Mahnoor Sheikh

Written by:
Mahnoor Sheikh

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are over 1.5 million nonprofits registered in the United States.

Yet, nearly two-third of nonprofits are unable to get funding over $500,000. They become stagnant and eventually spiral down till they hit a dead end.

What is it that makes only a handful of nonprofit organizations successful and not others?

A survey conducted by Kathleen Kelly Janus, co-founder of Spark, found that the best organizations focus on innovation, collaboration and storytelling.

In this guide, we’ll help you learn how to plan and execute innovative nonprofit marketing strategies to secure funding, gather support and grow your organization.

Table of Contents

What is Nonprofit Marketing?

Nonprofit marketing is the use of marketing strategies and tactics to raise awareness, solicit funds and encourage support for a nonprofit organization and its cause.

nonprofit marketing - benefits infographic

Make your own infographic in Visme!Create Now

Here are several ways nonprofit marketing can help:

  • Create awareness. Marketing can help inform and educate key stakeholders and the general public about your cause, why it’s important and what your nonprofit organization is doing to support it.
  • Raise funds. Marketing can help you solicit donations and funds required to operate and grow your nonprofit organization. This can be done in various ways, such as communicating the donation process and how your nonprofit makes use of the money.
  • Establish an image. For a nonprofit to thrive and grow, it needs to establish a powerful, reliable image in front of its target audience. Marketing helps reinforce an organization’s mission and values, which can build positive associations with the nonprofit’s name over time.
  • Seek volunteers and partners. Marketing can encourage more people to participate in your organization’s events and activities. It can also help catch the attention of potential businesses who want to assist in furthering your cause or form mutually beneficial partnerships with your nonprofit.
  • Drive social and political change. The main purpose of any nonprofit organization is to bring about a positive change. Marketing can help you drive that change by gathering enough support to put pressure on powerful groups and decision makers.

These are just some of the ways marketing can help your nonprofit grow. The next section talks about how to create an effective nonprofit marketing plan to help define your goals and how to achieve them.

How to Create a Nonprofit Marketing Plan

Just like any other organization, a nonprofit also needs to plan ahead to effectively execute its marketing strategy and achieve its goals.

The best way to do that is by creating a solid marketing plan for your nonprofit.

A nonprofit marketing plan is a document that outlines an organization’s marketing goals, strategies, target audience, budget and more for a specified period of time.

It acts as a guiding hand for your marketing team so they don’t end up spending money in the wrong places and are able to help your organization achieve its goals.

Here is a nonprofit marketing plan template that you can edit for your own use.

virtual event - event plan template

Customize this marketing plan template and make it your own!Edit and Download

A good nonprofit marketing plan is simple, straightforward and comprehensive. Below are four steps to creating a nonprofit marketing plan that your team can rely on.

1. Set goals and objectives.

The first step is to define SMART goals for your nonprofit’s marketing plan. Here’s an infographic to help you better understand what SMART goals are.

nonprofit marketing - smart goals infographic template
Customize this infographic template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Using the SMART methodology, you can translate bigger organizational goals into actionable and strategic marketing objectives.

For example, here’s how an animal shelter that wants to encourage the adoption of rescue pets could define a SMART goal for its marketing plan.

  • Specific: Encourage rescue pet adoption by sharing a rescue story on Facebook once a week.
  • Measurable: Increase adoption form conversions by 5%.
  • Attainable: Last year, the conversion rate for rescue pet adoption was 10%. Increasing that rate to 15% by investing more time and resources is realistic.
  • Relevant: Sharing rescue stories can help the audience build emotional connections with the animals and encourage adoption. This ultimately aligns with the organization’s mission to help all animals live a happy life.
  • Time-bound: Start posting weekly stories on Facebook from May 1, 2020 to October 31, 2020.

Setting goals and objectives early on lays the foundation for the rest of your marketing plan and strategy. It helps explain the “why” behind your actions, and keeps you motivated and focused towards achieving the end result.

2. Understand your target audience.

Before jumping into the marketing strategy for your nonprofit, you need to identify the key audience for your campaigns.

Here’s a customer persona template you can use for your own nonprofit marketing plan.

customer persona marketing plan

Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Defining your audience helps guide every aspect of your marketing campaigns, from the channels you choose to the language, design and tone of messaging you use.

For example, your nonprofit may want to attract volunteers, donors and business partners. Since these are three different types of audiences, you’d want to tailor your marketing campaigns for each segment.

3. Outline your marketing strategy.

Now that you have a clear idea of your goals and target audience, it’s time to create a comprehensive marketing strategy that details:

  • What to do
  • How to do it
  • What channels to use

This is the part where you focus on crafting key messages for each audience segment, and then decide on the best way to communicate those messages.

