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Every year, the nonprofit industry continues to grow. As more and more organizations enter the scene, the need to become competitive is ever more essential as it's the only way to ensure success. Marketing plays a crucial role in this aspect, and with a well-defined online marketing strategy, reaching your target audience and the results you want are more than ever before.
Nonprofit marketing is all about getting the name out there, as it will allow you to connect with potential supporters and generate results. This holds true in the online world as well. However, to ensure success, it's essential to broaden your horizon, and don't focus on only having an up-to-date website.
Dedication and perseverance are also outstanding. Aside from that, knowing some of the most common mistakes and misconceptions regarding nonprofit marketing can also help you in the long run, and we're here to discuss just that.
1. You Will Never Run Out of Donors
One of the most common misconceptions is that, since it's a nonprofit organization, there will always be a group of people who would be interested in lending a hand. Although this might be true, you have to consider that there are also other nonprofit organizations out there.
Loyalty shifts based on the type of audience-- the non-donors who are not familiar with the organization; the non-donors who know the organization, and the donors. Each audience is expecting a particular content from the organization, and these groups correspond perfectly to the stages of the donor funnel-- the prospecting, cultivation, and stewardship.
Failure to focus on what these groups of people need would result in having your prospects switch to another nonprofit organization. You can keep an eye on what your donors want by monitoring their interaction with your website and other online tools like email marketing analytics.
To fix this, make sure that your content is educational to increase the chances of attracting potential donors, and once you get their interest, this raises the possibility that they'll slowly convert into donors.
The 2012 State of the Work Report shows that “people of color make up 37 percent of program offices at foundations…21 percent of U.S. managerial/professional workforce, but only 10-17 percent of CEO and board leadership at foundations” (Ryan, 2012, p. 5). How, then, shall one convince rigid institutions to prioritize diversity and inclusion? One example of a strategy is apparent in the story of Gallaudet University, a college for the deaf (Ryan, 2012, p. 3). In 1988, the chairman hired a hearing individual as board president. Students protested: Gallaudet is an institution that aims to empower deaf students, but had never allowed a deaf individual to ascend to its highest ranks. This was contradictory and limiting. Eventually, their protest worked and a deaf candidate was hired. Another strategy this report suggests is to help the organization recognize the cost of remaining at the status quo. How will staying singular in its approach to staffing damage a nonprofit organization’s reputation? A nonprofit not only needs to reflect its community through staffing, but genuinely hear and act upon diverse voices.
How can nonprofits successfully integrate a country’s diverse workforce? In a recent study, researchers found that “a board that has greater gender diversity has more effective governance practices and is more likely to have policies and practices related to diversity” (Buse, Bernstein, Bilimoria, 2014, p. 187). The same study found that an increase in racial diversity, when coupled with diversity policies, practices and inclusion behaviors, affected governance practices positively.
For nonprofit organizations, it is imperative to pay close attention to fundraising opportunities. As the economy continues to change, your donors need as much information and contact with your organization as possible if you want to attract qualified volunteers and increase donations throughout the year.
That is why we have gathered some of the nonprofit marketing & fundraising trends that you should look out for in 2018. You can use these trends to help your organization grow and hit your goals this year. Many of these topics will strengthen your nonprofit beyond just marketing.
1. Website Encryption Becomes Serious Business
We rely on technology so much, and because of that, internet security has become one of the most critical factors for nonprofits. Similar to the threats faced by businesses, nonprofits need to protect the personal information of their donors and volunteers. Your organization needs to deliver a secure and trusted experience to your community as they interact with your online presence.
There has been a rise in the number of hacked websites since 2016, and there are no signs that it's going to stop anytime soon. This lead to hackers taking full advantage of website vulnerability, to the point that even government agencies suffered from this.
Because nonprofit organizations manage and store a lot of relevant information from their business partners and donors, it's essential to ensure that the information being shared with them remains safe.
Website encryption has become one of the prime trends for 2018. It's crucial to transfer your website (if you haven't yet), from HTTP to HTTPS, which encrypts your site together with all the interactions that took place on it.
Many nonprofits are amazing at building a compelling message and having an impact on their community. However, many nonprofit organizations are not familiar with how marketing works, so their ability to reach their community is often undermined and their potential is not fully realized.
Nonprofit marketing is more than just making a sale or securing a donation. Marketing focuses more on satisfying the needs of the consumer and prospective donors, and as a result, a strong nonprofit marketing strategy can help you achieve your organizational goals.
That said, here is a foolproof guide on how to make a successful nonprofit marketing plan.
