How to Market Your Nonprofit on a Shoestring Budget

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If you work or are associated with the nonprofit sector, then you know the vast majority of organizations in the U.S. are small. They operate with limited resources and a small financial margin. A challenge for many of these groups is marketing.

We all know that advertising and marketing are essential to helping spread awareness about your vital mission and work in the community. But, one of the critical questions is how to market your nonprofit with limited funds effectively. There’s always a way to market your organization. The only difference is that when you’re on a limited budget, you have to be a little creative.

Speak Publicly

I understand that a sizable majority of people do not like to do any public speaking. However, obtaining training and being creative about your public speaking will help you to get the word out about your organization personally. Additionally, the more you speak in public, the easier it will become. The reality is that people want to hear about what you’re doing and opportunities for public speaking about your work through your local chamber of commerce, video conferences or through the media will help people understand the need and the issues related to your mission.

Email Marketing

There has been a lot of discussion about the end of emails, as there has also been talk about the end of direct mail. They both still work. We use email marketing every month, and our approach is to use a two-email method. We send out an initial email, which has been designed so that it is visually appealing. About a week later, we send a follow-up email to anyone who opened the first email. We have a solid open rate, and we’ve been able to convert prospects into partners with that approach consistently.

Partnerships

A great way to expand beyond your current base of supporters is to reach out to organizations or businesses that are aligned with your work and discuss strategic opportunities. Let’s say you have an animal rescue organization. Perhaps you can reach out to local animal supply stores in the area and see about maybe creating an event together or asking them to send emails about the animals in your rescue shelter on your behalf. It’s a win/win situation because it provides a broader audience for your organization, but it also helps the store appear as a good corporate citizen.

LinkedIn

Everyone knows about the use of social media, but one of the best social networking platforms is LinkedIn, and it’s typically not viewed as a way to engage with new people. By getting into conversations about topics that are meaningful to your work and also LinkedIn group members, you can become viewed as an expert in the field. For instance, if you work at a school or educational organization, you can join a couple of LinkedIn groups and discuss educational policy or issues. It will increase the visibility of your organization and at some point may even provide new opportunities because people see that you’re active, a leader and informed.

Search Engine Optimization

We all operate in the digital era and when people are looking to become informed about something they first go to the internet, whether it’s on their mobile, tablet or desktop. You have to invest in becoming the organization that when someone does a search related to your work, your group appears on the first page and, ideally, as the first result in the search. If you don’t have the expertise internally, ask your board or see about finding a well-respected expert in SEO to help build your keywords and search engine result placement (SERP). My team and I have focused extensively on SEO and it has paid dividends.

Website

I know that this one may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many groups don’t have websites that are effective. To ensure that your website is doing what it’s supposed to be doing when the public visits it, make sure that your site is fast. Your site has to load quickly, as in 3 seconds. You also have to have a website that is less on written content and more on video and images, clearly states what it is that you do, has your social media links, address and contact information and provides the public value-add information, such as a blog.

Event or Class

You want to have as many people get involved with you as possible, and one of the best ways to do it is not to ask people for donations from the beginning. If you do, you might get a quick donation, but because there is no relationship, you likely won’t get ongoing gifts. Therefore, something you might want to consider is providing an open house or event in your community so people get to know who you are and the work you do. You can have guest speakers, perhaps people who have been served by your work and a chance for people to learn something related to your mission. If, for example, your group works in healthcare, perhaps creating an event where the community has the opportunity to learn about a healthy diet or CPR will persuade people to attend. The idea is to give people a reason to want to get to your event and see what you’re about in your community.

One of the most critical aspects of marketing is remembering that you want to place yourself in the shoes of the public. You want to think about what your donors and supporters desire to see when they engage with your organization. When you keep the public, donors and supporters top of mind in all of your marketing efforts, even the low-cost ones, you will see how a small investment of time and effort will pay off, if it is done consistently and executed well with them in mind.