Human beings are naturally social creatures. We strive to make connections. Community engagement and outreach are especially important for building a successful nonprofit. Not only to gain recognition but to become a recognized and respected part of the community.
This is an opportunity to form relationships with fellow community members and to encourage people to support your cause. At the end of the day, outreach is about the human experience.
Diversify Your Approach.
It’s important to understand the type of audience you are trying to reach. Try to think about their motivations and their challenges to better understand how to create a message that will resonate with them. Consider how to implement methods to increase engagement with this audience.
Resorting to email as the only form of outreach is not advised. Mix it up a little and incorporate phone calls, networking, and even snail mail into your approach. Traditional mail is often overlooked, but if you can give your audience something that is tangible and starts a conversation, they’re likely to remember you.
By being transparent about your values and intentions, your audience will have that initial reaction to trust your organization and ideally seek out more information. Here are nine tips to consider when thinking about how to increase your engagement.
Top Nine Tips to Consider:
Encourage discussion to forge relationships
Participate in local events
Be a partner for your community
Target the leaders on the ground
Use your space to inform your neighbors
Leverage the community for knowledge
Let ambassadors lead the way
Be consistent and get involved
Create mutually beneficial opportunities
To break it all down, what is most important to consider when building a successful outreach approach is creating a human connection. Go out into the community, talk to people, ask questions, attend networking events, get on the ground floor and engage with industry thought-leaders. This process will help you to understand what they value as well as give you the opportunity to connect with local ambassadors and form relationships that will be mutually beneficial. Now get out there and start making some connections!
We would love to hear your opinion on Nonprofits that you think are rockstars with their outreach.
Take a close look at the people who make up your nonprofit. Don’t just note the board members, but also consider the paid staff, volunteers, and supporters. Does your organization represent a diverse group of individuals, coming from different backgrounds and making up different cultures? If not, you’re missing out.
The good news is, it’s never too late to expand your nonprofit. Here are a few tips to help you get your board, as well as your team, involved in creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive nonprofit.
Understand the Benefits Yourself
You can’t fully explain the benefits to your board members and staff without first understanding them yourself. When you have diversity among your team, volunteers, and supporters, your organization has access to a broader range of ideas, as well as being able to reach larger groups of people in your community. Stressing the benefits to your organization’s bottom line may be all you need to get everyone on board.
Know Your Biases
Biases are embedded deep in our thinking. So deep, in fact, you might not even realize them. Plan a retreat or at least a dedicated workshop where a diversity expert guides your team through the process of realizing these biases and overcoming them. If you prefer to lead the gathering yourself, there are plenty of tools and quizzes you can use to help everyone identify how they might not be as inclusive as they think.
Go Beyond Hiring and Recruiting
It can be tempting for conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion to focus entirely on hiring and recruiting. You may even discuss reaching out to expand your supporter base. But these practices also apply to your ongoing operations. Since employees who feel their voice is heard at work are more likely to perform better, it’s important to ensure everyone on your team has the opportunity to express their ideas. This goes for your volunteers, as well. Regularly offer everyone involved in your organization the opportunity to speak up, but make sure in doing so that team members and volunteers of color and with disabilities always have an equal voice.
Come Up with an Action Plan
Once you’ve agreed to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion in your organization, draw up an action plan your organization can follow. You shouldn’t have a separate diversity statement for your team to read and use. Instead, it should be woven into every policies and procedures document you create, including your mission statement. Make sure, from the start, that any documentation board members, volunteers, and staff use to do their work is as inclusive as possible. This will ensure diversity is part of your core organizational operating procedures, rather than something you’re simply working on improving.
By stressing the importance of inclusion to everyone involved in your organization, you’ll be able to create a team that brings a variety of perspectives to everything you do. Once you have a plan in place, regularly revisit it to ensure that you’re accomplishing all your goals.
If you’re going to start a business, Google is a must-have for all of your needs. It’s especially beneficial for nonprofits, not only for its free office suite but also for the many advertising and marketing options it offers.
