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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Nonprofit Marketing: Beyond Social Media

As the owner of a Miami based SEO and digital marketing agency, I've helped hundreds of businesses solve complicated marketing problems. I can honestly say that the most challenging clients have been non-profit organizations. The combination of low funding, manpower and resources make it extremely difficult to complete your mission statement and make a positive change in the world.

When your organization is working with this many moving pieces, a lot of important tasks tend to get de-emphasized. In my tenure the most common task that falls by the wayside is having a concrete marketing plan. A marketing plan is easily overlooked in a non-profit organization because it gets lost behind the goals, ideals, values and mission statement. What most non-profits fail to realize is that a marketing plan should go hand in hand with your mission statement and will ultimately maximize your impact on the world.

Creating a solid marketing plan is vital for your success, and actually, simple to do. Sometimes it’s just as simple as getting your team in a room and having a brainstorming session is all that it takes. The following is a high level plan that has worked for my clients:

  1. Identify the goals of your organization (increase donors, spread awareness, etc)
  2. Identify quantifiable goals for the next 1 year, 3 years and 10 years (reach 1,000,000 new people, increase donors by x%, etc)
  3. Identify all marketing channels (website, social media, networking events, cold calling, etc)
  4. Identify industry benchmarks (in other words, what marketing channels are other organizations using to meet their goals)
  5. Identify most successful channels based on the goals of your organizations (which channels drive the most donations? Which channels have the highest engagement?)
  6. Identify the costs and resources of each of your marketing channels (how many people does it take to run your Facebook page, how much are you spending on advertisements, etc)
  7. Develop marketing strategy that utilizes your most effective (and cost effective) marketing channels that will help your organization meet it's goals

Many organizations skip this process and the results are detrimental. They end up spending frivolously on marketing or allocate resources to free mediums like social media in an attempt to save money. While social media should play an integral piece, your organization has to allocate more money and time to marketing, build skills, identify targets, and expand beyond social networks.  

Many organizations concentrate heavily social networking because it’s free, easy to use and gives the false sense of success (i.e. more followers do NOT equal more donations). Developing an extensive marketing strategy can help your organization avoid this trap. Social networking should be used as an add on to your marketing plan – it shouldn't BE your marketing plan.

Without an engaging website and e-newsletter, even the best social networking campaign won’t generate more donors or clients. Social networking needs to be a part of a general online marketing strategy, not the “be all, finish all” of the organization’s marketing.

A perfect example of this is the 4Cs foundation, a Canadian based foundation that aims to bolster fine arts projects in public schools. The foundation teamed up with two marketing agencies (SEO Plus and Foster SEO) to help drive more awareness for their cause. The first thing the two agencies did was an audit of their entire organization to review their marketing channels. They found that the foundation had a large following on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but these communities had a very low engagement level.

The agencies put their heads together and came up with a concrete marketing plan that would use these large communities as a springboard to grow their other marketing channels. They developed a highly interactive landing page on their website and used these existing communities to visit the landing page and gave incentive to share the link to their own followers. This effort help to drive over 20,000 newsletter subscribers that doubled their donor base in just 3 months time.

The bottom line is simple: you have to invest in your organizations marketing strategy. To pawn such a vital role off on a part time volunteer by sending out a few Tweets will not get the job done. Instead, incorporate other methods than social media, train your staff and invest in your marketing – it will pay massive dividends in the long run. 

Ryan Stewart is a digital marketing consultant with over 8 years of experience working with some of the world's top brands like UNICEF and the Department of Defense. He currently owns Webris, a Miami based digital marketing agency specializing in search engine marketing. Ryan also holds a Master's in Business Administration from the University of Florida.


ASU Lodestar Center Blog