6 nonprofit marketing challenges and how to overcome them

6 nonprofit marketing challenges and how to overcome them

With the main focus of marketing for nonprofits being to reach and engage with new and existing supporters, it’s important to get the tone and messaging of any marketing campaign right. We share our top tips based on our experience working with Nisa Local’s charity Making a Difference Locally, PLUS expert advice shared from MacArthur Foundation’s Kalle Eko and Sprout Social’s Jillian Eyl’s webinar on How Nonprofits Can Nail It on Social to ensure you get your marketing strategy right for this very specific market.

Be aware of the challenges

It must be lovely marketing a charity: doing good with every tweet, connecting with genuinely interested people, raising awareness without necessarily needing to raise a profit. Yes, but marketing for a non-profit organisation can also come with its difficulties.

Marketing for nonprofits can be perceived as tricky for a number of reasons:

  1. Sensitivity is paramount. How far can you “push” a sensitive message on social media, for example, without causing offence – however much the fact, message or image represents the “cold, hard fact”?
  2. It’s not about you. Those interested in the cause may not appreciate promotional marketing centred solely around the organisation. It’s meant to be about the people / cause the organisation is helping, after all.
  3. There’s greater emphasis on CTAs. Many organisations are able to push CTAs that come with some level of tangible benefit for the consumer. “Click here to enter” often comes with chance to win, “buy this product” obviously provides the customer with the product they want. Non-profit organisations rely pretty heavily on the goodwill of their followers – sharing messages, fundraising, donating… the focus has to be on appealing to people’s selflessness, rather than self-interest.
  4. The budget is often much smaller. A non-profit organisation isn’t all about making money to add to the big ol’ magical marketing pot – in fact, throwing money behind big print or digital campaigns and boosted social posts is likely going to be a no-no, particularly for smaller nonprofits. The focus is always going to be on the cause the organisation is raising money to support or raise awareness for. Simple. Therefore, finding ways to create engaging, innovative campaigns with little budget to create websites, artwork or boost social posts is a big hurdle to overcome and requires plenty of creative.
  5. The marketing team is, therefore, also much smaller. Using the same logic as the point above, it’s unlikely small nonprofits will have more than a few people working on a marketing campaign. As we all know, nobody can create magic alone, and often the biggest challenges a nonprofit marketer will face is finding space to bounce ideas around and get to that golden nugget of a campaign without a large team of varying talents to collaborate with. However, on a more positive note, a one man band can make one hell of a noise.
  6. How you stand out amongst the busy social media landscape. Not only to nonprofits have to stand out amongst other nonprofits, they’re also campaigning alongside big corporations with big money to spend on giveaways, social boosting and expensive campaigns. Though shouting loudest may get you heard, having some genuine heart behind a campaign can work like magic.

These “hurdles” are, of course, overcomeable with a carefully considered marketing strategy. Here are our top ten tips for getting the balance right when it comes to marketing for nonprofits…

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How to overcome those challenges by knowing your goals, your audience… and keeping your messaging consistent

Are you using marketing to increase following, boost awareness, recruiting volunteers or to help raise funds?

Once goals have been established, you can try to reach them. If you’re using email marketing to recruit volunteers, don’t try cross-messages such as including blogs about how much money the organisation has raised that month… unless it will be relevant to potential volunteers, that is. Goals are a tricky one as they are so often intertwined. However, it’s important to work out priorities and stick to them.

Use social media to complement a wider marketing strategy – perhaps just use social media with the aim to engage and connect with followers, rather than trying to increase donations through clicks on Facebook, for example. Use social media to promote other things going on within the organisation, whether that be relevant staff or business news or promoting an event. Don’t forget to include links back to your website, too.

Develop audience personas to ensure your marketing to your ideal supporters. What are their values? Why would they support your charity? Use insight tools on social media to find out who your online audience is – does this match up with your idea audience persona? If not… why?

Create a marketing strategy centred around the audience you now know so well, posting the kind of information you think they would care about and, most importantly, remember and share.

It’s all about the people

As well as putting the focus on the people behind the organisation through the businesses own social channels, create engagement with user generated content, too. If a user shares a touching story with you, make sure you use it and credit them.

People will always connect with and empathise with people, not necessarily the brand’s airbrushed version of the people they think their audience will want to see. Reach out, dig deep and find real stories that will generate real engagement.

Post content your audience will care about and find helpful. Useful informational videos or short how-to listicles always go down a treat when shared with the relevant audience. Think about reaching out and really making a difference to the people who follow your organisation. They do, after all, care about you.

