For nonprofits with great causes, digital marketing campaigns are extremely important. After all, there’s a lot at stake, and a carefully crafted marketing campaign is the best way to get the word out. In this article, we’re going to be looking at the elements that matter most in any nonprofit’s digital marketing strategy.
As an added bonus, we’re also going to take a look at a very real way to score free advertising dollars. More on that later (or you can skip to the “free money” portion of this article by clicking the link for “Advertising” below.)
There are a few different elements that should be apart of any online marketing effort. They are:
- A Website
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Social Media Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Advertising (and Ad Grants)
- Video + Photo
To really succeed in driving donations, facilitating volunteers, or even achieving your mission, these elements will be important.
Let’s get started by taking a closer look at each one and how they relate to your greater goal.
Have you ever pulled up to a restaurant that forgot to switch the sign out front from “Closed” to “Open”?
Most websites represent a business, person, or nonprofit that’s ready to help out or bring in some business. However, no one knows because these same websites appear to be inactive or outdated. In some cases, they’re extremely confusing or uninformative.
Our theory is that most websites are like digitized business cards. They have contact information available and a little bit of information about the reason that they exist.
However, no one reads through business cards like it’s a hobby. A business card is only pulled out of your pocket so that you can make a call or send an email.
If your website fails to provide users with great information about what it is that you’re doing, then you’re not using it to its fullest potential.
But here’s the thing:
Too many people get caught up on the idea of web design being the only important factor for a website.
In reality, web design is just one element among the many things that matter for website building. Your primary focus should be on developing all kinds of great content that answers any potential question a user might have when they enter your site.
Your web design efforts should be guided by the idea that you’ll have this kind of content available on your site.
Great web design isn’t about being flashy – it’s about presenting great information in the clearest possible way.
Yes, your website should look great, but that’s not as important as making it easy to navigate.
Search Engine Optimization
SEO firms want you to believe that search engine optimization is challenging, time-consuming, and impossible to succeed in without the help of a professional.
We’ll shoot it to you straight:
We are an SEO firm, and we do know firsthand that SEO is ever-changing and that it takes a little bit of knowhow. If you’re looking to really grow a nonprofit, you may want to consider working with professionals who know SEO methodology inside and out.
That said, there is definitely work that you can do yourself, and it can be done today. Taking on the challenge can produce some massive results, and you don’t even have to pay for a professional to do it.
Basically, search engine optimization is all about making your website appear as both relevant and trustworthy.
Because this is what search engines are looking for.
Think about it:
If you searched for something on Google (maybe you searched “digital marketing for nonprofits” and ended up here) then you would expect to be pointed towards a site that’s a respected authority with something important to say.
Being trustworthy is important because Google, Bing, and other search engines want to ensure that they give their searchers the best information available. They also want to ensure that they keep their searchers away from spam, dangerous sites, and pirated information.
A major world event takes place. Immediately, your reaction is to find out more information about it. Would you rather be pointed towards an established source that you can trust or a random site that you’ve never heard of?
If you’re like most people, you want to be sent to the reputable source. After all, misinformation is published and shared on a daily basis. Finding out about the truth is important.
When it comes to SEO, relevancy is just as important as trustworthiness.
Here’s another scenario:
Your nonprofit just sent out a series of press releases regarding a recent fundraiser. You want to see the articles that different publications wrote about the event, so you head to a search engine and type in the name of your nonprofit and add the word “fundraiser”.
Instead of showing you what you were looking for, the search engine pulls up information about random fundraisers from all sorts of nonprofits around the world. To find anything relevant, you have to wade through all sorts of stuff you weren’t looking for.
This is a bad user experience, and search engines have responded by insisting that site owners produce relevant content so that they can be found in search engine results.
Relevance, then, is determined on a case-by-case basis. Your site may be relevant to some searches (queries) and completely irrelevant to others.
Search engines have algorithms that are able to digest and understand information surprisingly well. If you’re writing about a topic that you want to appear in search engine results for, then you have to ensure that search engines can understand very specifically what it is you’re talking about.
If you’re writing about the fundraising effort we used as an example here, then your post should clearly explain how it is related to the topic. It’s only logical to assume that you’d use words like “fundraiser” or “donation”. Additionally, you should be including extremely specific information like the name of your nonprofit or the date of the event.
How to Become Trustworthy
Unlike humans, search engines aren’t able to understand a firm handshake or a certain look in your eye. They don’t allow you to simply sign contracts that say you’re trustworthy, and they don’t believe you when you simply tell them that you have relevant information on your site.
That being said, there are several ways to clearly display to search engines that you’re trustworthy, and they are:
- Website Traffic
- Great User Experiences
Each of these elements is extremely significant. Backlinks are simply links on other websites that point back to your site. The idea behind this is that another website can lend their trustworthiness to you.