Recognizing this value, Google launched Google for Nonprofits, an offering that helps some not-for-profit organizations by providing them with free premium services. If you’re approved, you could win free ad spend, YouTube annotations that help generate donations and much more. But since many nonprofits are still trying to unwrap all of the information out there about Google for Nonprofits, you’ll have an advantage by fully understanding the program.
What Is Google for Nonprofits?
There’s no charge to apply for Google for Nonprofits, which provides premium services for free. You apply and, if approved, get access to services specific to your organization’s needs. Those may include some of the following:
You’re probably already familiar with G Suite, previously known as Google Apps. You’ll get free access to email, word processing, and spreadsheet solutions, but that’s available to everyone. Qualified nonprofits also get free unlimited email accounts ending in your nonprofit’s domain, double the storage space and 24/7 human support by phone, chat or email.
This app presents a different nonprofit each day for consideration to donors. As an approved nonprofit, you’ll be eligible to be one of the featured organizations here.
Before you apply, you’ll want to make sure you qualify. This program is only eligible to nonprofits that are registered as such, a fact that will be verified with TechSoup, a Google partner that specializes in helping nonprofits. Unfortunately, Google for Nonprofits isn’t available for government organizations, hospitals or healthcare organizations, or academic institutions like universities. There are additional requirements specific to each country. For the U.S., those include providing proof of being an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3), even if you aren’t normally required to have that recognition. Churches, for instance, are automatically considered tax-exempt, but they’d have to get documentation from the IRS in order to qualify for Google for Nonprofits.
How to Apply
Once you’ve verified you meet the criteria, you’re ready to apply. Before you start, make sure you’re logged into Google with the account you want to be linked to your application. Go to https://www.google.com/nonprofits/ and scroll to the bottom of the page. Click on the Get Started button, then follow the prompts. If you’re outside the U.S., you’ll have to register for a TechSoup account, but U.S.-based organizations can simply follow the prompts to get signed up. It’s important to note that the approval process can take up to 10 days, but some nonprofits get a response within only 24 hours.
The growth of your nonprofit is essential and an incredibly helpful tool for growth is a well-designed, polished website. When you navigate through your current website, what do you feel? What do you think your members or donors feel? If your website no longer represents your organization or no longer makes you excited about your organization, it may be time for a redesign.
A website refresh every three to five years is fairly commonplace, but how do you really know when the time is right?
Yes, an easy way to know if your website needs a few updates is to look at it on face-level, but, there are other factors to consider that run more than skin deep. Here are a few of the most important aspects of your nonprofit’s website to review when considering a redesign.
Remember that your website design should always reflect your goals and current market positioning. Over time as your nonprofit evolves, so do your audience and main objectives. These objectives should be the main consideration when designing or redesigning a website.
Who are you currently trying to attract to your organization? What kind of website can you maintain with your current staff and volunteers? Is your current website generating the interest that you’re currently seeking? Questions like these may lead you down the redesign path.
Small changes may only require content updates while rebranding or other larger shifts in goals might benefit from a more complete redesign. Take a good look at your current goals and make sure your website is helping move them forward!
Your website should be a key component of your marketing and sales engine. If you’re not seeing traffic or engagement from your current site it could be time to think about a redesign.
Does your site have enough opportunities for visitors to convert? Do the design and content represent your organization well and portray your brand and service offerings attractively? Do visitors engage with your site? More so than that, is your audience aware of your digital presence?
While the goal is to have a high performing site that brings you engagement and awareness from your target audience, judge your site’s performance based on sound benchmarks. If your nonprofit is relatively unknown to your target market, make awareness a benchmark goal and keep that goal in mind when conducting a redesign.
Websites are like houses. Even if you’ve got a beautiful paint job you won’t want to live there if the roof leaks and there’s water in the basement. A website built on a shaky foundation may look passable but will cause headaches and extra expenses.
