Marketing is key for organizations across many different industries, helping to strengthen branding, reach new audiences, and increase revenue. In the nonprofit world, you need marketing to extend your reach, achieve (or even surpass) ambitious fundraising goals, and further your mission by serving more of those in need.
While similar to the marketing done by for-profit organizations, nonprofit marketing has some key differences. Primarily, each marketing campaign must be able to represent the individual fundraiser or volunteer opportunity and align with the nonprofit’s mission and values. This is further complicated by the need to address donors’, or as Convergent refers to them, investors’, unique motivations to give.
Balancing this need to infuse your mission into every communication with the many other moving parts of a marketing campaign can feel overwhelming. In this guide, we’ll cover four simple ways to start crafting campaigns that are closely aligned with your mission:
- Use data to understand supporters.
- Prioritize transparency.
- Clearly communicate your impact.
- Build a credible reputation.
Before getting started, brainstorm specific ways your marketing team can hearken back to its mission statement in its marketing campaigns. For example, the World Wildlife Fund’s mission statement is “to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.” In this case, the organization could highlight conservation success stories, promote educational content in marketing materials, and appeal to investors’ motivations to give.
Next, explore how you can uncover your investors’ motivations for getting involved and how to address them in your next marketing campaign.
Use data to understand supporters.
In addition to linking your nonprofit’s marketing material with your mission statement, it’s crucial to connect with how that mission resonates with your investors. Maybe a dedicated investor supports your local food pantry because they once struggled with food insecurity. Or perhaps a different investor is a teacher in the community and wants to aid children who have trouble accessing food.
The best way to gain a deeper understanding of your investors’ motivations and interpretations of your mission is to leverage data analytics. GivingDNA’s guide to nonprofit data analytics defines this as “the process of collecting data and analyzing it to uncover trends, patterns, and insights that will help guide fundraising strategies.”
So, how can your nonprofit get the most out of this data? Here are a few tips:
- Practice data hygiene. This refers to the practices that keep your data up-to-date, accurate, and free of input errors. Train your staff to regularly audit your files for information that is no longer relevant or accurate and correct mistakes. To prevent issues, make sure to establish a standard data entry procedure and train staff to use it.
- Ask why investors engage. As you study your data, strive to answer this question by exploring how and when investors donate or interact. Did you receive an influx of donations after investors saw a “return” on that investment through the launch of a successful new program? If you can pinpoint the catalysts for this support, you’ll be one step closer to deducing your investors’ giving motivations.
- Consider using surveys. While you can uncover plenty of insights by analyzing existing investor data, it can be worthwhile to directly ask them why they support your organization. Create a survey and invite supporters to complete it through your organization’s primary communication channels. In the survey, you can ask them why they’ve chosen to invest in your cause, how you can better demonstrate the impact of this investment, whether your marketing impacted their decision to invest, and any other related questions.
These insights should not only shape the content of your marketing messages but also the timing and communication platforms you choose. And if your nonprofit performs wealth screenings, you can tailor your ask amounts to each investor’s giving capacity and affinity.
Nonprofits have a legal obligation to maintain a certain level of transparency with the public. Most of these obligations are related to tax forms like the IRS Form 990. However, many nonprofits also choose to file and share annual reports and other key information. Jitasa’s guide to nonprofit financial management recommends sharing these reports, complete with honest breakdowns of your organization’s expenses in order to obtain the funding you need and maintain trust with your investors.
While not every investor will read your annual report or check out your Form 990 filings, you can integrate a degree of transparency into your marketing efforts by:
- Creating engaging materials like infographics or videos for your website that depict your impact and financial data. This makes information that can be confusing or difficult to understand accessible to more people.
- Remembering to promote your annual report. You don’t need to dedicate a larger percentage of your fundraising dollars to promoting the report, but linking to it in a social media post shows that you want investors to check it out.
- Seeking out and sharing third-party assessments. Work with a non-biased third-party organization to obtain a certification that validates your nonprofit’s accountability. If you’re awarded the GuideStar seal, for example, you can include this in future marketing efforts.
Remember that not every investor will be an expert in nonprofit management or finance, and they may not know what you are obligated to share for transparency’s sake. Make sure to spread awareness of any reports or documents you create, and consider breaking things like tax forms down into shareable, easy-to-understand media when possible.
Clearly communicate your impact.
In your communications, clearly spell out how our nonprofit is making an impact, how that impact relates to your mission, and how investors’ contributions are helping to make a larger difference.
Below is an example of how a fictional food panty communicates each of these points in a monthly blog post that summarizes each month’s impact on beneficiaries:
- Communicating your impact: This month, we served 207 families and 173 individuals, providing a total of almost 800 meals.
- Connecting impact to mission: We believe access to nutritious, satisfying food is a human right. This month, we committed to further our mission by serving a record-breaking number of families and individuals.
- Recognizing investors’ contributions: Without donations of money, food, and time from our investors and volunteers, we would not be able to make an impact of this size. We thank our supporters for their generous contributions.
It’s important to highlight this impact on your website, social media, and on any other communication channels your nonprofit uses. This can be as simple as linking back to a central blog post or report, but making the information accessible to your supporters is paramount.
Build a credible reputation.
A positive reputation in the nonprofit sector will take time and effort to cultivate, but is well worth the reward. With a reputation as a credible nonprofit, you’ll establish deeper trust with your investors and be viewed as more trustworthy by potential investors. The more supporters who trust your nonprofit to deliver on its promises, the more opportunities and new investors you’ll receive.
Here are some of the ways you can use your marketing strategies to establish a reputation as worthy of your supporters’ investments:
- Work with industry experts or relevant influencers.
- Branching out into traditional marketing channels like direct mail if possible.
- Building a strong visual brand with graphics that look professional.
- Creating and promoting content that educates others about your content.
- Publicly advocating for your cause (and teaching others how to help).
Increasing transparency and clearly demonstrating your nonprofit’s impact can both contribute to boosted credibility. Together, these practices show that your nonprofit strives to uphold the values listed in your mission statement and accomplish as much good as it can with investors’ donations.
By incorporating your mission into your marketing campaigns, your nonprofit’s messaging will feel more cohesive and better appeal to your investors’ reasons for being involved. While data analysis activities like wealth screenings will provide more context about your investors, you can reward their investments in your organization with increased transparency and a clear depiction of their impact.