Here’s a marketing strategy template you can use as part of your nonprofit marketing plan.

nonprofit marketing - strategy and tactics
Customize this marketing template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Make sure your marketing strategy is clear and actionable so it can easily be understood and executed by your marketing team.

4. Define budget and timeline.

Once you have a well-defined marketing strategy for your nonprofit, it’s time to plan out its execution.

This involves allocating a pre-determined budget to each channel or activity, as well as creating a timeline or calendar to help your team stay on track.

Defining the budget and timeline is key to ensuring that your marketing strategy is executed smoothly and cost-effectively.

Customize this Gantt chart template to visualize the implementation timeline for your nonprofit marketing strategy.

what is a webinar - promotional campaign gantt chart template
Customize this Gantt chart template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Nonprofit Marketing Strategies

If you want to raise funds and support for your nonprofit, you need to show people how your organization can make a difference and why it matters.

This is best done with the right marketing strategies that can help you effectively communicate your mission, services and passion to the people who truly care about your cause.

Here are the top marketing strategies used by nonprofit organizations all over the world.

1. Email marketing.

Email marketing is still one of the most effective marketing channels out there—especially for nonprofits.

The biggest advantage of using email is it feels more personal than other channels, which is ideal for building long-term relationships with your audience.

Build an email list.

The first step is to build a healthy email list of people who are part of your target audience, and so, will be more likely to engage with your emails.

A good strategy to build your email list is by offering lead magnets, or incentives, to convince people to leave their contact details with you.

For example, if your target audience is business owners, you can get them to sign up by offering an eBook on CSR initiatives or social marketing ideas.

Offer value.

Once you have a growing email list, you can start sending emails that offer value to your subscribers.

Avoid asking for donations immediately after sign up.

Start by building a relationship by welcoming new subscribers, sending updates and telling stories about your volunteers, donors and beneficiaries.

This will help your audience feel more emotionally connected to your nonprofit and its cause, and they’ll be more likely to respond when you ask them for a donation.

Here’s a newsletter template you can use to keep your subscribers updated about your nonprofit’s activities and new developments.

remote team -Newsletter-templates-1

Customize this newsletter template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Timing is everything.

To make the most of your email campaigns, try to send the right message at the right time.

For example, you can invite subscribers during the holidays to share the charitable spirit and donate to your cause.

Here’s an example of how charity: water does this.

Along with helping you get more donations, it will show contacts how dedicated you are towards your cause.

Plus, ensuring your emails are relevant and timely is always great for engagement and building a good sender reputation.

2. Social media marketing.

Social media is an incredibly useful avenue for nonprofits looking to build a brand, and engage with followers and community members.

According to Hubspot, below are the top reasons nonprofits use social media.

  • Sharing news about their organization and cause
  • Improving brand recognition and awareness
  • Raising funds
  • Recruiting volunteers and employees
  • Showing recognition to donors and volunteers

The key to building a powerful nonprofit brand is to keep your messaging consistent across all social platforms.

If you’re still wondering how to use social media for your nonprofit marketing, here are some ideas to get you started.

Post user-generated content.

Sharing relatable content is the secret to high engagement rates on social media.

And there’s really no better way to relate to your audience than by involving them in the content creation process itself.

For example, you can ask donors and volunteers to share their stories related to your cause, and then repost these stories on your pages.

Another idea is to create a unique, branded hashtag for your campaign with the goal of making it go viral.

Malala Yousafzai launched the #WithStrongGirls and #strengthies hashtags to inspire women to show their support for sexism in poverty. It went viral with plenty of celebrities joining in and sharing their own #strengthies on social media.

nonprofit marketing - malala yousafzai strengthies hashtag

Reposting user-generated content on your social media pages, like Malala Fund did, shows your followers that you appreciate them and recognize their support.

Go behind the scenes.

Every nonprofit needs to establish credibility if it hopes to get massive public support.

People don’t want to donate money to shady organizations. They want to be sure that their contributions are going to the right people.

The best way to establish credibility is by showing your audience that your organization is made up of people just like them. People who are truly devoted to your cause.

Share behind-the-scenes content with your audience that show your staff and volunteers hard at work, such as during an event, distribution drive or fundraiser.

Make use of tools like Instagram Stories and Live Video to give people real-time updates on what’s going on. This helps your supporters feel more involved in your organization’s activities, even if they couldn’t be there in person.

Showing people a raw, authentic side of your nonprofit helps build trust and empathy. The more credible your organization is, the more support you’ll be able to get.