Is it difficult to add new content and features? Has your website remained stagnant because of the cost of adding changes? What is your mobile experience like? Is the site slow and prone to showing errors or crashing? In the modern age, your visitors will not accept issues like this, especially when so many great nonprofits have exceptional websites.
There are so many great website CMS (content management system) platforms to choose from you should have no problem finding a solid website foundation that meets your needs. Open source choices like WordPress and Drupal are great for tech-savvy teams or your marketing agency to build the site on.
Also, marketing automation platforms like Hubspot offer the ability to create your website, blog, landing pages, and email marketing content in one place. Systems like Hubspot also offer features like chat, popups and document management in one unified CMS.
Sometimes a market will pivot dramatically, and you need to reevaluate your website just to stay relevant. If new website features are sweeping your industry it’s time to reevaluate your site.
It may be that high-resolution product photos are now the norm, or competitors are adding chat and other interactive features. Whatever the evolutionary changes are, make sure your site is still up to snuff. Periodically take a close look at what competitors are doing with their websites.
Keep a close eye on search rankings as well to see how new changes impact the organic search landscape. If you do a good job of staying on top of your own analytics, and really listen to what your visitors are looking for, you may even be ahead of curve and have competitors playing catch up with your website.
Creating a compelling and effective website is a sure fire way to take your nonprofit to the next level. Digital marketing is essential to success in this age of the internet, so use these tools to their highest potential by polishing your website and showcasing the best of your brand online.
For today’s nonprofits, marketing means putting a great deal of effort into reaching customers online, where they spend the most time. As you make that transition, though, it’s also important to stay grounded in traditional efforts to make sure you’re reaching the biggest audience possible. Here are a few ways you can gradually ease into digital marketing without losing your traditional focus.
Set Up an Online Presence
One of the first steps you should take before launching any new promotion is to set up a strong online presence. This includes a presence on the social media platforms most relevant to your own audience. You should also set up a website that makes it easy for supporters to donate or purchase tickets to your upcoming event. As you distribute marketing messages online, it will be far easier to convert readers into customers if they have a link they can click to place orders.
Enjoy the Best of Both Worlds
Each year, Walker Methodist hosts a popular fundraiser called Stride for Seniors. While other organizations rely solely on either traditional or digital marketing, Walker Methodist sees the benefit of both types of marketing and incorporates a hybrid approach that makes each year an even bigger success. You can expand your reach by making sure your marketing efforts combine traditional and digital.
Move Offline Customers Online
Digital marketing doesn’t mean you have to do away with tried and true print marketing approaches like flyers and brochures. It just means that when you do use those items, they should entice potential supporters to check out your website or sign up through a specialized event page. When the event finally takes place, any takeaways you print should urge attendees to sign up for your email newsletter or follow you on social media.
Make Your Efforts Social
Every new marketing effort should kick off with a hashtag, whether it’s fundraising season or you’re planning a big event. Incentivize participants to share on social media using that hashtag by offering a door prize based on a drawing from the names of those who have shared. Ask your volunteers and employees to regularly share using that hashtag, including adding it to the description of all pictures and videos they upload to their own personal social media accounts.
Community engagement goes beyond meeting your neighbors in person. Through sites like LinkedIn and Twitter you can track down others in your immediate area and support them. Chances are, they’ll start to take notice of the hard work your nonprofit is doing. You should also check out community Facebook groups and become an active participant. When you do have an event to promote, you’ll be a recognized member and therefore be much more likely to generate support.
Nonprofit marketing has plenty of unique challenges, but an online approach can help you get the results you want. Continue to nurture the traditional marketing approaches that work for you but find ways to combine them with your new digital efforts for an approach that broadens your reach.
Governance doesn’t sound very fun, and for most people, it’s not. But there are some people who thrive on the fine points of grammar and silently correct people in their heads all day long. If you know someone like that at your nonprofit, you may want to enlist their help with this. It’s also a very good idea to engage a professional brand consultant to help develop your brand guidelines.
