8 Easy Steps to Marketing Your Nonprofit Organization

Simple strategies that will grow your nonprofit and reach new donors

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••• © Ingetje Tadros / Getty Images

If your nonprofit's marketing consists of periodically updating your website and holding an annual benefit gala, then you're missing important opportunities. Consistent marketing is as essential for growing and maintaining a nonprofit as it is for businesses.

Learning how to market your nonprofit doesn't have to be complicated. There are many easy actions you can take to reach your target audience, educate the public, and increase support for your mission. These eight steps will jumpstart your marketing efforts and set you on the path to reaching your organization's goals.

Why Your Nonprofit Needs Marketing

Even the most altruistic organization can't do much good unless people know about it. Your nonprofit needs strong relationships with donors, volunteers, the media, and even government organizations in order to pursue its mission effectively.

Marketing helps your nonprofit:

  • Spread your message and mission statement
  • Bring in new donors and new revenue
  • Satisfy current donors by showcasing your success
  • Create strong relationships with other organizations and government agencies
  • Gain exposure in the media
  • Alert the public to important events and news
  • Reach more people with the work you do

How to Market Your Nonprofit

Your organization's marketing efforts should be ongoing in order to maintain your relationships, bring in consistent donations, and keep your work in the public eye. Even if your nonprofit doesn't have the budget for a dedicated marketing team, there are still steps that every staff member can help out with to create a marketing plan.

1. Determine Your Target Market

Before you can take action to market your organization, you need to know who you are trying to reach and what you want them to do.

  • What is their age or gender?
  • What is their income level?
  • Do they trust certain news sources?
  • What social media platforms do they use?
  • What's the best way to contact them?
  • What issues are most likely to stir their interest?
  • Do you want them to donate, volunteer, join your organization, or spread the word?

Once you know who your audience is and where they can be found, you can tailor your marketing efforts to reach them and prompt them to take action. You may find it helpful to research organizations similar to yours to see how they market themselves to the same audience.

2. Set Measurable Goals

You won't know whether your nonprofit marketing is effective unless you know what you're trying to achieve. Having measurable goals gives you a way to evaluate what is working and what needs to change.

The goals you set should make sense for your organization and mission and may include:

  • Donations or revenue
  • Email list sign-ups
  • Donor/member retention
  • New donors/members
  • Yearly initiatives you want to achieve
  • The number of people you can help, events you can hold, or any other service your nonprofit provides

Once you set your goals, strategize with your team to determine how you'll measure progress toward reaching them.

3. Create Marketing Materials

Do you mail brochures or postcards? Send thank-you notes to donors? Are you likely to make appearances or have an information table at events? Do your staff members use business cards?

Any time you interact with the public, your nonprofit needs marketing materials. These materials should be branded for your organization and include information that showcases the accomplishments, services, and values of your organization, along with information about how to get involved or where to donate.

Larger nonprofits may have an in-house art department to put these marketing materials together. If your organization is smaller, look for a local graphic design shop. For nonprofits on a tight budget, you may get a better price from a freelancer who doesn't have the same overhead and staffing costs of a design firm.

4. Set a Social Media Strategy

A social media marketing strategy is a cost-effective way to reach new donors and gain popular exposure. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can provide an avenue for reaching a large number of people interested in your organization.

Rather than trying to be active on every social media platform out there, identify the two or three platforms where your target market is most likely to be found. Then, focus your energy and marketing efforts there.

The best part of this type of marketing is that social media has no physical boundaries. You can connect with people in your own backyard or those halfway around the globe, allowing you to expand the reach of your nonprofit.

5. Update (or Create) Your Website

A key part of your nonprofit's internet marketing presence is creating a professional-looking website and updating it regularly. If you don't have a website, or if it hasn't been updated recently, you'll need to invest some time and money in it to create a pathway for online marketing.

Your website shares important information such as:

  • Your nonprofit's history and mission
  • Breaking news
  • Upcoming events and initiatives
  • Success stories
  • Press coverage
  • How to donate money or volunteer

You want a website that looks professional and trustworthy if you want visitors to leave with a positive impression of your organization. If there is someone web-savvy on your nonprofit staff, they may be able to create a simple website by purchasing and editing a design template. Otherwise, you'll need to hire a designer.

Once your website is built, monthly updates should be part of how you market your nonprofit. Frequent updates improve your website search engine optimization, which makes it easier for people to find you online. Updates also tell important people, like donors and the media, that you are an active and involved organization.

6. Create a Database

Once you have your marketing materials in place, it's time to start using them. But you can't do that until you develop a database of current and prospective members.

Regular and carefully planned communication is key to convincing people to donate or get involved. You can use your database to plan marketing initiatives such as:

  • Special mailings
  • Follow-up phone calls
  • Event invitations
  • Newsletters
  • Media outreach
  • Yearly donation drives

A database allows you to divide your audience into groups based on a number of factors, such as whether they have already donated, their income level, or if they prefer to be contacted by email or regular mail. This is known as market segmentation, and it helps your nonprofit market in the most cost-effective and effective way possible.

7. Showcase Your Results

Your marketing should showcase not only the mission of your nonprofit but also the tangible results you've achieved. Success stories motivate current members to stay involved, attract new members, and create an interesting angle for media coverage.

Showcase your results through:

  • Emails or mailings to donors
  • Press releases
  • Website updates
  • Local or national events
  • Op-eds in local or national news outlets

Share information about fundraising results, the people or organizations that have benefited from your nonprofit's work, projects you've completed, laws you've influenced, or other concrete measures of success.

8. Form Partnerships

Marketing your nonprofit isn't always a solo activity. Strategic partnerships can expand the reach of your marketing efforts.

Look for ways to work with the people or organizations who are in sync with your mission and can help advance your work. These could be other nonprofits with similar or parallel objectives, local volunteer groups, businesses looking for philanthropy partnerships, or government agencies.

And don't forget media coverage. Share your expertise with reporters who are looking for sources about timely issues, or send a press release about your organization's achievements to media outlets. This step alone often brings substantial enrichment and marketing opportunities to nonprofit organizations.