4 Modern Marketing Strategies for Nonprofits and Charities to Increase Impact

Non-profit organizations can benefit from many of the same marketing strategies that for-profit businesses engage in today. Whether it’s to amplify awareness of your cause, launch a specific campaign, solicit donations, build your audience, or help grow your mission, the top marketing strategies for nonprofits in 2022 range from podcasting to influencer marketing to brand partnerships.

A common distinction between non-profits and for-profits can be the marketing budget, as non-profits are often challenged to produce great results with limited resources. It wouldn’t be right to suggest reducing programming to produce your own podcast or cutting your service offering to land a major influencer, but a great first step is considering which of these marketing strategies can make the biggest impact for your organization.

When discussing strategy with your marketing and communications team (or marketing team of one) it’s important to remember that these strategies are actually meant to make your life easier. A relevant, well-executed campaign can help you attract volunteers, fill your vacant board seats, or solidify funding that can help expand your audience and programming. If your leadership is strapped for capacity, a fractional CMO or marketing advisor can help you plan your next marketing move and make the most of your resources.

When considering external marketing support, it is essential that who you’re working with understands the fundamental ways non-profits function. From the grant cycle to your approval process, having support that already understands the sector goes a very long way and can reduce any uneasiness around budgets, effectiveness and time constraints.

Read on for a dive into marketing strategies for non-profits that you can start to implement now, and some that you can plan for next quarter.

Strategy 1: Podcasting

Podcasting is a marketing trend that shows no signs of slowing down in 2022. The demographics of people that listen to podcasts are across the board — from stay-at-home parents to busy commuters, all different types of folks consume podcasts on a daily basis.

When it comes to non-profit marketing and communications, storytelling is a key strategy. As the medium allows for effective and engaging audio storytelling, and is known for building relationships with audiences, podcasting can be a highly worthwhile tactic for nonprofit organizations.

Here are some quick podcasting stats:

  • 32% of Americans listen to podcasts at least once a month (Edison Research)
  • 54% of podcast consumers say they think about buying advertised products (Convince & Convert)
  • 74% of podcast users listen to podcasts to learn something new (Edison Research) 
  • 6.5 million adults in the UK listen to podcasts weekly, and 21% of them are millennials (Podnews)

A lot of people listen to podcasts, but what does that mean for you in the non-profit sector? Great question.

Use podcasts to tell stories and promote campaigns and opportunities

Creating podcasting content is a great way to spread the word about your offerings, from fundraising campaigns and events to services and programs. You can use informational-style podcasts to educate others on the benefits of the programs and initiatives you run and to share how listeners can get involved in your organization. You can interview staff, volunteers, supporters about why they are involved and what they value most about your organization, while capturing their stories to keep your audience engaged.

Use podcasts to showcase your impact

Treat your podcast like an audio portfolio where you can highlight the important work you do. Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders and their Everyday Emergency podcast profile the frontline health care workers that handle humanitarian emergencies worldwide. They use their podcast to share the important work they do every day using compelling stories from real lived experiences from the perspective of their health care workers. You can use this model and highlight the people that work in your organization to share stories of triumph or profile clients who have benefited from your work.  

Use podcasts to highlight others that fit your mission, vision, and values

Even if you serve a niche demographic or operate hyper-locally, you can use podcasts to interview experts in the field that help people better understand how they can either access your resources and programming or get involved in your organization.

The Feeding America podcast Elevating Voice, Ending Hunger is conversational, featuring change makers and everyday leaders disrupting the status quo to end systems of inequity that drive food insecurity in the states. The host (Ami McReynolds, Chief Equity and Programs Officer of Feeding America) invites community leaders, supporters, and people facing hunger to discuss how each is a part of a collective effort to end hunger.

This podcast is able to dig deep into their mission, vision, and values to invite guests from different organizations and spaces to provide a platform to amplify the voices of the people on the ground who share in their same mission of ending hunger. They are able to use their platform to elevate the people that are doing adjacent work

Strategy 2: Creating (for-profit) Brand Partnerships

One strategy to connect with new (but like-minded) audiences takes the form of brand partnerships. There can be many mutual benefits to a brand partnership. 

Consider the Uber + Polaris campaign to spread awareness and education around human trafficking (a cause you may not automatically associate with a rideshare company). Some ways Polaris used their relationship with Uber to further their cause are what you can bring to your next partnership. The main goal of the campaign, spreading awareness through the application of their resources, can guide you on your marketing efforts. 

Polaris created a video campaign in both English and Spanish that Uber shared through their newsroom and included in employee training. They used their existing channels to spread awareness about human trafficking which trickled down to Uber drivers. As over 14 million Uber trips are taken every day, Polaris saw an opportunity for a teachable moment. Uber has urged drivers through this campaign to reach out to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (operated by Polaris) if they witness signs of trafficking during their trips.

Ensuring your organization’s mission, vision, and values align with the brand you’re considering partnering with. An easy way to discover if a brand is relevant for a partnership is to reach out to them! Be specific with the goals of both your campaign and organization at least 4 months before you plan on running the specific campaign. If you’re an organization that’s focused on advocating for animal rights, a major dairy corporation might not be the best partnership to explore. 

Strategy 3: Turning content creators into brand ambassadors 

Content creators have an incredible amount of influence across different social media platforms. While you figure out which network would work best for your organization and goals (external marketing support can help with this), influencers are found across almost every channel. 

