As a full-service marketing and communications firm, the GRIT team works with clients in a wide variety of industries. From large B2B corporations to small, family-owned businesses, we help clients dig deeper in their marketing efforts and develop strategies that yield results.
One market we have been fortunate to serve for almost 13 years is the non-profit industry. From charitable organizations focused on healthcare to the arts, education and community development, we have worked with them all and understand the intricacies of non-profits. From building relationships, to telling brand stories, to planning virtual fundraising events and assisting the development team, our focus is helping these organizations that impact our community grow.

Today, we are offering up insights on five key areas non-profits can consider to make their marketing efforts work harder:

  1. Relationships Are Key
  2. Content Matters
  3. Tell Your Story
  4. Evaluate Your Online Presence
  5. Focus on Fundraising

Tip #1: Relationships Are Key

Non-profit organizations have a unique challenge since most of the time they do not have goods and/or services to sell, like a for-profit organization would. Therefore, they heavily rely on volunteers and donors to support their cause. To grow a non-profit organization, it is critical to focus on building relationships with members of the target audiences to gain their support.

To do this, it is important to first segment the population. Not everyone will respond the same way to one message, so the organization needs to break down the overall audience into groups (i.e. donors vs. community members). From there, research can be conducted on each target segment, to better understand their preferred communication methods, interests and other psychographic information. Having this background will help the non-profit organization develop and deliver messaging that resonates with each specific target segment.

Through personalized communication that provides value, the non-profit organization can start a conversation and begin to develop an emotional connection between the organization and potential supporter. Remember, do not ask for time or money during the first few communications. Keep the conversation going and develop the relationship until it is appropriate to make an ask. Then, even if an individual donates or volunteers their time, continue to stay in contact with them. This can convert a one-time donor into a long-term supporter.

Tip #2: Content Matters

For charitable organizations who are looking to build relationships with key members of their target audience, content matters. For example, a member of the organization will not want to receive information about the benefits of a membership and how to sign-up because they are already aware of this information and the content has no value to them. It is critical to tailor messaging to each target audience (i.e. members, volunteers, donors, etc.) to ensure it resonates.

As a non-profit organization, a critical part of messaging is call to actions (CTA). Often, content will provide members of the target audience with valuable information and then ask them to take a specific action (i.e. watch a video, register for a class, or donate). Whatever the case may be, for call to actions to be effective, it is critical they are clear and focused.
In the non-profit industry, many CTAs are “asks” for time, money or talents. In these situations, be specific and help the individual understand how their contribution benefits the organization. Instead of just asking for a donation, ask for a certain amount and state how it will help. For example, donate $50 to cover the cost of an individual’s food supply for one week.

While the message and CTAs are important elements of strong content, so is the method in which it is produced. Content can include blogs, white papers, infographics, videos and much more. GRIT recommends non-profit organizations consider the power of video because in 2019, video was the #1 form of media used in content strategy. Today, consumers are demanding brands produce content in video format as it is more engaging.
For example, instead of sending a postcard asking past donors to make another contribution, have the executive director or other key member of the organization create an emotional appeal video highlighting how their donation helped in the past, the non-profit’s gratitude and then end with a CTA to donate again. This video could then be incorporated into an enewsletter that is sent to donors as well as posted on the website donation page and shared in social media. As technology advances, it is easier than ever for charitable organizations to record quality videos at little to no cost using their smartphones.

In the end, content matters. The message needs to provide value and resonate with your target audience. Call to actions need to be clear, yet specific, to help the recipient understand what it is they are supposed to do. Plus, with the rise in popularity of video, non-profits need to be implementing video content into their strategy to engage members of their target audience.

Tip #3: Tell Your Story

Since non-profit organizations focus on advocating or furthering specific causes, they usually have an intriguing story to tell. Whether it’s providing arts education to inner-city youth or supplying the hungry with food, it is critical non-profits have a strong mission statement that helps their audience understand exactly what it is they do.

Once a non-profit solidifies their story and mission statement, it is important to incorporate that story into additional brand elements. Logos can be designed to tell an organization’s story and taglines can be developed to help individuals better understand what it is the non-profit does.

