A Crash Course To Marketing A Nonprofit Online

By Guest Author | marketing | April 8, 2019

You’re a social entrepreneur with a great idea. You’ve done all the paperwork to register your nonprofit, engaged a writer, hired a designer and are looking toward your launch. Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “If I build it, will they come?” The answer is no unless you’re going to invest time and energy to clearly identify your audience and spread the word.

Define an audience narrower than the “general public”

Hopefully your writer began your professional relationship with this question, “Who’s your target audience?” Some business people and social entrepreneurs struggle to answer this or dream too broadly, thinking, “Wouldn’t everyone be interested in my idea? It has wide appeal.” When you try to communicate to everyone, you end up with messages that do not connect with anyone.

Try to narrow your focus with demographics such as location, age, occupation, gender, interests, education, income or other factors. This allows you to communicate more efficiently, directly and with language that will resonate with your target audience. Facebook advertising, should you choose to invest in it, allows you to define a startlingly specific target audience. The narrower your audience, the less you’ll spend to reach the right people if you choose to invest in advertising.

 Get noticed by search engines

You might have to wait days or weeks after your website launch to show up in search engine results. Define your keywords early to ensure that once your website does appear in Google, it shows up in the right search results.

It’s not realistic to think that your site will initially appear on page one or two of search results for the majority of your keyword terms. It may be an uphill battle to compete with organisations may have worked on their SEO for years, regularly writing blog posts, cultivating backlinks and using social media to build visibility.

Follow this process:

  1. Use a keyword tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to gain insight into how often certain words are searched and what terms are most competitive. Narrow your list to those that are perhaps not the most competitive but also most closely align with your goals.
  2. Use these keyword phrases in your headlines, page titles, blog posts, and website copy.
  3. Submit your website sitemap to Google using Google Search Console.
  4. Post your blog posts on social media and seek links back to your content from other websites.

If your website is built in WordPress, look for the setting in WordPress > Settings > Reading that says “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”. Make sure that this option is unchecked after launch. It’s good to leave it checked while the website is under development.

Cultivate your core supporters with email

Email is still the best way to communicate with your donors, members and volunteers. Social media messages are dependent upon the whims of each social media platform; your posts there  will not be seen by each of your followers. Paying for sponsored posts can help you more consistently reach followers, but why not just reach them directly with email? Create an email list either within your membership software or in an email marketing platform like MailChimp that integrates with your system. At last check, MailChimp is free for up to 2000 subscribers as long as you send less than 12,000 emails per month.

Use social media to build audience

Consider which social media platforms are favoured by your target audience; create profiles there. Before creating a page or profile on any platform, consider that to be successful, social media is not a place of one-way communication. You will need to:

  • Make posts on a regular basis (blog posts are ideal to share on social media).
  • Comment on other’s posts.
  • Respond typically within 24 hours or less when people comment on your posts or reply to you.
  • Answer direct messages.

Don’t set up social media profiles if you aren’t prepared to spend time in this way.

At minimum create a Facebook page for your organisation and add an email signup widget to it. Using this page, you can make posts and create Facebook events for each item on your online event calendar that can be shared among friends or colleagues.

General advice for picking platforms:

  • Instagram – Use if you will regularly have something visual to share and a target audience on the younger side. Be sure to use the stories feature for maximum exposure.
  • Twitter – If your nonprofit will be ever-changing, Twitter will allow you to post breaking news, important messages and other current information.
  • LinkedIn – Use if your nonprofit will be business-related such as a chamber of commerce, association or professional group. Promote your blog posts here.
  • YouTube – If you have at least one video, post it in your YouTube channel to potentially capture a wider audience than you would if the video just lived on your website. Add any future videos and be sure to add links to your channel to all of your other social profiles and your email list signup form.

Make sure every part of your donation or membership billing uses responsive design

Half of visitors to nonprofit websites are using a smartphone or tablet device. While many nonprofits have responsive websites, some have a donation pages that create frustration with tiny, often unreadable text when viewed on mobile. This often means that they are using a membership management software that isn’t mobile-friendly. If people receive your emails and want to take action, be sure that they can complete the entire task of making a donation or membership payment on their phone without having to scroll right or zoom in to read. Google also favours mobile-friendly sites in search results.

Bring value to your followers, donors, volunteers or members

To enlist your core constituents in promoting your organisation, you’ll need to deliver value to them. This might mean:

  • Planning special member events just for them
  • Allowing them to pay less for event registration than others
  • Creating members only content
  • Being sure that they are thanked in ways that are uniquely meaningful to them.

Your donor or membership CRM can help you use technology to restrict content and event tickets as well as reach out to specific groups by email.

Do you have other marketing tips to share? Leave us a comment.

Amy Hufford is a Technologist at MembershipWorks. She has worked in membership technology for more than 20 years and has experience building membership websites with a variety of membership software platforms.