In terms of marketing, how heavily can you rely on email and direct mail campaigns? Should you invest in developing SEO-friendly content, or paid search (or both)? What are the potential benefits of programmatic advertising, with its range of ad types and hyperlocal targeting possibilities?

Your budget may be limited, so understanding the benefits (and drawbacks) of each channel to your end goals is critical.

Maximize Your Opportunities

When it comes to extending that budget, be sure to take advantage of grant programs from Google Ads, Microsoft (which offers free Office 365 subscriptions to many nonprofits), and others.

The Google Ad Grants Program in particular gives nonprofits the opportunity to advertise on Google Ads at no cost, providing qualified organizations $10,000 per month in Google Ads spend to be used to promote their missions and initiatives in nonprofit ads on Google. This is a huge, no-brainer of an opportunity that all eligible nonprofits should immediately jump at.

Speaking of maximizing your budget: in terms of advertising bang-for-your-buck, you may be best served by focusing your efforts on social media. Which brings us to our next point...

Take Advantage of Social Media Marketing

Social media campaigns for nonprofits are a great way to reach specific audiences and engage your most passionate supporters.

Whether you’re looking to boost brand awareness, engagement, website visits or on-site conversions, social media ads are an efficient and effective means of reaching your target audience—all at a (generally) lower price point than other ad types. Plus, sites like Facebook allow registered nonprofits to add “Donate” buttons directly to their brand pages, helping facilitate direct giving.

In your ads, both on social media and elsewhere (but particularly on social), try to lean on the emotion and passion behind your mission. The best nonprofit marketing campaigns—and best nonprofit ads—create an emotional connection with their audience, and the image- and video-friendly world of social media allow for the type of compelling storytelling that’s critical in nonprofit marketing.

And with users able to share that content with their own networks in just one click, it’s a great way to maximize exposure, which can lead to a coveted boost in digital engagement.

As Amanda Pyron, Executive Director of The Network, put it on the AdTech Unfiltered podcast, “We love having online digital engagement, right? Because that’s free! And for a nonprofit like us, that’s really, really helpful to have such a platform online where we can reach all of our core audiences.”

Learn from Others

As the old saying goes, there’s no need to re-invent the wheel here. Nonprofits all over the world are running successful digital campaigns right this very moment, so why not learn from their experiences? Peruse your peers’ websites, read some nonprofit marketing case studies, and let their work inspire you as you create dynamic digital strategies of your own.

A great place to start: this podcast episode, where Jordan Ruden, Co-Founder of cause-driven ad agency Craft and Commerce, and Amanda Pyron, Executive Director of The Network provide some perspective on the process of creating cause-based campaigns. Listen now >