For instance, FeedbackWrench has a variety of backlinks from industry publications to help search engines understand that we know what we’re talking about. There are a variety of ways to get these backlinks, but the most common theme is that you typically have to provide something of value to another site for them to link back to you.
Think of the nightly news. Most sites that have active blogs or news feeds have a significant need for great content or industry-specific insights. As someone who plays an important role in a nonprofit, what can you contribute? What do you know that someone else needs to? What kind of content can you provide that would help someone else’s site to grow?
Work hard to provide value and you’ll find that lots of sites are willing to add a link to your site from theirs. It seems like a small gesture, but in the eyes of Google and Bing, it’s a big deal. It’s like a trusted friend introducing you to a potential vendor for your wedding day. If your friend trusts this person, so can you, in many cases.
Reviews are another great way to convey trustworthiness. Are there places online where people that have experience with you go to share their thoughts? In some cases, benefactors of the service you provide might already be sharing their thoughts about your work. In other cases, you might not have any reviews.
Consider what an appropriate way to encourage positive reviews could look like. Having 5-star reviews, especially on a Google My Business page, tells Google, Bing, and other search engines that people who come to you have good experiences in doing so.
Website traffic is also a great indicator of trustworthiness. In most cases, sites that get lots of traffic can be trusted for many things. After all, people are smart, and they won’t continue to come back to a site that’s irrelevant, uninteresting, or downright wrong about everything.
It’s not easy to increase website traffic, but know that working hard to be relevant and trustworthy will likely lead you towards increasing web traffic.
Great user experiences are yet another important element for conveying trustworthiness. If people continually jump onto your site, stay for 10 seconds, and then leave, it shows search engines that there’s something wrong with your site.
If it seems like people who enter your site are frustrated or unsatisfied, that’s a strong indicator of your site’s lack of both relevancy and trustworthiness.
To fix an issue with user experiences on your site, get some outside opinions. Ask people you know to head to your site and act as if they were someone who’s being introduced to your work for the first time. Once they’ve had a look around, ask them if they found the information that they were looking for and if they enjoyed the process of navigating around the different pages available.
If you can tell that the process was confusing, frustrating, or failing to answer users’ questions, consider laying out your site a little bit differently. Web design may play a significant role in this as well.
How to Become Relevant
If you want your site to appear as relevant to search engines so that you can strengthen your nonprofit’s digital marketing efforts, you’ll have to answer people’s questions.
Here’s some great news:
Proving that your website is relevant is easier than proving that its trustworthy.
While proving trustworthiness involves all sorts of information from other people, relevancy can be proved simply by writing, showing, and sharing great content.
To appear on the first page search engine result for a query like “ending hunger” you have to fill a webpage with all sorts of great information about the topic. You have to get inside a user’s head and determine why they might have made that search.
What were they thinking of when they did it? What kind of information would they want to find on a webpage that they click on?
If your site answers user questions better than anyone else and leaves them feeling the most satisfied, then you will prove that you have the most relevant information and that other sites should be behind yours in search results.
Social Media Marketing
When most people think about digital marketing, social media comes to mind first. Ask people you know for marketing ideas, and you’ll hear things like:
“Start a Facebook page!”
“Launch an Instagram account!”
“Get on as many social platforms as possible!”
Even though social media is often viewed as the go-to place for marketing online, there’s a lot of misinformation that flies around in this space. Don’t trust everything your friends tell you.
The most important thing to know about social media is this cliché:
It’s important to be conversational.
Here’s the cold reality:
No one likes marketing – at least not when they can tell that it’s marketing.
If people can tell that you’re trying to “sell” them on something – even a good cause or a fundraising effort – their reaction will be to stay away. Overtly promotional content is extraordinarily unpopular on social media, even to the point that Facebook’s algorithm punishes content that’s perceived as salesy.
You might not know much about social media algorithms, but you will want to be aware of this:
There’s no exception to any rule. Most users on Facebook, for instance, see roughly 6-7% of all of the posts that they could see at any given time. These posts are determined by the Facebook algorithm to be the most likely candidates for entertaining or otherwise engaging content. If Facebook is explicitly saying that users are less likely to be engaged by salesmanship, then your post will not be seen by very many people.
This means, of course, that posts including overt salesmanship should be few and far between. Instead, nonprofits should focus on engaging their followers and capturing their interest.
That way, the users will click over to your site. From there, you can point them towards the other things that you want them to see.
Ever heard that email marketing is dead? That kind of information couldn’t be more wrong. Some marketers are actually bold enough to say that email marketing is the most effective way to share brand messaging.
You can agree or disagree with that, but the important thing to know is that only bad email marketing is dead.
Bad email marketing is characterized by spam, irrelevant content, uninteresting promotions, and the like.
Great email marketing compels people to open what you send, click through the links you include, and even respond to your emails (in scenarios where that is appropriate).
So what’s in a great email that a nonprofit might send out?
