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The Golden Age of Nonprofit Marketing?

Thursday, June 8, 2017  

Jeffrey D. Byrne

By Todd Levy, Founder of Global Cloud, makers of DonorDrive

The Golden Age of Nonprofit Marketing? The reality is that the opportunities to raise awareness, engage supporters and increase donations through marketing has never been better, or cheaper. Today you can:

  •Boost your marketing budget without touching donor dollars
  •Target and get your message in front of the most likely donors
  •Track and improve your success as you go

Boosting a marketing budget with no mission dollars

We all know that marketing is the first thing cut from the budget for most nonprofits. But today you don’t have to depend on your organization for all your marketing budget. Here are three sources of outside dollars you can use to boost your marketing budget:

  •Your Corporate Partners

When you work with your corporate partners, as part of the sponsorship, ask specifically for marketing money by showing them how their business would benefit from the co-promotion of their company and your cause.

  •Most-Engaged Donors

Ask your key supporters to go the extra mile: In addition to their gracious giving, request they also contribute to a dedicated marketing fund. When you communicate the value of marketing in driving awareness and more funds for your cause, they may be inspired to support specifically getting the word out.


Apply for Google Ad Grants. Google funds each qualified nonprofit annually with $120,000 of in-kind advertising for Google Adwords. Children's Miracle Network Hospitals found success with driving awareness and donations through the Google Ad Grants program.

Targeting your audience

Digital ads on channels like Google, Facebook and Twitter give you the ability to target your audience, putting your message in front of those most likely to respond. While targeting varies by channel, options include age, gender, interest, location (down to zip code) and the ability to put a message directly in the timelines of key donors. Targeting greatly improves your return on investment since, you're not spending money on people who aren't interested in your cause.

Tracking your success

Digital marketing has taken all the guesswork out of success. If you’re promoting a capital campaign, you can see immediately how effective it is. You can do an A/B test of two messages to determine which is most successful in netting donations. Since your campaign can be managed in real time, you can also change course and increase visibility of the most effective message and increase success even more. If you have corporate and supporter dollars invested in marketing, make sure you give them a report on the success of their investment.There are many other ways you can boost your marketing budget, but these three are good places to start.

Rethinking your marketing

Nonprofits that aren’t focusing on marketing today put themselves at a disadvantage. Free marketing options that were once popular in traditional media and the reach of organic posts on social channels are both quickly drying up. Like for-profit corporations, now you must pay to play. At the same time, trendsetting organizations with marketing savvy are popping up daily, increasing the so-called “noise” level around your nonprofit's message. If you haven't established a comprehensive digital marketing plan, haven't identified your target donor and haven't formulated the metrics of your success: it's time.

It's also highly worthwhile to teach your staff to manage digital marketing and social media, if you haven’t already. This isn’t necessarily a costly move. For example: AdWords and Google Analytics certification programs are free from Google and there are many free webinars on building your expertise in every facet of social media. At DonorDrive, we've published a free book on marketing for nonprofits that will help get you started.  

Will these great opportunities that are available today still be here tomorrow? We don't know. But we do know that marketing will continue to evolve and the organizations focused on it will be the ones best prepared to use it to drive their success.

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