How to Market Your Nonprofit in the New Normal
The covid pandemic has put a strain on nonprofit organizations and it’s typical operations, making it hard for nonprofits to keep steady revenue streams during these turbulent times. It is more important than ever for nonprofits to be able to market their services and fundraising opportunities. Nonprofit leaders need to think strategically about their marketing strategies in the new normal and what that means for their messaging and fundraising.
These are uncertain times, in a world of social distancing and closures, where digital strategy and constantly pivoting can make or break a nonprofit. Engaging with staff, volunteers, donors, and board members is important. Equally important, however, is finding ways to get the nonprofit mission in front of new audiences. Whether it be new creative fundraisers, digital campaigns, or relationship building with key stakeholders, the new normal comes with a whole new landscape for nonprofit marketing.
Coronavirus and the Nonprofit New Normal
Nonprofit marketers are set with the difficult task during the covid pandemic in balancing between the necessary empathy in their messaging and the required urgency to meet the nonprofit’s needs. Usually, in-person events or touchpoints help bridge the gap between the written words of a nonprofit marketer and the living work conducted by the nonprofit. With social distancing and a lengthy return to a fully physical world, fundraising events are now virtual and digital marketing has been given a heightened presence.
Nonprofit executives, especially for smaller and mid-size nonprofits, are consumed with revenues and fundraising metrics, the well being of the staff, and trying to figure out what a post-covid nonprofit industry will look like. LinkedIn is flooded with people changing their profile pictures to show they are “open to work” as people seek jobs in a world where jobs become limited each day. Professional development and networking opportunities are limited to Zoom happy hours and webinars rather than the typical exchanging of business cards at a hotel conference ballroom. The new normal is difficult for an industry like the nonprofit industry, where burnout and retention are already issues.
Board members and nonprofit executives have to come to terms with rethinking everything. From business models to staff engagement, to how they raise money and administer services or programs, and especially in how they market. People’s mindsets are in a completely different place now and their motivations or ability to give or engage with nonprofits is going to be different.
The Importance of a TouchPoint in the Nonprofit Sector
Someone is more likely to donate money, items, or their time to a nonprofit that has a mission that resonates with them. Fundraising is effective when it allows the nonprofit to acquire new donors and then conduct more than one touchpoint with that donor to retain and increase their giving and engagement levels. As Major Gift Academy also points out, a touchpoint is used to connect with donors between asks. These revenue streams are important during turbulent times such as these to keep a nonprofit and its services afloat.
Marketing to stakeholders is a key part of attracting and retaining donors that are vital for the financial success of any charitable organization. Executive leadership understands that the more visibility and credibility their nonprofit has, the more likely they are to increase their donor pool and engagement strategies. Similarly to the for-profit realm, the overall customer experience also plays a part in the donor cycle. People are in front of their screens more during this pandemic, and the functionality of online platforms is critical for the success of any digital efforts. Nonprofits should make it a priority to ensure their marketing materials are accessible and easy to digest, and then any call to action is easy for the person to follow through on. Donation pages, advocacy letters, and whatever else the marketing materials are directing people toward the need to be fully functional and easy to navigate for the best user experience.
Materials and messaging can grab the attention of potential donors, however, that attention grab might not be enough to convince someone at that moment to give. Or it could convince someone at that moment to give, but not to their full capacity. By creating more than one touchpoint through a multi-channel, or cross channel, approach, a nonprofit is much more likely to convert that new audience into donors or to increase the level of giving from current, loyal donors.
A touchpoint also allows a nonprofit to get multiple uses out of one marketing material. For example, a press release on a significant program win updates donors engages new audiences and creates more visibility for the nonprofit as a whole.
Multi-Channel Marketing Through the Pandemic
It has always been a best practice to put in place multi-channel marketing efforts through events, ads, direct mail, email marketing and campaigns, digital marketing, and social media. That same practice is essential to this day. As CauseVox points out, “By using the different marketing mediums out there, you increase the chances of being heard and bringing donations (and new supporters) into the fold.” They also advise using the nonprofit’s supporters to help spread the message and making sure that the website is enjoyable and easy to navigate.
Social media is a great example of expanding the visibility of a nonprofit by meeting stakeholders where they are. It is not just having a Facebook or Instagram page. Different generations use different platforms and in different ways. TikTok is a newer platform that people are using in interesting ways to engage with different audiences. There are even popular, major influential health care influencers that use TikTok for public service announcements. These online platforms are one place that people are turning to for the human interactions they miss from a pre covid world. This is a great place where supporters can help spread the message of nonprofits they care about.
Outside of social media, the way that people interact with their emails are vastly different now. Now is a great time to clean email lists and prioritize relationship building through lists that work rather than playing a numbers game, attempting to email mass lists with the hope that a few will hit. As staff burnout becomes more prevalent and nonprofits preserve existing resources, the time and money necessary to create assets and messaging for email marketing should be matched with the most effective strategies.
Nonprofit leadership that had the resources and were able to continue direct mail campaigns utilized abandoned mailing lists to market to people at their homes while they were stuck at home. Philanthropy Daily states that “It is a proven marketing fact that organizations that chose to forge ahead during a crisis were typically more successful in the long run when compared to organizations that paused, stopped, or significantly altered communication, particularly fundraising appeals.” Some examples of successful direct mail letters sent can be found on blog pages like SUMAC.
Regardless of which channels a nonprofit chooses to market through, the messaging needs to be sound. Many nonprofits have reworked their messaging to meet the current times. Wild Apricot suggests being more authentic in messaging, better understanding the audience, and to share stories – not statistics.
Content Marketing for Nonprofits during COVID
Having a content marketing strategy isn’t just a great idea for nonprofits, it is a necessity. Prosper Strategies notes, “Simply putting content into the world without a clear strategy or established brand voice isn’t enough. Without a cohesive, goal-oriented content marketing strategy, your content and communications efforts may not directly impact your marketing goals or your organization’s strategic goals.”
For creating a content marketing strategy, board members and staff alike should be involved in helping to piece together audience, content, platforms, and goals. A full team approach means that the entire team will take ownership of the strategy and its success. As the ultimate “brand ambassadors” of the nonprofit, board members and staff alike could inform strategy in a real key way.
Many groups out there, such as gravitate, also warn against repetitive “pandemic speak” and the initial somber messaging tactics. Now is the chance for nonprofits to speak more authentically, lifting up the voices of those they serve, and to share those stories in more places than before. As some nonprofits pull back on marketing budgets, others have a chance to bargain for visibility in those spaces abandoned by other nonprofits.
A content marketing strategy will not only help craft the right message for the right time but also help craft the story, arcing over a period of time. With the right multi-channel approach, a nonprofit can truly leverage their marketing to reach more audiences and better engage with their current supporters.
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