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3 Surprising Non-Profit Marketing Strategies

volunteers collecting trash on green grass field

Nonprofit leaders are a special breed, so it follows that nonprofit marketing is different from traditional marketing. Nonprofit leaders aren’t satisfied with the traditional means of making money; not at the expense of the environment or the community. There’s too much at stake in the world to spend our time on just making profit (no offense to traditional marketers – everyone has their calling in life). But at the same time we have to admit that to help the people we want to help, we actually need to make money. 

This is where nonprofit marketing comes in. In order to achieve the mission, we have to pull in the resources needed to get the job done.

Nonprofit marketing and traditional marketing have one thing in common; they both have a goal of influencing their target market to take action. The difference lies in who the target market is and what action we want them to take. While traditional marketers just need people to make a purchase, nonprofit marketing often requires multiple calls to action, multiple target markets, and a smaller budget (if any at all). For this reason, we have to approach nonprofit marketing with an entirely different perspective. 

Multiple Targets with Minimal Budget

Who are all these targets and what are all the calls to action?

  • First, we must consider the potential donors.
  • Second, we want to keep generating an influx of volunteers to make the services happen.  
  • And lastly, we can’t forget the constituents – how do we ensure that we have a steady stream of individuals who are using the services? 

As we consider these three separate targets (who could be addressed through different channels with different messages), budget constraints compel us to to identify where these targets may intersect. If we can create messages that reach multiple groups at a time, we can work smarter! With that in mind, here are three surprising marketing strategies for nonprofit organizations.

Marketing Strategy #1 – Take good care of your volunteers

Volunteers increase awareness with your target market. A volunteer, like a loyal customer, is worth their weight in gold. The best volunteer experience will demonstrate the impact of your organization and the depth of the need. As a result, volunteers often use word of mouth (the most effective type of marketing) to share about the organization with their peers. This increased awareness may result in more volunteers and more donors. 

Another good reason to focus on volunteers is that volunteers are often donors. A whopping 79% of those who volunteer with an organization also donate to that organization! And donors who also volunteer give on average 56% more than those who do not volunteer (source: philanthropy.com). Even if volunteers are not high net worth individuals, they can make a small recurring gift. Monthly donations may start out small, but they add up over time.

Because they are so important, it’s a good idea to find out what motivates your current supporters to volunteer. This can help you not only hone your messaging but also create programming that reinforces these motivators. For example, if they just want recognition, a volunteer spotlight, an appreciation dinner, or an invitation to speak at events might keep their motor running. A happy volunteer will bring in more happy volunteers. 

Because there is a potential for overlap between donors and volunteers, they can often benefit from similar types of messaging. Both groups will be more motivated to give time or money when they can see that their efforts are making a difference.

Marketing Strategy #2 – Know thy product (hint: your impact is your product)

Traditional marketers know their product and can articulate its benefits. While nonprofits don’t typically ‘sell’ widgets (at least not as their main mission), they must still be able to quantify the impact of their work. The impact is the core product that you’re selling. Here’s why: people crave significance. They will invest in the product (mission) if they believe it offers them the significance they are seeking.

One way to demonstrate your impact is to leverage your current supporters and constituents. Ask them how they’re seeing the impact of your organization on their own lives or the lives of others. Ask them to post about it on their own social media accounts (maybe even give them a template to get them going!), then like and share away. Try to match the channels they would use, and re-use the content to amplify their story. Their friends and family are more likely to respond if they know that your work is actually affecting the lives of people they know and respect.

Leverage your data (or start collecting some) as another means to demonstrate your impact. How many people have you served, books have you donated, trees have you planted, etc.? What is your progress in achieving your goals? You can also measure the value of certain donation amounts so that you can communicate the impact of each dollar. For example, $10 per month serves 5 meals to families in need. 

Marketing Strategy #3 – Don’t be shy

Did you know that 41% of volunteers said they did so because they were asked (source: philanthropy.com)? Ask your donors to volunteer. Ask your volunteers to donate. Make your call to action clear on your site, speeches, emails, blogs, and social media. Be sure to give volunteers options for how to share their time and expertise. Even higher net worth individuals who may be short on time can mentor/advise or join a project group that only meets periodically. 

We’ve discovered that the majority of volunteers found their volunteer opportunities online. For this reason, it’s a good use of resources to ensure you have a stellar website that clearly communicates your mission and quantifies your impact (we can help). 

Dare to be Different

In sum, curating the volunteer experience is an integral part of your marketing strategy. Volunteers can lead the way to gaining more volunteers and more donations (not to mention the actual volunteer work!). Clear messaging and calls to action that demonstrate the organization’s impact, each donation’s impact, and a volunteer’s impact will be a key to reaching more people.

Published by Marissa Yi

Marissa (she/her) is a homeschooling mother of two. She is energized by helping people come up with creative solutions to help launch new projects, events, or businesses. When she is not writing or building websites, she loves singing, crafting, and baking pies!

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