Sign up for Facebook’s fundraising tools

Facebook helps nonprofits raise money by letting them sign up for some exclusive charitable giving tools.

If your organization qualifies for these tools, you can add a Donate button to your Facebook page, and allow your followers and supporters to raise money for your cause.

It’s getting increasingly common for people to start fundraisers for their favorite nonprofits on their birthday. In fact, Facebook even notifies people with approaching birthdays.

Here are the guidelines for getting access to Facebook’s fundraising tools.

Use the “donation” sticker on Instagram Stories.

If you qualify for Facebook’s fundraising tools, you can also add a “donation” sticker to your Instagram Stories in your efforts to raise money.

Leveraging these tools on different platforms lets you tap into a larger pool of potential donors.

3. Content marketing.

The best way to educate your audience about your nonprofit’s cause is by publishing high-quality content on your blog.

For example, an environmental nonprofit working can publish informative content that explains why planting trees is beneficial for humans and the planet, what global warming is and how it can be prevented, and other related topics.

Not only does this create awareness and generates support, but it also helps improve your visibility in search results. Plus, people love to share great content about topics they care deeply about, which means free PR for you.

Make your blog posts even more engaging by adding infographics and colorful calls-to-action throughout. Here’s an animated CTA template you can edit and use.

nonprofit marketing - content marketing blog post call to action cta animated
Customize this social graphic template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Using visuals can break up walls of text and make information easier to digest. They can also help strengthen your nonprofit’s visual brand.

4. Video marketing.

According to Animoto, video is consumers’ favorite type of content from brands.

Since your audience loves watching videos so much, use this to your advantage by creating educational and shareable video content for multiple platforms.

For example, you can create videos that introduce your organization to the public, and shed light on your efforts to make a change.

Here’s a video that Kennedy Krieger Institute has published on YouTube and on their website. It gives the audience a brief overview of what this nonprofit does and how.

You can also share interviews of experts in your nonprofit’s industry, such as researchers and professors.

Video content is much more engaging than text, which is why it has higher emotional value. It can help you leave a stronger impact with your message, build trust in your organization and drive more support for your cause.

5. Search engine optimization.

While creating quality educational content is important, you should also make sure it gets enough visibility.

The best way to do is by optimizing your content for search engines, and that process starts way before you even create a piece of content.

Conduct keyword research in your niche to identify what people are searching for. This will help you address specific issues and concerns in your content.

Let’s assume your nonprofit helps people who are experiencing depression. Through keyword research, you can find out the top search queries in a region related to depression.

For example, you could notice a high search volume for the keyword “symptoms of depression.” You can use this information to create insightful content around this keyword.

Doing your homework beforehand lets you create high-ranking content that people would be more likely to engage with, share with their friends and family, and generally find useful.

6. Paid advertising.

There’s so much competition for visibility online, you need to pay to play. That’s why it’s so important to balance your organic strategy with paid advertising on select platforms.

Here’s a Facebook ad template you can use to get more eyeballs on your nonprofit.

nonprofit marketing - facebook ad template

Customize this Facebook ad template and make it your own!Edit and Download

If you want to see more options, browse our extensive library of social media templates to find an ad that works for your nonprofit.

7. Print marketing.

Along with a solid digital marketing strategy, you should also create print material to promote your nonprofit locally.

Use this poster template to spread the word about your nonprofit’s cause.

nonprofit marketing - print marketing poster template
Customize this poster template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Print marketing is especially useful if you’re looking for volunteers in your city or nearby areas, or trying to get people personally involved with your nonprofit.

8. Event marketing.

Event marketing is one of the most popular ways to spread awareness and raise funds for nonprofit organizations.

Events are not just fun, they’re also an excellent way to bring together people who share the same passion for your cause.

Here’s a flyer template you can edit to promote a local event or fundraiser.

nonprofit marketing - event marketing flyer template
Customize this flyer template and make it your own!Edit and Download

You can organize events like charity runs, bake sales, auctions and more to raise funds, get people involved and generate awareness for your nonprofit.

9. Webinar marketing.

If you want to organize events on an international level, you can hold webinars, or virtual seminars, to educate, inform and train your audience.

To get more people to register for your webinar, choose a topic that’s relevant to your nonprofit and interests your target audience.

For example, you can invite influential speakers in your nonprofit’s field to discuss issues and present solutions.

You can design a beautiful and engaging presentation for your webinar using a Visme’s free presentation maker.

nonprofit presentation layout template - nonprofit project

Customize this presentation template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Our library has dozens of templates and themes to choose from, like the one above, and you can create a compelling presentation for your nonprofit in minutes.