We happen to know someone that fits the bill. Check out ArcStone’s services here.
The rules that you set up for your content will determine how your brand and nonprofit is perceived by the world. As you create content and build your nonprofit’s team, precision and certainty about your brand guidelines will be more important than they have been in the past.
Some considerations include:
This is where you commit to a certain font or group of fonts and define how and when they are used. How big should your headings be? Should you publish blog headings with H2 or H3 style, and what is the difference? Are there certain topics or representations that you don’t want on your site? Are there rules about what type of images and videos can and can’t be used?
Start to formalize some of these guidelines. Brand guidelines should be a living document; they will be updated and added to many times over, and everyone should be able to contribute and flag questions. Google Docs works well for this. If your site is in WordPress, you may even want to create a private page that houses your guidelines. It’s best to designate one grammar stickler to have the ultimate decision on updates.
Style and voice guide.
Consider your target audience. Are they highly educated and well-read? Are they conversational and pragmatic? Do they like the trustworthiness and formality of academic studies or do they prefer a concise, easy-to-read format? Your audience should influence your style.
The AP Style Guide is a good default style guide that is widely used by organizations for style issues that aren’t otherwise addressed. But you will also want to develop your own corporate lexicon. For example, you must take a position on the Oxford comma. And perhaps you never, ever, want to see anyone at your organization use an ampersand even on social media because you hate how it looks (which is like this: &). Make note of that. Use this blog post for a number of style guide examples so that you can get a feel for how you want yours to look.
Writing for the web.
Writing for the web is different from other content you may be used to writing, like annual reports and grant writing.When writing online, keep your paragraphs really short, use bullets and sub-headers and images to break up the copy so that it is not visually overwhelming. If it is too dense no one will want to read it.
Here are a few best practices:
Editorial calendar. Never underestimate good planning; a great piece of content should be upcycled in different formats (not verbatim, but in different variations). Related blog topics can potentially be stacked and recombined into offers like eBooks and other formats that provide value for your target audience.
There are a lot of moving parts, and it can be hard to stay on task and keep everything consistent with your content strategy, so an editorial calendar is mandatory. There are many editorial calendars available, including one in Hubspot and Google Calendar. We like using Trello as an editorial calendar. You may pick and choose which elements work well for your needs and create a custom editorial calendar that works for your specific needs.
Write with simple language
Use the active voice
Be clear and concise
Use short sentences and short paragraphs
Cut fluffy words and jargon
Use your style guide
Write to your reader, using “you” and “your”
When you write online, your headline and topic should be strategic, to align with your topic cluster and serve your target audience. Part of content governance is making sure that details like metadata and title tags are addressed with appropriate language to support SEO goals. There are great tools like Yoast SEO plugin that help you see where you have overlooked an SEO consideration and make improvements.
Social media is easy if you have hundreds of thousands of followers. Post an update, answer any questions, and wait for results. Unfortunately, it takes time to build that kind of following organically, and until then, you’ll still need to get the word out about what you’re doing. The good news is, if you’re planning an upcoming event, there are ways you can easily get the word out without a huge built-in audience. Here are a few social media marketing tips to help make your next event a big success.
Pay to Promote
Until you have a following, your posts will go to the same audience unless you take extra measures. One way to do this is to spend a little money to boost your post to strangers. Twitter and Facebook both allow you to pay to create a post, then pay for it to display to a wider audience. This can not only get more attendees to your event, but it may bring you more followers.
Before you start promoting your event, come up with a hashtag to use before, during, and after your event. Collect names and do a drawing for a door prize from those who used that hashtag. Also be sure to share any interesting posts about the event among your own followers to give those who are talking about you some extra exposure.
Use Facebook Groups
If you’re marketing on Facebook, it’s important to note where users are spending the majority of their time on the platform. Groups have become a popular place for brands to get the word out about what they’re doing. Find groups that are local to where your event will be taking place and join. Make sure you follow the group’s guidelines for spreading the word about your event. You can avoid appearing spammy by simply posting for volunteers and interacting with existing posts. Since you can now join groups using your organization’s Page, even a helpful comment will positively represent your event.
When you’re scrolling through your own social media feed, chances are you pay more attention to pictures and videos than text. Use this to your advantage by including photos and videos with every post. You can generate excitement by sharing visuals of your team preparing for this year’s event, relive last year’s event through photos and videos, or any other creative ideas you can generate.
Get Help from Participants and Attendees
You may not have a large following, but it’s likely some of your supporters do. Reach out to those participants and collaborate with them to come up with ways you can let their followers know about your event. If you have speakers or special guests, give them all the information they need to get the word out about your event in advance of the big day.
You don’t need a six-figure social media following to promote your upcoming event. With a little creativity and hard work, your team can get the word out on various social media platforms and possibly land a few new followers along the way.
Every marketing effort has a goal. Whether it’s a Facebook post or an email drip campaign, you want your audience to take action. But many organizations miss that opportunity because they fail to do one very important thing: include a call to action within their copy.
There’s an art to creating a call to action that actually converts. It starts with setting a goal, then finding a way build in a statement that helps you reach that goal. Yes, the content itself is important, but you also need to follow through with something that encourages clicks. Here are a few tips to help you create the perfect goal to action.
Make a Plan
Before you can create a call to action, you’ll need to know what action that is. Do you want donors to sign up for your newsletter, donate money, or volunteer to help out? Once you’ve identified that, you’ll then need to figure out a way to get recipients to take the desired action. Buyer personas can be a great way to put a name and face to the people receiving your messages.
Understanding both your target audience and goal is only the first step. See things from the perspective of the person reading your marketing messages. What will they be doing when they read it? If the consumer is on a mobile device, for instance, it may not be reasonable to request a purchase requiring a credit card number. Create calls to action that match what the reader is likely to be doing when reading your message.
Curiosity is a proven technique when it comes to creating effective calls to action. If you can generate curiosity, your readers may click over just to learn more. You can also get results by appealing to the “fear of missing out,” or FOMO, that’s so prevalent in today’s social media-driven society. Give the impression that there’s either a deadline or limited availability and you’ll attract a certain number of clicks. If you’re drawing attendees to a fundraising event, entice your audience by highlighting how fun the event will be, making it sound as though all the cool kids will be there.
Once you’ve launched your campaign, monitor results to see how well your efforts work with your own audience. You can use techniques like A/B testing to see which of two calls to action works better. One way to do this is through the use of separate landing pages, each speaking to a separate CTA you’ve put out there. You can then see which one gets the most results and tailor future campaigns accordingly.
Over time, you can experiment with various calls to action and find those that work best for your own audience. As you see more responses roll in, you’ll know right away that the CTA you’ve chosen is the right one. However, it’s also important to ensure you’re regularly creating interesting content that keeps your audience engaged long enough for them to get to the end, where they’ll see your CTA and click.
An organization’s marketing team can make a big impact, boosting efforts and attracting more attention to its efforts. Whether you have a full marketing team or one person doing everything, there are very specific roles when it comes to digital marketing. By taking a look at each of those roles and how they play into your overall business strategy, you can make sure you’re fully covered.
Before you can launch a successful marketing campaign, you’ll need to plan it. A marketing strategist pays close attention to data, coming up with a strategy that is most likely to get results. If you’re trying to attract new donors, for instance, you’ll likely need to reach out to people similar to those who already support you. A strategist can take a look at your existing base and craft a plan that will find the best target demographic. This strategist can be a staff person, but in some cases, it may pay to bring in a professional periodically to serve as a consultant and deliver strategy for you.
Much like a strategist, an analyst oversees the execution of the strategy. “Analyst” can often be the catch-all term for that one person a smaller organization uses to manage all of its marketing activities. But whether your analyst is doing all the marketing work or outsourcing parts of it to others, this person still pulls it all together. Although this position can be outsourced, it can benefit an organization to have this role on staff since they’ll make sure things run smoothly on an ongoing basis.
Once you have a marketing strategy in place, you’ll need someone to execute it. Chances are, a large part of the strategy will rely on written content, including website copy, blog posts, articles for outreach, emails, and newsletter copy. You can hire one or more staff writers to handle this duty or rely on one marketing person to serve as both analyst and writer. However, an increasing number of organizations are outsourcing this type of work since you can call on a pool of freelancers when you need work without the commitment of a full-time salary.
Whether you use freelancers or salaried writers, an editor can bring it all together. This is another position that can either be on the payroll or outsourced. An editor can be charged with a variety of activities, including copyediting your content and managing digital marketing collateral like email newsletters and blog posts.
Visual marketing is a vital part of any campaign. Customers react on a visceral level to the content you put out there, whether it’s the images you use or the layout of your website. A good designer can not only create powerful logos and publications but will also ensure your messaging is consistent across all of your marketing channels. While you’ll likely find it necessary to only occasionally call on a designer, make sure you keep that consistency if you outsource to different professionals.
It’s essential to measure your marketing activities so you can understand what has impact and what does not. A data analyst is responsible for setting up Google Analytics, tracking goals and KPI’s as well as creating reports that show campaign results. This is a vital role and one that is often overlooked.
No matter how big your marketing team is, it’s important to make sure each of these roles are well represented. On an ongoing basis, someone should also be monitoring metrics on your campaigns so that you can put that information to use in future campaigns.
If you want to show up prominently in search results, your site needs fresh content on a regular basis. But a good blog goes beyond merely ensuring potential supporters can find you in a Google search. It also gives those supporters a reason to come back on a regular basis to see what you’ve posted. However, a successful blog is about far more than throwing a bunch of content up to see what will stick. Instead, you should sit down and think through your strategy to get the best results.
Don’t Heavily Promote
If your blog is designed to serve as a marketing platform for your nonprofit, you’ll lose your readers before you’ve begun. Nobody wants to read 500 words about your latest products every week. Sure, you can occasionally post that you have an upcoming fundraiser or you’re selling new products, but those should be woven in with other content.
Do Create Authentic, Interesting Content
The bulk of your blog posts should be geared toward your target audience. For a nonprofit that supports youth sports, for instance, consider content their parents will enjoy, such as parenting posts or tips for helping their kids improve at the game. The more your blog posts meet your own website visitors’ needs, the more likely they stick around and read them.
Don’t Post and Wait
Hitting “publish” on a new blog post is only the first step. You should also promote it through your social media platforms. Also occasionally send out an email to your existing supporter base, but be sure to do this sparingly. You can build your audience by making sure that with each blog post, readers have an easy way to follow you on social media and sign up for any email lists you have.
Do Be Consistent
If you set up a blog on your site and rarely update it, you’ll have a hard time building a following. Set a schedule and stick to it, whether it’s once a week or once a month. You can even use a content calendar to plan your posts in advance. You may, for instance, decide to accelerate posts on the most important days of your fundraising drive. Your content calendar can help with that.
Don’t Steal Photos
Images are a great way to break up long blocks of text in your blog posts. But if you’re going to use photos on your nonprofit blog, make sure you’re free to use them. You can get free-for-use stock photos on certain sites, but make sure you credit the original photographer wherever possible to avoid getting into legal hot water.
Do Reach Out
Your blog gives you the perfect opportunity to network with others. Don’t see other organizations as your competition. They’re actually your allies. Reach out and offer the opportunity for them to guest post on your blog in exchange for allowing you to guest on theirs. You can each promote the post on your social media channels for extra publicity.
For nonprofits, an active blog can be a great way to stay in touch with the people who support you. With the right approach, you’ll not only keep them coming back to see what you’ve posted recently, but your blog will also keep you visible in search results.
We hope this makes you a little more comfortable about launching a blog. If you need any help along the way, please contact our marketing team.