Immediate Changes Nonprofits Need to Make to Their Marketing Approach
Whether you're part of a small, medium, or even national/global nonprofit, the essentials for marketing your cause remain the same. Not only is marketing essential to the growth and awareness of your organization, but it's ever-changing, as tactics that worked five years ago might not necessarily hold up in today's rapidly evolving digital world. Speaking as an agency that's worked with nonprofits of all sizes, and in all stages of growth, here are a few points we feel need to be a part of your 2018 marketing conversation.
While this has been a trend for quite some time, you'd be surprised to see how many nonprofits, and even for-profit brands alike, have failed to adopt it. As your donor and volunteer base continues to shift, bringing in younger members every day, being completely upfront about your cause, and what makes you different from everyone else out there, is of the utmost importance.
This applies to your website, your social presence, your messaging, your events, and even just the way you communicate on a daily basis with those in your network. According to a recent Nielsen study, the public's search behaviors indicate that learning about a nonprofit's mission, goals, objectives, work, and where donations are being used are of the utmost importance. Don't bury this information on your website. Make this information front and center, and of course, visually appealing. Pull out key statistics and findings. Showcase the work you are doing. It doesn't all have to be perfectly pretty either.
Staying true to the need for transparency, supporters of today want to see live videos. They want to see the action happening, and it doesn't need to have grand music set behind it or fancy cuts and edits. The point is, they want to know that you're out there, doing exactly what you've said is your mission. So use Facebook Live, Snapchat, Instagram Stories and encourage your volunteers to do that same whenever they're out supporting your nonprofit.
Ditch the Dinners
As a marketing agency with a live event production arm, we are in no way saying that you should eliminate events from your marketing plan altogether. Engaging and interacting with your donors, volunteers, members, partners, and sponsors in real time is of the utmost importance to keeping and making new relationships with those who are actively championing your cause. What we are saying, is you need to change the way you think about your events, your audience, and your goals.
Chicken dinners at hotels and conference venues have been the standard fundraiser for many nonprofits for some time. And while they definitely work for more established organizations that have been hosting them for years, they might not be the best dit for a new nonprofit that needs to capitalize on raising donations. Events like these have a high overhead when you calculate all the costs for the venue, catering, entertainment, production, e/v, etc., leaving a lot of stress to raise a lot of money to not only cover the costs in one evening, but actually make money on top of it for your cause, and to repost back to your board.
So how do you fundraise and still connect with your audience without a dinner or gala? Tap into your network to see what connections you have and utilize them! Look for partnerships with bigger companies who have a similarly aligned audience base and brainstorm together to see how you can both make a difference for less. Take to the streets and get creative with a guerilla campaign. You're never going to get your full database of donors together in one location at the exact same time, so why put all your marketing dollars in one basket trying to get them to do the same for you?
What if you already host these kinds of diners? If you've got a winner, you've got a winner, and you don't need to mess with the bare-bones basics. However, in our experience, it's best to keep things new and exciting at recurring annual events, as attendance, and donations, begin to fade when attention spans do. Switch up your donation items. Test a new form of entertainment. Change the menu. Change the look. Keep what's working, but continue to add to it to impress your guests and leave them talking among their own social circles about what might take place next year.
Marry Digital and Offline
You've been told year after year, you must have a great website for your nonprofit! You must use social media! You must send e-blasts and newsletters! And you should. We're not going to argue that.
But don't forget the importance of connecting with your audience offline as well, Successful nonprofits will need to master the two seemingly opposite trends, an increased and enhanced online presence, married with an "old-fashioned" strategy for building relationships and communicating offline.
The time, and money, you spend on marketing doesn't need to be a choice between digital and offline. It needs to be a combination of the two, married together into a harmonious union. If you have an event or spend some time out in the field, take pictures and live videos and share them on social media. Make one side of your marketing benefit the other. If you're together with your volunteers or donors, ask them to spread the word to their own audiences online. Bringing these two worlds together cohesively starts to create a larger sense of community, a feeling that many sponsors strive to be a part of these days.
So send handwritten thank you notes if you can. Take out ad space in a traditional publication from time to time, if the budget allows. Not everything you do needs to be digital.
Now get out there and expand your network!