Boost your webinar’s participation with an automated email campaign that reminds registrants to attend the event on time, and follows up after the webinar.

10. Influencer marketing.

Working with influencers, even at the micro- or nano-level, can help build credibility for your nonprofit, spread awareness and gather support.

Reach out to influencers who share a passion for your cause, and discuss opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships.

UNICEF works with tons of celebrities and influencers, such as soccer star Messi, to create content that supports and promotes their cause.

Tips to Boost Your Nonprofit Marketing

Now that we’ve covered the various marketing strategies used by nonprofits, let’s talk about how you can create innovative campaigns that get more results for your organization.

Below are some tips on how you can leverage techniques like visual marketing and storytelling to push past the barriers and grow your nonprofit.

1. Tell a visual story.

Visual content has the ability to tell vivid stories, evoke emotions and form connections with your supporters.

But creating a great visual takes time and effort. If it doesn’t have a solid purpose behind it or a story to tell, it won’t have much of an impact.

Focus on building a compelling narrative around your visuals. A visual is powerful when it conveys a strong message. It helps you connect with your audience on a deeper level.

Take a look at this image shared by Feeding America.

Even though this visual uses minimal text, it tells a powerful story about how a seemingly tiny donation can help buy so much food for those in need.

2. Take a multi-channel approach.

As a nonprofit with the goal of reaching as many potential donors, supporters and volunteers as possible, you can’t limit yourself to one channel.

Every channel caters to a different kind of audience, be it Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, blog or email. You need to be present on all the popular platforms where your audience might be, but you also need to tailor your content to each platform.

Consider factors like audience demographics, usage, nature of content and optimal sizes for images and videos.

Twitter, for example, is a fast-paced platform focused on current events and trending news. It’s ideal for mobilizing supporters or informing them about cause-related news or campaign updates.

On the other hand, a platform like Facebook is more focused on community and engagement. It’s a better option for short videos, like documentaries and visual content that inspire conversation. Something that people would share or tag their friends and family in.

3. Publish infographics.

The biggest struggle for a nonprofit is getting their voice heard in a sea of information-overload. This is where infographics can help you out.

Infographics let you present information, like facts and statistics, in a fun, visual way. They help you illustrate concepts to make them look more meaningful and catchy.

You can use infographics to solve problems, visualize important data and raise awareness and support for your cause—without being boring.

For example, not many people would be interested in reading a dry, multi-page report. Make your reports more interesting by transforming them into attractive infographics.

nonprofit marketing - annual report infographic template
Customize this infographic template and make it your own!Edit and Download

You can also prompt readers to take action, like signing a petition or making a donation, by including a compelling call-to-action.

Another great way to use infographics is by being transparent about your donation process. Use this donation infographic template to create one for your own nonprofit.

nonprofit marketing - donation process infographic template
Customize this infographic template and make it your own!Edit and Download

The best part about infographics is you can easily make them shareable with the help of social sharing buttons.

Also, make sure the facts and statistics you’re presenting in your infographic are actually relevant and interesting for your audience.

Better yet, they need to have a point. Why are you publishing the infographic in the first place? What emotions or thoughts are you trying to trigger? What action do you want your audience to take?

Keep in mind that your audience will automatically pay more attention if you focus on their pain points and interests, instead of on your own organization.

4. Get your team to collaborate.

People learn to build associations over time. If you’re not consistent with the style of your visual content, it won’t contribute much towards your branding.

In most nonprofits, people come and go. The advantage is that it’s hard to run out of ideas in such a dynamic environment.

But the drawback is that you can’t always rely on one person, like a professional designer, for all your visual content needs in the long term.

To inspire a visual storytelling culture in your organization, you need to get every member of your team on board.

With Visme, you can save customized templates with your own branded elements, like color palettes, fonts, icons and more. Another useful collaboration feature in Visme is the ability for multiple team members to leave comments on each project or design.

This allows for smooth, collaborative creation of visual content that’s always high-quality and on-brand.

Get Started With Nonprofit Marketing

Your nonprofit organization deserves to get as much visibility and support as possible. Make that happen by planning ahead and executing creative marketing strategies that support and further your cause.

At Visme, our goal is to make it easy for teams of all sizes to collaborate and communicate more effectively with visuals.

The best part is that anyone, even those with minimal design skills, can use Visme’s drag-and-drop builder to create consistent, branded visual content in minutes.

Sign up for a free Visme account and take it for test drive. As a nonprofit, you can also get an exclusive discount on all of our premium plans.

*Purchases through some of the links on this site may provide the publisher with compensation.