5 Strategies for Successful Non-Profit Marketing


Many of the same strategies that work in the for-profit commercial world can be successfully applied to non-profit marketing. After all, the goals are similar. Commercial businesses seek to identify customers, sell to them, and establish an ongoing relationship that results in future sales, positive reviews, and brand advocacy. We like to call this this Growth Cycle Marketing: treating sales as an ongoing process and not a one-time transaction.

Similarly, non-profits seek to identify donors, secure a donation, and establish an ongoing relationship with them that results in future donations, positive reviews, and cause advocacy.

So how can you apply marketing principles to meet non-profit goals?

5 Strategies for Successful Non-Profit Marketing

Tell Your Story

The first and most important task of a non-profit is to build the donor base. Attracting donors can be a tricky task and you're competing with a lot of other worthy causes for a limited amount of potential dollars. Your story has to spread the message and importance of your cause, but it also has to emphasize the integrity of your brand.

Your brand defines who you are. People want to know their money will be spent responsibly and not squandered on huge salaries for principles. They want to see you in action, whether that means funding research, curing sick people, feeding the poor, or rescuing animals. Whatever your mission is, make sure the story you tell highlights your cause and also illuminates your organization and your work.

Nurture Your Base

Once you have the attention of your donors, it’s crucial to keep in touch. Do so by creating a community and inviting your donors to participate. Share personal stories, photos, inspiring messages, news, triumphs, and, if necessary, impending doom. The more donors feel they’re part of the solution, the more likely they are to help. By providing great content though your website and social media, you keep your cause in the minds and hearts of your donors. That's the bottom line on retention.

Follow Up

An important part of Growth Cycle Marketing is follow up, and it's equally important for non-profits as it is in business. A surprising number of non-profits never extend the courtesy of a simple Thank You. Reach out to your donors with a personal thank you message and let each one know how their donation helped accomplish a specific goal.

Make It Personal

Successful non-profit marketing campaigns speak to donors in one way or another. Some choose to solidify their message with poignant statements that bring the problem home. Organizers at charity: water quite literally bring the message home with arresting, relatable images.

Charity Water PosterSimple and powerful. Click here to review more of their media downloads.

Be Goofy…for Good

There's no formula for what might go viral, but campaigns that don't take themselves too seriously often capture the imagination of donors by approaching a deadly serious subject in a fun way. Movember, for example, harnesses the power of the 'stache to highlight men's health. Men are encouraged to grow a handsome mustache in November and take part in events like Mo Parties and the Running of the Mo's.

Recently, the Ice Bucket Challenge, launched by the ALS Association, took social media by storm. It proved to be so popular that it raised in excess of $100 million for a cause that was relatively unknown before the launch of the campaign. More than 200 celebrities took part. Patrick Stewart did it with class (to the tune of 8.6 million YouTube views, and counting).

Perhaps the most fanciful effort comes from the Susan G. Komen Foundation in support of breast cancer awareness. Participants turn up in tutus for a festival-like atmosphere. It's imaginative, fun and humorous, and everyone comes decked out with great t-shirt slogans, like, “Save the Ta-Tas” and “Don't let breast cancer steal 2nd base.”

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Photo credit: Fifth World Art

No matter what your cause, you can use these successful non-profit marketing techniques to build and nourish your donor base. The key is to keep past benefactors engaged while drawing in new participants by attracting and holding their attention.