Nonprofits are hit with the biggest digital marketing challenge of all: having no money. To operate, thrive, and raise awareness for their cause without spending a substantial amount of money can seem impossible in a world of bigger, louder, and more financially equipped online advertisers.
Even though the challenges sound momentous, the people in these positions are often super passionate and driven by a cause that feels bigger than themselves.
But marketing for nonprofits still ain’t easy! In this post, you’ll learn seven digital marketing strategies to help non-profits get noticed in an over-populated digital world, without spending every last marketing penny available.
#1: Do PPC for Free with Google Ad Grants
Many non-profits mistakenly rule out pay-per-click marketing simply because it starts with the word “pay.” These marketers likely aren’t aware of Google’s Ad Grants program, which is basically free money given to non-profits to advertise on the world’s largest and most effective search engine, Google.
Both Microsoft and Google give roughly 1 billion dollars to help non-profits promote their causes online each year, so who says you can’t be one of those lucky non-profits advertising for free?
Naturally there are some limitations in terms of bids and budgets in Google’s Ad Grants program. Advertisers can’t exceed a $2.00 CPC bid, and can’t use more then $10,000 per month, but if you’re advertising free of charge, you probably won’t find these restrictions to be a huge road-blocker.
To be considered for Google ad grants, you need an AdWords account, a Google non-profit account, and the customer ID from your AdWords account. Start the application process and get advertising for free so you can spread your cause to a much larger audience!
(Psst: Nonprofits, give us a call to discuss special pricing on WordStream!)
#2: Awaken Emotions Through Video
I’ll never forget when I heard Scott Harrison, founder of my favorite non-profit Charity:Water, speak at HubSpot’s 2013 Inbound marketing conference. The reason his presentation was so impactful to me was the videos he shared exposing how big the water crisis actually is. Yes, I knew that it was a global issue, but hearing the stories, seeing the people affected, and empathizing with the scope of this crisis evoked such strong emotions in me that I not only shed tears among 5,000 other marketers, but went on to create my own Charity:Water fundraising birthday campaign.
Marketing for nonprofits requires hitting people on an emotional level
I’ll stop rambling on, but the power video has on awakening one’s emotions shouldn’t be underestimated, especially when it comes to digital marketing, where your messages have the power to spread to enormously large groups of potential donators. Emotions are ultimately what drive people to act, so spending some time and resources on video production and hosting shouldn’t be put on the back-burner for non-profits.
Of course, video marketing can be intimidating. Luckily, there are a lot of resources available to help you produce your own high-quality videos on a strapped budget. Check out this guide to shooting high-quality videos on your iPhone.
#3: Allocate a Small Budget to Promote Your Best Content on Social Media
Budget, huh? I know, I know, I used the b word. But your content has minimal chance of gaining visibility on social networks like Facebook and Twitter if you don’t put a little bit of money behind it.
“Unless you have a really large following, thousands of advocates sharing your content and maybe a couple of other organizations pitching in to spread the word, you probably won’t make a dent in the social space,” says Huffington Post writer Tulani Elisa.
Luckily, if you’re smart about advertising on social, you won’t end up spending an arm and a leg. When I was working directly with Larry Kim, he used to continuously preach that you can advertise successfully on Facebook with just $5 a day. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have insanely granular targeting options you can use to go after the people that are most likely to care about your cause. For instance, let’s say your non-profit is working to provide education for underprivileged children – on Facebook you can target mothers who make a certain salary and are interested in education and social change.
#4: Apply for a Facebook “Donate Now” Button on Your Non-Profit Page
In August of 2015, Facebook announced that they’re allowing selected non-profits to add a “Donate Now” call-to-action button to their Facebook page encouraging users to act right on Facebook. With a lot of these causes it’s all about being in front of your audience at the right place, at the right time, with the right offer, and this button definitely promotes immediate action.
The "Donate Now" button on Facebook: Perfect for nonprofits
To get this functionality on your page, make sure you have a verified Facebook page, hold verified 501(c)(3) status, are based in the U.S., and have agreed to Facebook’s terms and conditions. Once you’ve done all that, fill out this form, and before you know it you could be getting donations right from Facebook.
#5: Channel Your Network to Form Influential Partnerships
You probably won’t be able to get Jennifer Aniston to campaign for your cause, but if you know someone who knows Jen on a first name basis, perhaps they could intrigue her to craft a quick post and call-to-action about your non-profit on her Instagram account.
Ok, this is an unlikely scenario, but there are likely people in your network who can serve as brand advocates for your cause. Finding the right champion can result in substantial donations with little to no money spent. Tap into your inner circle, and get the most influential people you know devoted to your cause.
#6: Invest in Email Marketing
No non-profit employee likes the word “invest” because it implies spending a decent chunk of change, but this isn’t necessarily true with email. Plus, studies continue to prove that email marketing is one of the most effective digital marketing tactics in the book.
Email marketing results in an average of $40 of revenue for every $1 spent, making it immensely powerful for budget-limited non-profits.
So, how can non-profits best leverage email marketing? It all starts with creativity.
- Craft a compelling subject line – This is the main way you’ll be able to convince people to open your email. Try split testing your subject lines to find what works with your audience.
- Keep copy simple and digestible – Get to the point. No one is going to take the time to read a novel, but if your copy is compelling, short, and easy-to-digest (think lists/stats!) then people are much more likely to read it.
- Use compelling images and/or video to tell the story and appeal to your consumer’s emotions.
#7: Book Speaking Engagements
While some people would rather be trampled by a donkey than do public speaking, the majority can do it without having a panic attack. I myself did three business speaking engagements with audiences as large as 200+ attendees in the last year, and if I can do it, anyone can! As a non-profit marketer, your work is tied to something incredibly powerful and that you feel passionate about – so what better way to express it?
Public speaking shouldn’t be underestimated as a marketing tactic for non-profits, and while you might not think of this as digital, it is. Many events are recorded, Periscoped, or Snapped and posted online, your slides can end up on SlideShare, and nowadays event attendees are covering everything on social, which means people will be tweeting what you’re saying, using event hashtags, and spreading your message, leading to a wider audience and more potential donors.
Top 7 Nonprofit Marketing Strategies [Summary]
- Google Ad Grants (free paid search ads!)
- Emotional video marketing
- Social media content promotion
- Facebook's "Donate Now" button
- Networking and partnership marketing
- Email marketing
- Speaking engagements
Don’t let the fact that your budget is limited limit your potential to grow your nonprofit with smart, effective, and affordable marketing tactics. Before you know it, you’ll be changing the world faster then you ever thought possible.