1. Start by Setting a Goal for Your Organization
As we talk about nonprofit marketing, setting a goal is probably the most crucial step you should not ignore.
These are all vital to understand how you will develop a marketing strategy for your nonprofit.
More importantly, you have to focus on one primary goal, instead of having multiple targets all at once. This holds true, especially for those who are just starting up with only a small team. It is almost impossible to work on several tasks with limited time or resources.
On the other hand, by focusing on one primary goal, success will follow. Here is an idea of what your primary goal can be:
As you establish your marketing goals, make sure that it is something that you can directly connect to your organizational growth objectives. For example, we all want to raise awareness for our organization, however, what would be the outcome once that happens? What do we want to accomplish at the end of the day?
As the nonprofit sector continues to grow and expand, the number of nonprofit organizations increase, funding becomes more competitive and resources become scarce. However, nonprofit leaders can combine operational and programmatic strategies through collaboration to combine resources and funding in order to increase social efforts. Witesman and Heiss (2016) define collaboration: ‘‘when different nonprofit organizations work together to address problems through joint effort, resources, and decision-making and share ownership of the final product or service’’ (Witesman, Heiss, 2016, p. 1502).
Possible threats, such as funding cuts, lack of stakeholder/donor involvement and ineffective leadership, have the ability to weaken nonprofits and can result in creation of duplicating organizations or efforts in order to serve social issues (Suárez, 2010). However, collaboration has the ability to strengthen the sector by combining weak nonprofits with strong nonprofits to assist in overall greater community impact. By collaborating, nonprofits can improve operational efficiency, bridge community gaps and program disparities, accumulate funding and increase fundraising efforts.
Collaboration was extremely effective in bridging gaps within the juvenile justice and foster care systems found in a study by the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being. Data was compiled from various studies which included children and their families within the child welfare system and researchers noticed that between 40 and 86 percent of these children involved in child welfare or juvenile justice systems were seriously emotionally disturbed and a high number of these children remained untreated (Chuang, 2010).
Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) is defined as the ? “integration of human resources management (HRM) with the strategic mission of the organization. It adapts human resources policies and practices to meet the challenges that agencies face today, as well as those they will face in the future” (Pynes, 2013, xvii). Human Resources are necessary, as employees are the greatest asset for an organization. SHRM is vital to an organization because it is utilized to attract, retain and develop the associates who are considered the ‘best fit’. Businesses have recognized that SHRM is a beneficial practice because hiring employees is a costly endeavor. How a workforce is treated will affect the overall productivity. Staff development, a component of SHRM, is important because “Organizations use training and development to improve the skills of employees and develop their capacity to cope with the constantly changing demands of the work environment” (Pynes, 2013, 276).
The choice to plan and implement professional development strategies can prevent turnover, especially when it comes to quality employees who expect to be invested in. While staff development is important for businesses in the for-profit sector, there should be a continued driving force to invest in strategic human resources in the social sector as well. Nonprofits follow vastly different missions from one another and the assumption is that employees who choose to work for these organizations have more intrinsic-based motivations than their partners in the other sectors (Riddles & McCandless, 2008).
As public-facing and serving organizations, nonprofits are held to higher ethical standards than their business counterparts are. (“Ethics,” 2017). Given that nonprofits must operate in a wide variety of complex environments, they must work diligently to continuously create innovate strategies to meet the needs and expectations of their diverse stakeholder populations (Benjamin, 2012).
To avoid stakeholder resistance, or action caused by dissatisfaction by organizations’ responsiveness to stakeholders, nonprofits must actively pursue opportunities to gain the trust of their donor base (Meiksins, 2014). Organizational transparency, the disclosure of operational, financial, and decision-making information, remains a significant factor in the formation of the public’s trust in an organization’s mission and intent. Accountability, like transparency, is nothing new to the nonprofit sector, nor are the hard-hitting questions and demands put forth by donors. The accountability of organizations, defined as the obligation to deliver defined impactful results, is often up for debate as the sector grows, new donor expectations emerge, and funder conditions diversify (Ebrahim, 2003).
Preventative measures such as performance evaluations, self-regulation policies, effective donor communication approaches, ethical leadership, and social auditing serve as accountability enforcers in various capacities within an organization. Nonprofits have experienced benefits such as increased public trust, strengthened ethical conduct, increased donor confidence, and improved financial integrity as a result of applying accountability strategies within their organizational culture. As such, nonprofit organizations must be proactive in creating effective accountability strategies to recruit new donors and further engage current donors (LeRoux, 2009).
