Marketing Practices for Non-Profit Organizations

Marketing January 02, 2007

Dmitry Buterin

By Dmitry Buterin

Does a non-profit need a marketing plan? Why? 

Your non-profit definitely needs a marketing plan (and a lot of patience) to cut through the signal-to-noise ratio - especially on the Web. Unlike other methods of obtaining visitors through traditional media, Web marketing takes a lot of time and ‘seed planting’ before things really take off.

Todd Baker notes in his e-book Non-Profit Websites: Cutting Through The E-maze that your end game is to get your Web site to become a driver for donations. He suggests looking at your website as a tool to achieve this sequence of goals:

1.    Attracting visitors
2.    Turning these visitors into friends
3.    Turning friends into first-time donors
4.    Turning first-time donors into loyal/regular donors

How do you attract visitors?

  • Have a clear strategy and message, then convey it to people.
  • Support what your donors or other allies are doing online and offline. Contribute links to other organizations’ Web sites and blogs on your Web site.
  • Generate regular and relevant content for your site. Publicize your Web initiatives in any traditional media and direct market campaigns. Avoid the temptation, once again, to send a lot of news via e-mail unless it is targeted and you have permission.
  • If you generate a lot of content through a blog or even through regular news updates to your own Web site, you may want to consider offering RSS feeds. This helps you market to busy, niche audiences who lack the time to constantly come to your Web site for updates.
  • Give it away. If your organization issues any print material for distribution, it needs to be up on your Web site as some sort of download. Don’t treat information as a ‘Member’s Only’ perk, particularly anything that shows you doing good work
  • Last but not least - make good use of a Web Analytics software e.g. Google Analytics - it is free and provides great insight into where people are coming from, how do they find you and so on.
Turning visitors into friends ultimately requires your group to get people involved with your Web site. (This is talked about in more detail in our earlier post - "How to engage people through your non-profit organization website" )

Once you have an online community coming back, your next step is to identify ways in which regular visitors can contribute time and money towards your non-profit. Use your Web presence to show them what you can do for them. This is where branding comes into play.

However, you want to be careful about being too direct in your ‘sales pitch’ for donations. Don’t make every message to your visitors all about money. Strive to be authentic with regards to telling others about your needs, and show your visitors specifically what their money will go towards through photos, testimonials, success stories and so on.

Showing just how valuable a donor’s time and money to your organization on a repeated basis is crucial to the fourth and final piece of the puzzle: building loyalty.

  • Identify the programs your organization uses to help people. Tailor your Web messaging to these programs, and show donors through text and action pictures how their money is going to work for them.
  • Determine how much money your group needs to raise through your Web site. Have a target in mind, a goal to shoot for.
  • Setup and test your online donations mechanism. Make sure it works properly, is easy-to-use and generally doesn’t have bugs that cause donors to give up before completing a transaction. Make sure your site is also completely secure, and your information gathering of addresses and credit card numbers respects your donors’ privacy.
  • Confirm and affirm donations via acknowledgment screens and e-mails. Personalize them based on the amount of money they are donating, and to which program they are donating to.
What other ideas have worked for your non-profit when it comes to marketing? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

This post is from contributing writer Zachary Houle, who has been published in SPIN magazine, Canadian Business, The National Post and the book, TVParty!: Television’s Untold Tales. He was nominated for a U.S. Pushcart Prize for his writing, and also received an arts grant from the City of Ottawa in 2005 to complete a short story collection.

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