How to build and spend a nonprofit marketing budget when you have none: Part 2

Blog March 7, 2017 By Kevin Wolfe

This is part two of a two-part, how-to article on digital marketing for nonprofits. You’ll find Part 1 here.

How to effectively market on social

While social media is a great tool for your supporters to use for peer-to-peer fundraising, organizations have found the effectiveness of the updates from their official nonprofit account diminishing. That’s because most social channels are showing updates from businesses and nonprofits to fewer and fewer of their followers. The numbers for organic reach are down so low that your updates are seen by just a few percent of your followers. So you may have 2,000 followers on a social channel, but maybe 40 are seeing any given update. Meanwhile many nonprofits have found that paid promotion of posts or ads on social mediums can be very effective even with spends of $100 a month.

Promoted posts or ads?

Most social channels give you the option to boost your posts by showing them to more of your followers and people like your followers. Promoted posts look like more your normal posts, not like ads. Promoted posts can pass under the “click bait” radar and may be more likely to be read. An advantage to promoted posts is that you’ve essentially already tested them. If the update already received a high number of likes when posted organically, it’s a good candidate for success when you promote it.

The other option is to create ads for social media channels. These may fill up more screen space than updates (depending on channel) and can give you more options for creativity. They also can have call-to-action buttons, which can result in more clicks. Generally you get more targeting options and a bigger audience to present your ads to.

So which is more effective: an ad or a promoted post? Honestly it varies greatly with organizations having blazing success with either one, while getting a lukewarm reception with the other. It’s best to try both with a low spend to see which works more effectively.

Targeting your audience

A huge advantage of online marketing is that you can target your audience. Michelle notes there’s a very different approach with targeting: “It used to be that you sprayed everywhere and hoped your marketing would hit something. But it cost a lot of money to do that. Since you don’t have a lot of money to spend and you don’t get a return with something really broad like that anymore, it’s just not cost effective. Nonprofits have to be really strategic in how they're looking to spend the limited funds available. With how you can reach people differently now, through social media and search advertising, you can narrow down your audience more effectively for less cost.” Segmenting or targeting the audience in online advertising is as easy as selecting criteria such as location, gender, age group, interest group, etc. This lets you present your message to your target supporter profile and not to the masses. Your spend can be small and still hit the audience you want.

Monitor and revise

Social media ads can give you instant success statistics which allows you to adjust your campaign while it’s running. By tweaking the audience or message based on what’s working, you can substantially increase engagement while reducing your spend. Generally if you’re going to sponsor updates, pick the ones that did the best organically. These will likely get the most engagement when you back then with money.

Don’t forget your proven marketing tool: Your database.

Paid marketing is a wonderful thing that can help your organization grow by putting you in front of new supporters. But Ed notes that the most important audience is the one that you’ve already cultivated. “Many times people are not doing internal marketing. You have your database and if you have a new idea that you’re rolling out, it’s important to market it to supporters. And don’t forget lapsed supporters, you may be able to reactivate them with a new event.”

Creating a supporter profile.

Sometimes we think of our database as just the place we keep the email addresses. But the data there is so much more valuable according to Ed: “You want to look at your database and see who your most likely supporters are and build profiles of them by segment. If you’re doing a breast-cancer walk you most likely will target women over 30 since they’ll be the one most interested in participating.” By building profiles of your supporters, you identify the target audiences to market to. According to Ed, the deeper you dig into your database, the more likely you are to find groups to market to: “Segment within your database and discover who supports your run, who supports your mail programs, etc., to match profiles with your other programs.” And Michelle notes another important group in your database: “If you identify your most active volunteers, they’ll recruit for you. You can then support their effort with marketing. So you’re using marketing to back the organic effort. Grassroots is grassroots for a reason.”

While digital marketing can be tricky, savvy organizations are discovering that it can very effective at reaching those you most likely want to engage with.

How to create a nonprofit ad

Here are a few simple tips for majorly improving your ads:

Learn to talk in tweets Get right to the point. You often have a low character limit and should get the messages across as briefly as possible even if you don’t.

Use touching images Images are all about emotional impact. Images that move people will get the most engagement.

• Include a call to action The reason why you see buttons that say “Register Today” and “Donate Now” so often is that they work.