Below are the top five strategies that nonprofits need to create and sustain a robust and loyal donor base:
Like Bob Ottenhoff, CEO of Guidstar USA, said, “the era of assumed virtue in the nonprofit sector is over…people want to know how their contributions are being used (Rooney, 2011).” Nonprofits owe it to their donor base to hold their leadership, staff and programs to high standards in order to better meet the needs of their beneficiaries. Performance evaluations serve as vehicles to message organizational mission realization and impact. Annual reviews, staff surveys and beneficiary evaluations work to provide donors with the satisfaction of knowing their monies are being put to good use. Organizations that do not have effective evaluation systems run the risk of not only turning off high performing employees, but also putting their funds in jeopardy by not responding to donors’ pleas of high performance.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of gaining visibility on search engines, like Google. As Google now controls the majority of internet traffic, SEO has become a booming business, driving customers and brand visibility to virtually every sector of commerce.
However, at its essence SEO is about profit motive. No surprise there, as SEO is slated to become a 80 Billion dollar industry by 2020. Therefore, the question is whether it can be a viable strategy for nonprofits. Can SEO be a worthwhile investment for charities and other nonprofit organizations?
The Short Answer – Yes!
Yes, SEO is certainly a viable strategy for nonprofits. Two general strategies would be most effective for leveraging SEO:
Let us dive into the specifics below.
“Money” Keywords and Online Donations
This section will bear the most resemblance to standard (profit-based) SEO. Finding popular search keywords that have a clear buyer (or in this case, donor) intent, and optimizing for those keywords. Just a quick bit of keyword research shows that there are many keywords worth targeting:
These types of keywords show a pretty clear intent by the user for an almost immediate donation to a non-profit. The cost-per-click (CPC) also shows that there is commercial value in these keywords (i.e. organizations are willing to pay up to $33 for a single click of “donate car to charity”).
For this type of SEO to be effective, organizations must research exactly what keywords are most relevant and popular in order to develop highly SEO optimized landing pages to target those keywords. An SEO agency is generally best equipped to perform these tasks.
Adult beverages are often part of the routine checklist when hosting nonprofit events. Open bars seem the ideal solution because it brings in money and it eliminates the need for guests to serve themselves. However, there are several points to consider before setting up an open bar in order for it to become a successful component of your event.
Insurance and Liability
If your organization is a large entity and you regularly host events that serve alcohol, it is likely that liquor liability is included with your nonprofit's insurance. However, never presume; always double check, and confirm with your insurance provider. If you're new to the NPO world, consult your state and local laws about social host liability. This coverage typically protects you from hazardous actions and behavior conducted by intoxicated guests, including self-harm. Coverage may also be the responsibility of the hosting venue, whether it's a community center, civic hall, or someone's home.
Requirements vary between states, which is why it's important to research all of the intricacies. Even if you don't foresee regularly hosting fundraisers that serve alcohol, it's usually possible to obtain a temporary permit for the occasion in question. It's also a good idea to hire professional bartenders, who are insured for their services.
Provide Varied Menus and Activities
There is nothing wrong with providing adult beverages for guests, and a cash/open bar may prove profitable. Yet make sure to also provide a range of non-alcoholic drinks, to accommodate those who cannot or do not drink liquor, and to offset alcohol consumption for those who do. Offer more than bottled water – include flavored seltzers and iced teas, as well as a coffee and tea station. Discuss “mocktails” with your bartenders, and promote those drinks at the bar.
Always keep snacks available, even if it's simply crudité platters, mini desserts, and other small and light finger foods. Remember that high-sodium foods such as chips and pretzels tend to make people thirstier, which some may quench with more alcohol.
Additionally, give guests things to do other than drink, and plan “last call” about one hour before the dancing, live music, games, and fun photo ops end. These activities, along with a continued round of food; also allow the effects of alcohol to wane.
Many nonprofit organizations are getting onboard in the digital world and have found the website builder which best fits their needs and budget.
There is much more you can squeeze out of your website just by tweaking or adding a few things to give your nonprofit the jump it needs to stand out.
I want to break down six best practices that can add to your nonprofit website. These tips will help grow your cause and take it to the next level.
1. Stay Transparent
According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, one in three Americans lack confident in charities they are considering donating to. That number is high, and not a statistic you want to be a part of.
Do the following to help:
2. Make Sure You're Mobile Friendly
Most readers will be on a mobile device and you have to make sure it’s easy for them to read, scan and navigate on them. Google and other search engines consider this a huge thing. Make sure you consider this an important factor as well.
3. Optimize Your Main Donation Page
Many charities are making it super simple to donate. You need to focus on decreasing the time it takes and get it down to as few clicks as possible. This will increase your conversion percentage as well.
A few other things to do: