Nonprofit Marketing: Which Inbound Marketing Channels Work Best?
Nonprofit marketing requires a slightly different approach than standard business marketing. Mainly, that’s choosing channels that align with the unique vision, purpose, or drive behind everything your organization does to enhance the lives of people, positively impact communities, and further real change. Because of the invaluable nature of these initiatives, it’s important to carefully consider nonprofit marketing through your organization’s lens and who you’re trying to reach.
In this article, we’ll identify which specific inbound marketing channels get the best results based on real data, along with key strategies for optimizing them. We’ll also outline our own experience to help you prioritize the important next steps to take.
A Precursor to Success in Nonprofit Marketing
First, we need to make a few quick points regarding the overall approach for inbound marketing. One is that the most successful campaigns consist of a full-spectrum, all-in approach where different channels work together to create a complete inbound solution. In other words, nonprofit marketing channels don’t exist in a vacuum, but rather accentuate one another to create a potent, cohesive mix.
You also need to:
- Understand your specific goals
- Define your intended audience
- Determine what your audience’s mission is
- Decide what type of messaging to use
- Ensure your site is top tier
- Analyze and assess your performance over time
The unique blending of your nonprofit’s mission and vision with the correct combination of techniques will help guide your campaign and increase your odds of hitting the mark with your audience. With that said, here are the specific inbound marketing channels we’ve had the most success with.
Over 90% of online experiences begin with search. So the vast majority of your audience will initiate their research with Google or a similar search engine. That’s why SEO is one of the key pillar channels for nonprofit marketing. Creating high-quality, fully optimized content is an essential foundation. The main goal here is to produce landing pages, blog posts, case studies, and so on that rank well in search engines and attract people at different stages.
Bear in mind that 80% of website traffic isn’t ready to make a decision right off the bat and needs to be nurtured. So you need to use an inbound marketing methodology that effectively targets prospects at all stages of the audience journey, including the awareness, consideration, and decision stage.
This is a topic we tackled in-depth in a previous post, and you can get the full details here.
One specific strategy we’ve had great success with is increasing blog post frequency, as there’s a clear correlation between more monthly blog posts and increased inbound traffic.
Another is to implement “10x content pillar pages” where you strive to create content that’s 10 times better than the top ranking page in search results for a given keyword. While this is easier said than done, it’s a proven way to outrank competitors and establish trust and thought leadership.
Google Ad Grants
Google has gained a reputation for philanthropy over the years with a prime example being Google for Nonprofits which helps “spread the word about your nonprofit’s mission, engage new supporters, and fundraise in more ways online.” One particular feature for nonprofit marketers is Google Ad Grants, an innovative program that provides eligible organizations with up to $10,000 of in-kind advertising each month for text ads.
With it, you can create text-based ads and gain access to helpful tools to target prospects on Google Search when they look for relevant information related to your nonprofit. This in conjunction with an SEO campaign as we just mentioned, as well as paid Google Ads, can be highly potent and greatly increase your exposure on Google at no added cost.
You can find everything you need to get started on the Google Ad Grants website including:
- How it works
- Eligibility requirements
- Program benefits
- Real-life examples
This is the third primary pillar channel and has been used by countless nonprofits to generate massive exposure, spread key messaging, build an extensive network of volunteers, and bring new people on board. Some great examples include The World Wide Fund for Nature which in 2020 used social media to get over 4.7 billion impressions globally and Amnesty International which currently has 961k Instagram followers and 1.9 million Twitter followers.
Creating a strong social media campaign is, admittedly, not easy, which is why many nonprofits choose to hire either a professional or an agency partner to manage this aspect of inbound marketing. In terms of choosing social media platforms, it’s ideal to use multiple networks with Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn being some of the most popular.
However, if you have to select just one initially, most experts recommend using Instagram because of its reach and long-term trajectory. This graph shows, for instance, how the number of monthly active Instagram users has exploded recently.
The combination of these three primary pillars — SEO, Google Ad Grants, and social media is a tried-and-true methodology that is both commonly used and also fine-tuned in its approach, making it a strategy that impacts every aspect of the user experience from start to finish.
Beyond “the big three” primary pillars for nonprofits, there are a few other channels that can make for a potent marketing mix. One of which is remarketing (also known as retargeting), a powerful lead nurturing technique where you target prospects that have expressed interest in your nonprofit but didn’t convert initially. We’ve personally seen the best results with our clients on YouTube and Facebook which both have robust remarketing capabilities and allow you to personalize your content to effectively reach leads.
This is another form of nurturing that helps target the 80% of people that aren’t ready to make a decision initially. This is where customized emails are automatically sent to prospects based on their unique interests and behavior. If, for example, someone checked out the “Donate” page of your website, you might send them a targeted email that unpacks different donation options and elaborates on where their money goes. Or, if someone looked at the “Volunteer” page of your site, you might send out an email that discusses how to go about volunteering, explain specific projects they can participate in, and how to sign up.
Finally, there’s account-based management (ABM) which involves identifying the most profitable prospects that, if landed, would have the biggest impact on your organization and focusing your efforts on marketing to them more than others. Staying on top of mind can go a long way toward furthering your organization’s expansion and establishing a strong community.
According to Gartner’s research, ABM can be quite potent, and “marketing saw improved conversion rates, increased web traffic, and improved advertising and email performance.”
Seeing the Long-Term Vision
A key point to stress is that even the most successful tactics can take time, which is why it’s important to stay flexible and know that an inbound strategy can easily take 6-12 months from launch to fruition. It also requires a significant amount of data to work out the kinks and fully optimize a campaign to get it firing on all cylinders. Therefore, patience and continual refinement are a big part of finding success.
Partnering with an Experienced Agency
As a nonprofit, you’ll truly benefit by working with a professional partner who sees the big picture. For instance, we carefully consider the sensitivity of brand messaging and the impact of the organization’s activities on the environment and community. Additionally, some digital platforms have policies regarding what can or can’t be advertised as it relates to sensitive advertising guidelines for nonprofits.
An experienced agency partner can help guide and direct you when navigating the complexities of nonprofit digital channels, as well as free up your time to focus on core business objectives.
Finally, if you’ve reached the point where you can’t fully handle growth efforts on your own, then hiring an agency partner is the next evolutionary step toward reaching your KPIs. If you’d like to learn more about how 3.7 Designs can help with your nonprofit marketing, feel free to reach out to us.