Digital Marketing for Nonprofits

Published on September 16, 2016

Nonprofits and charity organizations have led the charge on so many amazing causes and campaigns over the years. We have the tireless work of nonprofit crusaders to thank for so many things, from cleaner water and air to safer streets.

But how will these important organizations continue to do their essential work in a marketplace increasingly defined by shorter attention spans and tighter budgets? The answer is digital marketing.

Here are five ways that nonprofits can put the power of the internet to work for their marketing, helping to drive in donations and increase outreach without breaking the bank:

1.) Take Advantage of Unique SEM Opportunities…

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – which typically takes the form of pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google – is an excellent digital marketing opportunity for all sorts of industries, but it can quickly grow expensive for a lot of small businesses.

Recognizing this, Google AdWords offers grants and discounts for charities and nonprofits looking to get started with PPC ads. Qualifying nonprofits are eligible to receive up to $10000 a month in in-kind Adwords advertising. The targeted, text-based ads that this budget will pay for can go a long way toward increasing your organization’s name recognition and inbound traffic. To learn more about Google Ad Grants and to see if your organization is eligible, check out Google’s handy guide.

2.) …But Don’t Skimp on SEO and Creative Content

With that being said, PPC will only get your organization so far.

SEO, the art of optimizing your site to rank highly with search engines, has a proven track record of dramatically increasing high value traffic – often at a fraction of the cost of many other marketing methods. And the best way to generate SEO? Create high quality content.

Not only will expanding the content available on your site make it more appealing to Google’s algorithms, but it will allow you to capture targeted or “long-tail” keyword searchers, who could well turn into leads down the line. When your nonprofit’s blog – or podcast, slideshow, or image gallery – answers a searcher’s question for free, you’ll create value in the minds of your clients and encourage brand loyalty and engagement – all of which which will, in turn, lead to more clicks, and even better SEO!

And one of the best things about nonprofit organizations is that your well for potential content will never run dry: Craft informative blog posts detailing your organization’s roots. Make use of user-generated content and post letters or video testimonials detailing what your group has done for individuals or the community. Publish foundational “evergreen” content about the core issues behind your campaign while also creating timely, relevant news pieces on any recent updates, trends, or accomplishments worth noting.

As with the good your nonprofit can do, when it comes to content, the sky is the limit, and the payoff – in the form of real world donations and volunteers – can be enormous.

3.) Foster Your Community With Social Media

The other important reason your brand needs to be generating content? It doesn’t just create organic traffic through search, but also referral traffic, particularly when it gets shared across social media. And in a lot of ways, the social media game is rigged in favor of exactly the sort of positive, meaningful content that your nonprofit should be producing: Users are much more likely to click, engage with, and share emotionally-driven stories than purely factual ones, and including powerful imagery is proven to increase engagement by nearly 40% on Facebook and an astonishing 200% on Twitter.

And when not using your social channels to spread content, you can use all of the platforms available to you to cultivate a real sense of community and highlight the human face behind your organization – which will promote trust, engagement, and a desire to get involved.

In a lot of ways, you can think of your social platforms as another way of creating unique content: Post live videos when your organization is at a community event, or share behind-the-scenes silliness on Instagram or Snapchat. Keep your followers up-to-date with Facebook updates, or share and retweet meaningful quotes or news on Twitter. Run contests, respond to criticism, promote positive PR, and even publish formal (and highly effective) advertisements – when you know how to best put it to work, social media is an invaluable, low-cost tool to spread your message.

4.) Emphasize Retention

According to a Charity Dynamics survey of 332 nonprofit professionals, attaining “online donations” was the biggest priority for nonprofit marketers, with more 51% listing it as a primary goal.

The important things to keep in mind when thinking about donations – or any other type of online “conversion” – is that every customer base is, ultimately, limited in one way or another, and that it’s much easier to encourage a consumer to pay again than to pay for the first time (one of the big reasons why SEM/PPC can be a limited tool). In fact, by some metrics, it costs 500% more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, and yet a loyal customer is worth up to 10x as much as the value of their first purchase.

For nonprofits, for whom volunteers and donations are an essential lifeblood, retention is particularly important. And while it may seem like a nebulous concept, it’s surprisingly easy to put quantifiable retention methods into practice.

To begin with, nonprofits should be sure to include email marketing into their digital campaigns; by some metrics, it is twice as effective at promoting loyalty and engagement as any other marketing method. Social campaigns are also a great way to promote retention. Beyond that? Users crave responsiveness and reliability – so a surefire way to encourage them to come back again and again is by providing them with a clean, engaging site that functions well on mobile and includes a clear, effective call to action.

5.) Garner Glowing Reviews

For centuries, charities and other organizations relied on in-person word of mouth to spread their message. It has long been a vital tool for spreading your narrative, and always will be; the same concept applies to your digital presence, as well, but it goes by a different name – reputation management.

Reputation management is the process of controlling what is said and shared about your organization online. Having a reputation management plan in place comes down to several interrelated parts, including maintaining solid SEO and social media strategies, as we talked about earlier. The gist of those efforts? When you control what searchers and social users find about your brand on ranking pages, you help control the narrative about yourself – and can guide the conversation in your favor!

But there’s another vital aspect of modern reputation management that too many groups leave completely to chance. You see, today’s savvy online consumers are also likely to research your organization on review and listing sites, which range from Facebook to Google.

Fortunately, there are all sorts of solutions you can put in place to optimize these review pages in order to put your best foot forward. With Geek’s help, for instance, you can set up an automated workflow that lets you reach out to your clients and friends via text or email; establishing this personal line of communication will help you encourage your happiest customers to post glowing reviews on these sites, and may give less-satisfied responders a chance to vent, preventing them from ever posting a negative review in the first place.

Sound daunting? We understand, and we’re here to help! Geek Chicago has consulted with brands of all sizes across a wide array of industries, and our team knows all of the ins and outs of creating a truly effective online strategy from the bottom up. Whether you’re looking for a total marketing package, or simply some guidance in launching a new facet of your campaign, such as reputation management, why not drop our talented team a line?

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