Redefine Your Non-Profit Marketing Strategy for 2016

Non-profit organizations operate on high stakes. They often have wide audiences to cater to, and limited resources in which to accomplish their goals. If unsuccessful, your organization faces a threat more dire than a loss of profits: it can mean that people have less access to your life-saving product or service.

A targeted marketing and communication campaign is essential to the health and continued success of your non-profit organization. The right strategies can help you reach your target audience, as well as connect you to potential donors. Non-profits face the same kind of struggles as their for-profit counterparts, like getting their fair slice of the media pie, but without the kind of operational budget of other companies. Fortunately, non-profits have a distinct advantage in that they have an innate perception of credibility. Even so, your marketing campaign will still fall on deaf ears if it’s not carried out effectively. Consider applying these best practices to your marketing toolbox for an impactful 2016:

Focus on Telling A Story

When it comes to marketing, a storytelling technique provides a more compelling visual than more traditional methods of advertising. A recent survey of over 400 non-profit organizations had two distinct findings.

  1. Nearly all participants reported positive outcomes through the use of storytelling.
  2. Most contributors also believed that they could be using storytelling more often, and more tactically to maximize their effect.

Storytelling works best when it’s multi-modal: using techniques like direct mail, social media, and face-to-face meetings maximizes your exposure. This study, in particular, suggests that direct mailing still has the most profound effect on user donations, likely because baby-boomers are currently the most likely demographic to donate. However, non-profit marketers also suggest that using social media consistently and correctly can leave a positive impact on membership and fundraising: “The engagement we receive on Facebook when utilizing storytelling is tremendous,” said one participant.

Refine Your Social Media Strategy

When taking to social media, practice authenticity and take a different approach than your for-profit peers. For-profit marketing models suggest that you build an online presence through connecting directly with followers by thanking and responding to every comment. While this is a strategy that works well for building a personal or business brand, a non-profit is not a business. It’s an organization dedicated to a cause, and as such, your social media presence should be well-informed and demonstrate conviction. You’re not necessarily looking to build an online brand, but to elicit support through donations and volunteerism. The best way to do this is to engage your audience through storytelling and by making sure that people view you as an expert.

Social media also gives you the opportunity to show, not just to tell. Communicate through a variety of mediums: video, audio, pictures, and infographics, to get your message across. Engaging authentically and with variety gives your audience an idea of the scope of the problem you’re addressing, as well as how your organization impacts it on a local, national, or global level.

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Curate Innovative Content

Larissa Stephanoff, Communication Coordinator for Catholic Volunteer Network, recently said, “If content is king, then variety is queen.” If your focus is to engage your audience and expand your outreach, give them a reason to come to you. Part of this is being consistent: maintaining a presence online and off ensures that your followers will come back for more. Share stories about your volunteers, donors, staff, and beneficiaries: if your audience knows to expect something new from your every day or week, they’ll pop in to check it out.

As an example, Project HOPE, an organization to controlling diabetes, uses a variety of channels to disseminate original content. From blog posts, stories about volunteers, direct mailings, and documentary-style videos, Project HOPE uses multi-modal methods to engage their audience base on a global level.

Create Clickable Emails

For a non-profit organization, creating click-worth emails can be the difference between staying afloat and sinking the ship. When eliciting donations, it’s essential to create a subject line that entices your reader to open it. Content, no matter how innovative, is only as good as its subject line. Follow some basic tips to create email subjects that your readers won’t be able to resist:

  • Be Vague (But Just Enough): Lending an air of mystery might seem in direct conflict with some of our earlier advice, but in this case, it’s an essential. It’s helpful to create a dash of intrigue, but it’s equally important not to be too general. Consider this example:
    • Contribute So We Can Do This More Often

In this line, we clearly know that the point of the email is to elicit donations, but for what? It piques interest just enough to click.

  • Use An Hint of Surprise: Try making a headline that makes people do a double take, like:
    • What The Grinch Taught Us About Giving

Pairing two items that don’t necessarily seem to be related can be enticing enough for your audience to read on.

  • Be Different From Your Competition: Find out what your competition is doing then try your best to be the opposite. This can take on a variety of forms, but no matter what route you take, try to stand out in the list of emails.
    • What’s Black, White, and Red All Over (Hint: It’s Not What You Think).

The important takeaway is that it’s not necessary for you to incorporate all of these principles at once. Try one or two, and see how they work. Be creative and have fun creating your emails, it will show to potential donors.

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Sarah Voigtman

Sarah is a native Michigander and mother of three. She spends her spare time searching for the perfect burger recipe and navigating the tumultuous waters of parenthood.

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