For example, let’s look at the York County Food Bank’s logo. GRIT helped the York County Food Bank better tell their story through designing a new logo. The logo reads “Hunger Free York,” which emphasizes the organization’s mission of ending hunger in York County by working with partner agencies to increase the quantity of—and dignified access to—high quality, nutritious food for everyone who needs it. Within the word “York,” an apple was added to the design to highlight the nutritious foods the non-profit supplies. Through this logo redesign, the York County Food Bank is better able to communicate their story with their target audiences visually without saying a word.

Tip #4: Evaluate Your Digital Presence

With many non-profit organizations trying to increase brand awareness and secure funds, competition is fierce. A strong digital presence can help non-profits break through the noise and stand out against the competition. Key factors to consider when building an online presence include a user-friendly website, SEO and social media influencers.

To begin, having a user-friendly website that speaks to each target segment (i.e. members, donors, community members, etc.) is important. Each of these segments finds value in different information, so it is important the website is organized to address each group. Additionally, designing the website so it is mobile-friendly and ADA compliant enhances the user experience.

Incorporating keywords relevant to the non-profit’s mission and services is necessary to boost performance in search and increase rankings as well as consumer interest. Strong calls to action throughout the website will also help direct users to take desired steps, such as becoming a member or donating. Website development and search engine optimization are complex areas of marketing that are constantly evolving.

Today, because there are 3.5 billion social media users around the world, social media plays a large role in a non-profit organization’s digital strategy. Having a presence on social media is not only important from a brand awareness perspective, but it also provides a platform to engage with key members of your target audience getting your messaging in front of them. While it is not necessary to be active on all social media sites, selecting two or three where most members of your target audience are active and dedicating resources to those platforms can be beneficial.
Additionally, for non-profits, social media influencers can aid in the organization’s online success. To help grow followings on social media platforms, GRIT recommends partnering with experts in the industry. For example, GRIT works with a non-profit arts organization and they recently partnered with local artists to film virtual artist studio tours. These videos were shared by both the non-profit arts organization and the featured artists. Because the artists selected for the studio tours were well-known within the arts community, when they shared the videos, they helped expand awareness of the non-profit arts organization, which led to more followers and potential supporters. Influencer marketing is key especially since 49 percent of consumers depend on influencer recommendations on social media.

Lastly, consider how to use enewsletters when developing a digital strategy. For non-profit organizations who may not have a huge marketing budget, enewsletters are a tactic that can be implemented at a low cost. Using platforms such as Constant Contact or MailChimp, templates can be designed and completed with relevant content. GRIT recommends sending enewsletters at least once a month to help foster relationships with key supporters such as members, volunteers, donors, friends of the organization and more. To avoid information overload, it is recommended to highlight two or three topics. These topics could be a mix of internal organizational news (i.e. new hires, events, new services) and content specific to the non-profit’s mission (i.e. an infographic about the food shortage in a specific city or top benefits of art classes for children).

Tip #5: Focus on Fundraising

Fundraising is the lifeblood of non-profit organizations, but this year due to COVID-19, non-profit organizations have had to pivot their fundraising strategies to avoid large galas and other events. When planning a fundraiser, whether in-person or virtual, it is important to always start by outlining the goal. When deciding on this goal, consider the mission statement first. What is it that their organization wants to accomplish? For example, if the non-profit’s mission is to provide the hungry in the community with healthy food, how much money is needed to do that for a year? From there, set your goal.

After a fundraising goal is set, an event plan needs to be developed. Will an invitation via Facebook work or does a postcard invitation need to be designed? How will the event be promoted? Is there money in the marketing budget for digital ads and online advertising? All these factors need to be addressed with the target audience in mind.

For example, digital ads are a great way to reach a specific audience (i.e. art enthusiasts). However, if 75 percent of your members are over the age of 65 and not active on social media, this will not be the most effective tactic. When sending invitations and marketing the event, it is critical to know your target audience and meet them where they are active.

Lastly, once an event ends, that does not mean it is over. Again, relationships are key, so foster connections by sending out personalized thank you notes and being transparent about the success of the fundraiser. This can go a long way in converting members of your target audience into donors, members, volunteers, etc.

While there are many elements to marketing in the non-profit industry, there are tools and individuals to help. Did you know Google offers a suite of products specifically for non-profits? Check it out! Or, if you are looking for a marketing agency to partner with, GRIT is the go-to. Our experience and extensive knowledge of the non-profit sector will allow us to dig deeper and take your marketing efforts to the next level to help tell your story and increase funds, connect with us today to learn how we can help you!