Tell a story

Everyone loves a good story. Check out Humans of New York as an example. The narrative behind these posts is engaging because it reaches out to people – it’s real, touching and authentic. Don’t feel as though posts need to be limited to a short paragraph on Facebook or 140 characters on Twitter.

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Take as much time as you need on Facebook and Instagram – find the heart of your story and shape the post around it. Has someone’s life been transformed through the work of your organisation? I reckon that deserves more than a couple of lines of content. On Twitter, create an image containing the full story and save your 140 characters for a quick summary or to tag relevant accounts.

Never feel rushed or limited, particularly when it comes to marketing for nonprofits. The people who will care about your organisation will care about what you have to say.

Use data effectively

Stats are a quick, visual way to share an impactful snippet of information. Get a catchy design mocked up to show the stat so it doesn’t get lost amongst feeds of copy.

Be creative with your data – use infographics to make a whole bunch of stats stand out by collating them and putting them all in one place for your followers to consume quickly and aesthetically.

Data is also very shareable. People love a good stat because it’s punchy, measurable, provable and interesting. To maximise on this opportunity, make sure your stats are phrased in an engaging, clear way and kept concise.

You can use data effectively another way too… by tracking your success. How many people have viewed your blog… and how far down the page have they scrolled? What was your most successful social post, and why do you think that is? Can you do more of it? Bridgett Colling, Director of Content Marketing at See3 Communications says: “if you put goal tracking in your Google Analytics, you can see how many referrals actually led to someone completing a donation.”

Be visual

Yup, be visual with your stats. But also consider how you can utilise videos and photographs. They’re highly impactful on social media, on websites and on blogs, so never miss out on the opportunity to include some top imagery to illustrate a story or visually demonstrate a key point.

According to Social Bakers, video posts have 135% greater organic reach than photo posts so it’s definitely not a trick to be missed!

Don’t worry about top-quality images all the time, either. Often a photograph or video taken from a mobile phone is better than no imagery at all!

Use offline and online marketing collaboratively

This one works both ways. At an event and want your digital audience to get involved? Share your live videos online. Wanting your event attendees to connect with you digitally?

Use a hashtag to encourage participation on social media.

Similarly, you can reach out to regular advocates / donors and ask them to connect with you online. Why not make it easy for them and provide read-to-go social media posts and graphics, so sharing them is a super quick process? If there’s a particularly important link or campaign you’d like people to share, circulate this amongst key members of the organisation so they’re aware of your hard work, and they may even engage online themselves. Advocates and an internal team that use social media regularly can help generate somewhat of a snowball effect – the more people who share your organisation’s messages, the more people see those messages.

Keep it in the front of your mind at all times how you can maximise your opportunity, both online and offline, and how you can merge these two worlds together.

Consider your CTAs

What exactly are you asking people to do?

  • Sign up to a petition or newsletter
  • Donate money
  • Visit a website
  • Nominate
  • Share a message with their friends / followers

Creating an impactful call to action is key. Not only does your message have to stand out and appeal to your following, you must make it as easy as possible for your followers. Make it clear what you want them to do, or where you’re directing them to and what they need to do when they get there. Be upfront and don’t beat around the bush. Want people to give up their hard earned cash? Tell them directly why it’s so important.

Finally, make sure you reward those who help your cause by thanking them and interacting with them. This way, people are far more likely to promote your charity’s cause more often as they feel rewarded and noticed. The positivity cycle is endless!

Be creative

Okay, this is an obvious one, but perhaps one of the most important points to remember. Think of fun campaigns that are really going to capture your followers’ interests and find captivating ways to share your message.

Other nonprofits have found success in partnering with another campaign or with influencers. Who hasn’t seen an A-list celebrity donning a Red Nose Day t-shirt? As always, it’s important to find the right influencer to partner with the brand, or risk the campaign doing more harm than good. Find an influencer who shares your brand values, often talks about the messages your organisation stands by and who supports what you do.

And finally… it’s all about the positivity.

Even if the cause is far from cheery, it’s up to marketers to find some hope and positivity to celebrate. Share great stories that show the real difference the non-profit organisation is making. Find positive stats and shout about them.

Celebrate the difference the non-profit organisation has made, to demonstrate the outcome of your supporters’ efforts. If followers connect with you to share stories, thoughts or photographs, make sure to share them with your wider circles.

It doesn’t always have to be results-driven (though of course share positive results when you have them) – positive, human-based stories and blogs that show your organisation’s impact work brilliantly to raise awareness and engagement. Experiment with live video, live tweeting from events and always remember to tag relevant accounts in social posts you put out to encourage them to share news, too.

Work with us to make a difference

We’ve achieved fantastic results with our client, Making a Difference Locally. If you’re a nonprofit organisation wanting expert marketing insight, get in touch or say hello on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.