Communications and Marketing Strategies for Non-Profits

Recruiting for Non-Profits

Not-for-profit organizations are an essential part of society and offer a tremendous service to those whom they serve. These organizations accomplish lofty goals through the ... Read more
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It’s tough out there for non-profits. Money doesn’t grow on trees (nor do volunteers) and, when it comes to gaining attention, you’re not only competing with other non-profits, but also for-profits, Hollywood, the 24-hour news cycle, and reams of adorable cat videos. Some non-profits boast sophisticated communications operations while others work with more limited resources. Regardless of your position, we present the following four strategies for maximizing your visibility and success in a busy world. 

Planning Your Communications Means Winning Your Communications 

Here’s a great saying about planning: ‘Failing to plan means planning to fail.’ Here’s another: ‘A goal without a plan is a wish.’ 

When we consider non-profits we often think about passion and emotion, not marketing plans and key performance indicators. Despite this, the importance of setting goals and road-mapping your path should not be overlooked. 

Many non-profits have a multitude of goals (raise money, recruit volunteers and staff, change hearts and minds, influence behaviour and public policy). As a result, non-profits often find themselves communicating with disparate groups of people. Who are these people? You probably have a vague or even thorough understanding of them, but it helps to solidify it in writing. Political parties attribute great importance to the development of ‘personas’. 

Who are your potential donors? Are they different in nature from your potential volunteers? What about policy makers and influencers? Are they compelled by different messaging? Are they reached via different channels? Brainstorming sessions and careful consideration can yield valuable documents that can serve as a compass for future activity. 

What exactly is your messaging? Outlining the key points in an easily accessible and understandable document can ensure that people within your organization remain on the same page. 

What are your goals? Are they SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Related)? Have you set benchmarks and chosen key performance indicators? 

Non-profits run on passion and not everybody will be enthused to embrace their inner nerd. It’s up to each organization to determine how tightly disciplined they ought to be to these plans. Even the best laid strategies are susceptible to unforeseeable challenges. On the flip side, current events can present unique communications opportunities. While some degree of flexibility should be maintained, careful planning can be a real boon to any organizational effort; non-profit communications are no exception. 

Non-Profit Fundraising During a Pandemic: Ask Nicely, But Do Ask

Donors are often the lifeblood of the non-profit but with so many struggling financially and emotionally, is it right to approach them with your hand out? 

“Simply because the economy appears to be in free fall, don’t make assumptions about what your donors will and will not do, or what they can or cannot give,” says Fundraising Consultant Amy Eisenstein. “There are those who own stock in cleaning supplies and medical equipment who have made money in light of the Coronavirus.”1

In a year like 2020, with so many struggling, perhaps now is not the time for high-pressure verbiage. Express your concern for the well-being of your donors and likewise convey the challenges that this year has bestowed upon your organization. If your core purpose relates to health or social justice, reiterate the timeliness of that objective. If it pertains to another cause, remind them that your mandate is still important. Consider replacing cancelled fundraising events with virtual events and, as always, express your recognition of your sponsors’ generosity. While some are tightening their purse strings during times of uncertainty, others are longing for the sense of community and wellbeing that can accompany charitable giving, so don’t be afraid to ask.  

Leverage the Passion of Your Supporters for Social Media Content

As a non-profit, your greatest asset is the good will and passion of your true believers. While corporations spend small fortunes trying to manufacture that kind of enthusiasm, you will often find it right at your fingertips. Why not channel the enthusiasm of your supporters through your social media and other channels? 

Video makes truly compelling content and these days most people have high quality cameras right in their front pockets. Moreover, pro bono work can serve as great portfolio pieces for aspiring photographers, videographers and editors. 

The social proof that comes from user generated content can be more persuasive than scripted material and the content can be shared across social media platforms, emails and even shown at fundraising events. 

Be on the lookout for repurposing opportunities and don’t forget to acknowledge the work of your providers.

Utilize AdWords Grants for Non-Profit PPC

Pay-per-click advertising can be an expensive (although often worthwhile) proposition. Fortunately, Google for Non-Profits offers $10,000 in ad spending for qualifying charities. 

Pay-per-click advertising can provide valuable visibility for donation solicitation, social media engagement, speaking opportunities, volunteer recruitment and more, so why not investigate? 

Cited Sources
1 Amy Eisenstein, Donna Faure says, Donna Faure, Amy Eisenstein says, Donna says, Donna, Frances Bennett says, et al. “8 Steps for Successful Fundraising During the Coronavirus Crisis.” Amy Eisenstein, July 11, 2020.