How to Grow a Nonprofit: 5 Marketing Strategies

by | Mar 20, 2023

Growth: likely a key point in any strategic plan and something that is the top of mind for many leaders. How to grow your nonprofit is, after all, the key to strengthening your work, achieving your mission, and making an impact. 

Strategy decisions ultimately come down to being able to continually operate your programs and execute on your goals. Growth can mean many different things to different people. In the case of non-profits though, the thought of growth often invokes an immediate jump to development. However, many nonprofits are missing out on a key component of modern growth: marketing. 

In the nonprofit realm, marketing tends to come as an afterthought, and as something that limited resources shouldn’t be devoted to. There is a prevailing idea that marketing doesn’t make money in the nonprofit world. If you stop to think about the billions of dollars spent on marketing every year by for-profits; it begs the question, why would marketing not work for nonprofits? 

With roughly 1.8 million nonprofits in the US vying for position and donor dollars, organizations must find ways to differentiate themselves to ensure they are recognizable, receiving donations, and expanding their impact; marketing may be the key. We’ve rounded up 5 marketing strategies on how to grow your nonprofit and get you thinking about how your organization might benefit from a marketing strategy.

How to grow your nonprofit with marketing

Commit Resources

Resources can be very limited in nonprofit organizations. Committing what resources you may have may seem like a big ask. However, when done properly, marketing efforts can prove to be well worth the effort. Brands who invest time and money into their brand and marketing are able to grow their presence and capture larger portions of the market, attracting and engaging donors. 

Marketing resources can come in many forms of both time and money. The key to embarking on a marketing strategy is to be honest about where you are in the lifecycle of your organization and develop a growth strategy that fits. Developing a marketing plan doesn’t have to break the bank. When exploring your options consider the following:

  • Talents and skills of those within your organization
  • A marketing generalist can be a good place to start as you understand and build
  • Outsourced marketers can be experts in their field and cost-saving options

When budgets are tight, we know marketing can be the last thing on your mind, but if you spend the resources to do it right, it can pay back in huge dividends. 

Be Intentional

The best marketing strategies are incredibly intentional and suited specifically to your organization’s goals and needs. There is no one size fits all. When creating a strategy, meet your organization where it is and build from there.

  • Identify your target audience for marketing campaigns
  • Narrow in on your nonprofits special niche and tie it to your mission
  • Develop meaningful goals and metrics to track progress
  • Hire specifically for your marketing effort
  • Start small and specific with your campaigns and efforts

Curate Your Brand

Once you’ve begun your strategy with intention, it’s time to lay the groundwork for building a successfully marketed organization. The main difference between for profits and nonprofits is that nonprofits are generally working towards a greater mission. Lean into this with your marketing and use it to help others relate to and care about your mission. Before launching your first marketing campaign, be sure that you have a solid foundation in the following areas. 

  • State your mission: Make sure that what you do is clear on your website and on anything that is externally facing. Ask yourself, would it be easy for an outsider to understand what we do here? 
  • Brand it: Once you’ve ensured that you are clear and concise on what you do, brand it well. Working with professionals in this space can be one of the most important steps you take in your marketing process. In the modern day, consumers are inundated with millions of messages per day; your brand needs to be clear and memorable. There is an art to this process, and a good brand will support future visibility and growth. 
  • Pick your platforms: Use your brand as a starting point to begin diving into social media. You can’t be everywhere and do everything; consider the right platforms for your organization and be active on them, showcasing your professional brand and clear mission. People connect with a good brand, make sure you connect with them where they are. 

Stay Consistent

Once you’ve tailored your plan to your organization’s needs, goals, and current operations, give it some time to start working. Marketing won’t turn things around overnight. It takes time and effort to work its magic. 

If you stick to your strategy, continue putting in the efforts, and optimize the resources you have, you should start to see some results. Especially in areas such as social media, marketing really takes consistency to work over time. So once you’ve decided to start on this journey, commit to your strategy and watch your efforts unfold. 

Measure Results

If you’re being consistent with your plan, the only way to know that it’s working is to track metrics. Make sure to develop SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals and document them. As you continue through your marketing journey you can begin to assess the effectiveness of your strategy. After some time, you’ll be able to gain insights into what’s working well and what’s not and then make some tweaks to really let your strategy start to work for you and provide the monetary results that you’re looking for. 

BONUS TIP: Try New Things 

Marketing may be the new thing your organization is trying, and that’s great! But don’t be afraid to think outside of the box as it relates to the types of campaigns that your organization is running. One benefit of being in an industry that runs on tight resources, is that people tend to get creative, like these examples in Forbes. Use this creativity! Unusual and interesting marketing campaigns can stand out from the crowd and get your brand on the map. If something doesn’t work, don’t get discouraged. Marketing has been proven to work time and time again. So regroup, adjust your strategy and keep going. 

Getting the right people in the right places and enacting a strategy that works for your organization’s time and budget is the key to a successful marketing strategy. If you want to learn more about how to begin this work and really dive into developing your organization’s marketing plan, check out this podcast with marketing consultant, Emily Heck

Overall, nonprofits with a clear brand and marketing strategy are the ones people remember and engage with the most. And when it comes time for giving, donors will give to those brands they can remember. Make sure they know it’s you!

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