Marketing is important – even when you’re a nonprofit without a traditional product or service. In fact, it’s especially indispensable because you’re a nonprofit without a traditional product or service: You’re asking people to give you their money without a tangible value exchange. Marketing can highlight your appeal and trustworthiness, and draw in support for your cause.

Of course, when you’re a small or not-as-yet-well-known nonprofit, you probably don’t have a big budget. You may not be able to hire a marketing team, for example, or work with an agency. As such, you may have no choice but to do the marketing work yourself.

In this guide, Online Impacts takes a look at whether you could realistically be your own marketing department and what the work may involve. We offer some marketing suggestions as well if you do take this route.    

What does nonprofit marketing involve?

Nonprofit marketing is similar to “for-profit” marketing, says Chron – the primary difference being the fact that you’re raising funds in support of your mission, whereas for-profiters are selling a product or service. You will still be using traditional marketing strategies to meet your goals.

However, the emphasis will be (or should ideally be) on developing lasting relationships with well-off citizens. Wealthy people who can write you a sizable check are, comparatively, few in number. Also, building a long-term relationship can pay off because, in theory, there is no upper ceiling on the amount of money they can give you. You shouldn’t aim for a one-time donation, essentially.

Marketing your nonprofit is necessary for trust-building

Trust in nonprofits among Americans, reports TrueSense, is at an all-time low of 50 percent. People have, unfortunately, become more cynical about charity. There’s a belief that nonprofits squander money, which isn’t entirely unfounded. There are many reports of nonprofits doing just that. 

This is where marketing comes in. It makes you more transparent and helps build trust:

  • Awareness: Marketing allows you to share details of your cause, whether that’s social justice or animal welfare. You can tell people what you’re doing, and why.
  • Transparency: Transparency is essential to trust. With savvy marketing, you can show people that you operate ethically. Knowing their money is being put to good use gives people peace of mind.
  • Reputation: Self-promotion is a part of marketing. It makes your company seem professional and legitimate. It also allows you to stand out from other nonprofits.
  • Support: Finally, marketing attracts support from people. This can be in the form of money or other goods, volunteers willing to work for you, or partners willing to aid your cause.

Could you do it on your own?

The short answer is yes, you can. The longer answer is you’ll have to invest a significant amount of time in the endeavor and be open to constantly learning new things. Also, unless you’re naturally good or lucky, you may not generate the kind of results you wanted right off the bat. You may be better off doing some tasks yourself and outsourcing other key tasks to an expert. 

Should you work with a marketing expert?

Only you can answer this question. You should consider your budget and goals. Marketing experts can make your life easier and bring your ideas to life. They could even be your marketing department. Keep in mind that regardless of what you use them for, you still need to provide the initial vision and structure. If you’re sharing ideas with an expert, it may be easier to document them in written form using images and graphics for support and share them in the professional PDF format. You can use a JPG to PDF converter to minimize file sizes, manipulate files, retain image quality, and share them. 

You market via channels

Marketing channels are the mediums you use to reach your target audience. Think of them as a pipeline that delivers your message. Below are some of the most popular channels in use in 2022:

  • Social media: Social media allows you to reach people through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more. It’s convenient, fast, and affordable. You can make lasting connections in your region and beyond.  
  • Email marketing: Email marketing is old, but it’s still effective in 2022 – but only if you use it right. For the most effective email marketing, for instance, you need to use subject lines that catch the consumers’ attention and speak to their needs and interests.
  • Online marketing: You can build a website, launch a blog, advertise, tie up with other marketers, and more.
  • Offline marketing: Offline marketing is using traditional mediums like billboards, business cards, magazines, car wraps, tattoos, and more.
  • Partnerships: Partnerships are linking up with other companies, including for-profits, to promote each other.
  • Events: Hosting offline and online events like seminars, webinars, virtual tours, live streaming, conferences, trade shows, and more allow you to push your business forward.

Which channels should you use?

Email, social media, and content marketing are the top-recommended marketing channels for nonprofits. Email and social media marketing, especially, allow you to share information cost-effectively and build relationships with your audience directly. They’re personalized and transparent. But can and should use any channel that you think would bring you your desired results.   

What is “messaging” in marketing and what should be your message?

Marketing messages are the communication you have with your target audience. This not only includes actual words and phrases used but also emotions and ideas. Your message should be aligned with the identity of your non-profit. It should be something that resonates with your audience and engages them. Crafting the right message is as much an art as it is science.

Launching non-profit fundraising campaigns

Launching a fundraiser will likely be your primary business activity as a nonprofit. This can be a complicated process, needless to say. Having a go-to marketing strategy template can help you generate interest in your campaign and keep your marketing goals on track. This is similar to a marketing plan template (used by marketers) and documents your business plan, marketing strategy, and information relevant to your product’s release. Instead of creating a template from scratch, you can use this to go market plan template. It’ll allow you to conveniently streamline the process from beginning to end.

What does the typical process of launching a fundraiser look like? It’s identifying a cause, setting a fundraising goal, creating a campaign outline, setting out a timeline, allocating resources (like money and people), and launching the fundraiser.

If you want your campaign to be successful, you will need to back it up with a marketing campaign to generate interest, as mentioned previously. Here is what the typical process looks like:

  1. Have marketing goals

Marketing goals are different from your fundraiser goals. The goal of your fundraiser, for example, could be generating an “X” amount of money in a “Y” amount of days. Your marketing goals, on the other hand, would be related to marketing. Some examples are engaging with an “X” number of people or increasing search engine traffic by a “Y” amount. Experts recommend you set SMART goals.  

  1. Research your ideal audience

Identifying your ideal audience is the next step. Your ideal audience is the people who’d benefit your nonprofit the most. In most cases, this would be the wealthy people. Although you may not want to rule out other people either. Everyone can support you – if not monetarily, then in other ways.

  1. Come up with a message

Next, you craft a message that can appeal to your audience. Ideally, this should be something that incites them to action, without being too forceful or morally preachy. For example, you could gently share a story about a life their donation would change, preferably with details about the person they would be helping.

  1. Use a strategy to push the message

Your marketing strategy involves using the right marketing channel to push the right message to the right audience. The goal of every strategy is to “convert” your audience or get them on board with your cause. You can take a look at top strategies and trends before creating one for your company.

How do you tell if your marketing initiative had an impact?

You have to measure your results to determine the success of your marketing campaign. Then, ideally, you should use the findings to refine your process and make it better for the next turn around the block.

How do you measure the results of your marketing campaign? You identify key marketing metrics and then run the numbers (by yourself or using software). Some key metrics to check include sales revenue, leads, costs per lead (CPL), lifetime value (LTV), return on ad spend (ROAS), traffic, and the performance of the marketing campaign. If many people come to you, you know you did something right.


Being your marketing department may be a time-consuming endeavor, but it’s by no means impossible. Give it a shot and be open to learning, and you are bound to succeed. You can always reach out to Online Impacts for guidance and help with your marketing and other nonprofit-related business endeavors.  

Image via Unsplash

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