That depends on your audience. Think about what kind of list you’re sending to. Depending on who you have on that list, “relevancy” could look a lot different than the people on a list that I might have here at FeedbackWrench.
At FeedbackWrench, our email list consists largely of small business owners and nonprofit administration teams. They want to know about running a business, marketing it, and seeing great results.
A list of nonprofit donors, however, might to hear about where their dollars are at work or how things are going on the “front lines”.
Try to consider yourself in the shoes of a person that you’re emailing. Try to forget about what your motivation is for sending an email, because most people aren’t interested in what you want. They only care about what’s relevant to them.
If you were the receiver, what kind of email would you want landing in your inbox? That’s the email that you should send.
Advertising + Ad Grants for Nonprofits
Paid advertising? It’s pretty much any nonprofit’s worst nightmare. In fact, it’s pretty much anyone’s nightmare. Spending money to drive random visitors to your site is always a bit of a scary thought.
But here’s the deal:
Advertising that’s done right isn’t about driving a bunch of randoms to your site. There’s a way to get targeted enough that X amount of dollars in equals XXXX amount of dollars out.
We know nonprofits aren’t about hitting sales goals, but we also know this:
All nonprofits need to cover their operating expenses. Additional dollars in can also help in expanding the work that you’re able to do.
The idea is to be extremely careful about where you place your advertising messages. Don’t just pour money into Facebook or Google AdWords – that kind of spending isn’t going to produce the kinds of results that you want.
Instead, try this:
Place your advertising messages in front of the people who actually want to find you. Carefully consider where these people might be. On Google, you can find them based on keywords they might search that relate to what you do. On Facebook, you can find them by the way they’ve expressed interest in the topics you’re talking about.
Once you’ve found that audience, that’s great, but don’t stop there. You don’t want to get in front of the right people with the wrong message.
It’s almost never a good idea to send people blindly towards your homepage with an advertising opportunity. Instead, build a customized landing page that’s created with just the right kind of information that your new guest would want to know.
If I searched for “end human trafficking,” clicked on an ad, and ended up on a page that gave me actionable information about getting involved, I’d be compelled to take my first steps. If I landed on a “Donate Now” page or a page talking about your nonprofit in a very broad sense, I would not feel satisfied and would have to dig into your site or go to a different one in order to find my answer.
The Google Ad Grant + Facebook Ad Grants
If you didn’t know already, Google actually has an amazing ad grant that’s available to almost any nonprofit. It includes $10,000 a month in free advertising on Google AdWords.
There are some terms and conditions that apply, but honestly, there’s really no catch – believe us, we’ve tried to find one!
Most nonprofits are eligible for the Google Ad Grant, and just about everyone who applies seems to receive it.
Getting the ad grant setup for your nonprofit is an admittedly long and convoluted process, but it does include $10,000 a month in completely free advertising. Think about how significant that is!
What could your nonprofit do with $10,000 a month in advertising?
Maybe it’s time to head to the Google Ad Grants page and find out!
Before you get started on setting up this grant, please know that Google has made this very complicated. From start to finish, handle your application and administration of this grant with great care. Please consider the instructions Google gives or consult a professional for help.
If you’ve been looking for a great way to get your message out without breaking the bank, this could be the way to go.
If you’re immediately wondering if Facebook offers the same thing as Google, we do have a little bit of bad news. As of right now, Facebook does not offer any kind of ad grant for nonprofits.
That being said, there have been rumors surrounding the possibility of something like this being instituted at Facebook. It may be worth keeping your eyes peeled!
Photo + Video
We have to be honest – there are tons of organizations out there making mistakes when it comes to visual marketing. In some cases, it’s slightly overvalued.
By that, we don’t mean to say that great imagery and video marketing is unimportant. On the contrary – we actually believe it’s one of the most important pieces in your strategy.
However, great visuals won’t produce tons of marketing wins on their own. As of right now, even the best visuals do very little when it comes to search engine optimization and other important digital marketing methods.
Instead of creating a digital marketing strategy that’s based on great looking websites, pages, and social media posts, think of visuals as a supplement.
Great videos usually don’t get viewed unless they’re in the right place at the right time. In some cases, they even have to be combined with great copywriting or other strategies.
Great photos offer great support for what you’re trying to say, but they don’t get the job done on their own. A nonprofit needs to combine the use of both photos and the written word to see the greatest success.
If you’re looking to see amazing growth in the coming years, we’d love to talk more with you regarding your nonprofit. Here at FeedbackWrench, we work exclusively with small businesses and nonprofits to help make the web into your best employee.
Whatever you do as you start looking at revitalizing your digital marketing strategy, try not to get overwhelmed or discouraged. Some of these methods provide instant wins while others take a couple of years to produce significant results. Over time, it will become easier and easier to get all of them going, and that’s what will provide the best results – a little bit of everything.
That being said, we wouldn’t recommend working on everything all at once. Until you’ve gotten started, try focusing on just one or two areas, that’s the best way to get going.