Consider Refuge, an organization based in the UK that focuses on helping women and children seek refuge when faced with domestic violence. They offer a variety of services and several award-winning awareness campaigns that have tapped into content creators and artists for both their talent and influence. One of the most popular campaigns is ‘How to look your best the morning after’, a YouTube video of beauty influencer Lauren Luke covering up ‘bruises’ to draw awareness to hiding domestic violence. 

Refuge partnered (pro bono) with Lauren Luke for the ultimate collaboration:

  1. The campaign encouraged viewers to bring domestic violence out of the shadows by sharing Lauren’s video that has not been viewed by more than 2.6 million people
  2. The campaign was referenced more than 550 times in earned media coverage worldwide
  3. In the first 48 hours following the launch of the campaign, the Refuge’s website received as much traffic as usually received in 2 weeks 
  4. The campaign won more than 20 national accolades in both charity and marketing awards

Ultimately, this campaign was a success because the collaboration was mutually beneficial for both the organization and the content creator.

How can you find “influencers” for your next campaign? Consider both micro and macro-influencers. 

Micro-influencers 

Micro-influencers usually have more than 1,000 and less than 10,000 social media followers. They can usually be easily found through your existing network and are probably already spreading the word about what they love about your organization. You can put out a call to your own social media followers to see if they fit the bill. 

The great thing about micro-influencers is if found within your network, usually have a great understanding of your mission, vision, and values and are passionate about your organization. Organic partnerships with influencers is a great first step in creating a genuine campaign. 

Macro-influencers

This is what was traditionally referred to as “influencers” before the smaller influencers described above became common. Macro-influencers usually have more than 10,000 social media followers and rely on content creation as a main source of income. Macro-influencers can sometimes offer more insight on how to best interact with their audience for the largest amount of impressions. To find them, you can use hashtags that align with your organization. Some influencers also work through representative agencies and they can often recommend influencers that work with your vision and budget. 

Strategy 4: Don’t forget the simple stuff

It’s easy to have these grand ideas for the direction your marketing teams should take to grow your organization, and sometimes these come at the cost of forgetting all the quick easy essentials that you can implement, like, yesterday. Here are 3 simple things you can put together while you work on the bigger suggestions from above: 

1) Have a CTA in the top menu of your website

Whether it’s to solicit donations like the Red Cross or purchase one of your offerings like FoodShare, ensure all the traffic you’re driving to your website is easily convertible — think email subscribers, purchases, or donations. If you’re using WordPress, a simple plugin could be added to include a banner that highlights your call to action; Squarespace has a built-in banner feature that can be toggled ‘on’.

2) Send out a personal letter to email subscribers semi-regularly

A director’s update, testimonial from a volunteer, or a ‘guest’ writer can all be a part of your strategy to fill some real estate in your subscribers’ inboxes. Unsurprisingly, personalized emails outperform generic emails by a 6x multiple, and you don’t need to use custom code for the best results. Keeping emails simple, writing to a subscriber as if you’re speaking directly to them, and avoiding anything ‘spammy’ like a ton of links or images helps you stay out of the junk/spam folder.

3) Consider what has worked and what hasn't

It’s important to allocate time to experiment and assess results regularly. Assess whether your previous marketing efforts were successful or not generating any results. Though it sounds like a no-brainer, once a campaign is over you’ve likely moved to the next thing on your agenda. Determining what the strengths of the campaign were (which is also useful when completing funder reports) and the weaknesses. Is this a campaign you’d like to try again? Was there an unexpected secondary outcome? Did you raise your goal? Analyzing the results of your last campaign can help you make better use of resources in the future. 

Though these marketing strategies for non-profit organizations can seem like yet another task to add to your list, they could have a significant impact and get you closer to your goals (whether it’s immediate or over time). It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to implement all tactics and suggestions all at once. You can consider bringing on external marketing support (like a marketing agency focused on not-for-profits and a fractional CMO to guide them) to help implement the most valuable strategies for your organization. From podcasting and storytelling to influencer marketing, brand partnerships and more, there is plenty to add to your marketing toolbox. 

If you could benefit from some marketing support, here are some things to consider when finding your ideal collaborator:

  1. Find someone that aligns with both your vision and understands the sector. Ideally, you want someone that understands your values and has experience (either lived or previous client experience) with your cause. If someone has a connection to your cause or organization, it can make the process a whole lot smoother!
  2. Bring in a strategic leader that can help with the big-picture. Just like the social issues that many non-profits look to solve, a great marketing plan includes an overall understanding of your long-term goals. An ongoing Marketing Advisor or Fractional CMO works at a high-level, prioritizing your vision and organization’s goals — without the cost of a full-time senior executive.
  3. You don’t need to be an expert at everything! And hiring out can take up more time in training and management. You don’t need someone else to manage and train. An experienced Marketing Advisor doesn’t require micro-management or lengthy onboarding — they focus on direction that gets you months ahead.
  4. If your overall marketing and communications budgets are limited, your organization may be able to apply for funding to supplement or cover the cost of marketing strategy and support. There are countless grants and grant writing support available.

Daniel Francavilla is a marketing advisor, brand strategist, founder and mentor making a positive impact. As a strategist focused on solving bigger problems, Daniel acts as an advisor and fractional marketing executive to select organizations and businesses. He is the recipient of a 40 Under 40 Award and a Business Excellence Award, and has been a creative agency owner since 2013 (as a current Partner at King Street Media). Daniel is passionate about helping others create social change and founded non-profit organization ACCESS as a student in 2006, through which he now supports youth who are building their own initiatives for social good.

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