Marketing IS fundraising
Victoria Phillips, “Digital Marketing in Nonprofit Organizations: Essential Techniques for the New Era”, 2022
“Fundraising and marketing go hand in hand.”
Regarding Victoria Phillips's remarks on digital marketing for nonprofits, Successful fundraising requires a delicate blend of creativity, business, empathy, and strategic planning, making it an art form that sets the stage for impactful initiatives. Nonprofit digital marketing ideas need to be intentional, fun and interesting.
In this section, we'll explore the key elements of marketing your digital fundraising campaigns to maximize your efforts and missions. How can you give your nonprofit organization an edge?
Understanding new trends in donor profiles: A need for agency and trust
There is an unspoken sentiment that nonprofits should not care about profit and business. The mission and community are the most important for a nonprofit’s focus. While this is true, nonprofits have to think more about how finances can and will affect their organizations.
As we expressed in Part 1 of this series, revenue can be extremely volatile if we are not diversifying effectively and creatively. But how do we know which donors to target, which will be most effective, and which will resonate with our organization?
Current trends indicate some interesting phenomena that have happened since the early 2000s with donation habits by demographics. When you think of the typical donor for a nonprofit, what picture comes to mind? Usually, donors are your everyday people interested in giving back to their communities. However, since the Great Recession especially, this has become less of the case.
Donors are becoming wealthier
Donors are trending toward wealthier classes over time, so nonprofits must shift their targets accordingly. When it came to low and middle class donors, it was enough to have community events and focus on local charity more easily through means such as mailing lists, tabling at local grocery stores, and free workshops. With inflation and economic downtowns, we see that over the long-term, this method will no longer be viable as people just don’t have the disposable income, even if they would love to donate.
While this makes sense, donations over the long term since the early 2000s have actually been increasing. Why?
“As one concern, several recent studies of individual donors have shown that participation rates in charitable giving among low- and middle-income donors in the United States is declining, suggesting that although donations have generally been increasing, nonprofits appear to be relying more on wealthier donors” (Nonprofit Trends and Impacts 2021).
This matters because wealthier donors tend to have different donation priorities, more associated with “sense of agency refers to the feeling of being in control, controlling one's actions, and, through them, controlling the external world.” It was stated here that “wealth and power are associated with feelings of independence, autonomy, and a stronger orientation toward agency.”
So agency therefore becomes a HUGE priority for targeting appropriate, and viable, donors who are willing and able to contribute. Agency forms for these donors by having a clear idea of where their first and last dollar is going. In Part 3 in the series, we mentioned ways to build these relationships. Agency, therefore, should be the goal for these donors in this demographic. People want to actually see that they are making a difference. (That's why digital marketing for nonprofits is so important!)
The identifiable victim effect
“The identifiable victim effect could be explained in view of the uncertainty related to the fate of victims. Deaths of identified victims are usually certain to occur if action is not taken, whereas statistical deaths are probabilistic” (Esterzon, 2022).
This certainty and specificity in fundraising increases the likelihood of donations. This is a one-child effect where someone feels more meaning in helping one child that they know from beginning to end than multiple unknown children. We counter this by giving them a face, outlet, and most of all, effective donor management.
Wealthier donors implicate other things as well. The amounts that could be included in a donation tier system are higher, ages and appropriate events can be analyzed, and more.
But regardless of wealth status, every donor requires one thing that will increase their likelihood to donate: trust. Trust is fostered from publicizing human activity and interest in human problems from the organization. Digital marketing in fundraising is critical. The same way GoFundMe allows for updates should be a focus for nonprofit fundraising as well. Always update, always let them know there are humans behind the screen. This is the most important trend that remains a constant through time.
Collaboration with other nonprofits
When it comes to raising funds online, visibility is absolutely crucial. With the online space being so crowded, having and giving support is a superpower in marketing and fundraising. This happens when your nonprofit partners with another nonprofit, whether through pure social media retweets, or an actual in-person event that blends communities.
“This was evidenced by NPOs that retweeted conversations or tagged other NPOs in their tweets, or by NPOs that used Facebook for similar activities” (Lauro, 2019).
Retweets or being featured on another nonprofit’s website can also have incredible SEO benefits and provide organic visibility. Both save money from advertising and embed your nonprofit even further into the conversation. In Contagious, one of the most powerful forms of marketing is through word-of-mouth. Getting even a retweet or mention on their website is the online equivalent to “word-of-mouth.” Word-of-mouth from another authority in your sector is online gold.
Develop a digital marketing team within your nonprofit
“Nonprofit companies that market online enjoy many of the same benefits as for-profit businesses. Costs are lower, time to market is quicker, and the pool of prospects is based on indicated interest rather than best guesses" (Phillips, 2022). However, nonprofits rarely invest time or employees properly into digital marketing like social media management, ads, SEO, blogs, email marketing, and more due to “decreased budgets, unqualified and insufficient employees, hesitancy and lack of understanding, and restricted resources.”
Without making digital marketing a priority, nonprofits will not see the benefits that fundraising online has to offer. It is too great a job with very specific qualifications that managers should seek out more experienced communications professionals. In another study, it was known that most nonprofits that were studied rarely prioritized social media, even though when they used it, saw increases in their fundraising goals. Imagine what nonprofit organizations could do with an experienced, qualified team and a solid budget?
The Impact of Humor in Fundraising
Humor, when tastefully infused, can transform fundraising efforts from mundane to memorable. Standing out is so important, but why not have fun with it? A well-placed joke or a cleverly witty campaign can catch donors' attention and infuse positivity into the giving experience. Humor has the power to break barriers between a larger mission and individuals.
The company Grist used humor that joked about keeping everyone in the office until they raised $50,000. (Spoiler: They raised the money shortly after the campaign).
Maximize Ad Revenue for Websites and Blogs
Don’t go overboard with this one. You don’t want an important message getting lost in ads, but tasteful placement with one to two ads per page would definitely contribute to overall fundraising efforts. Writing insightful content while making passive income from showcasing companies aligned with your mission is a great addition to fundraising. And what an easy way to begin building corporate partnerships to diversify income.
Digital marketing strategies almost always lead traffic directly back to the website, which means more ad revenue. Compounded by a blog with multiple posts and different ads, there is a serious opportunity to raise money and awareness at the same time.
Important to note: Please consult with a tax professional on best practices for revenue structures.
Develop a proactive attitude towards data management
Keep track of social media analytics and develop a more proactive attitude. Instead of waiting for inquiries and messages, begin a process of calling volunteers, lobbying, and more. With analytics, CRM software, and local news and information on social issues, there is no reason not to target people willing to contribute to social causes.
Put your nonprofit in the driver’s seat, not as a passerby while change passes them by.
Concluding this 4-part series:
If you stayed with us throughout this series, thank you. If this was your first article here, we encourage you to start from the beginning to get the most out of making a profit with purpose! As nonprofits continue to perfect the art of effective fundraising, they build a solid foundation for their endeavors, ensuring a brighter future for the communities they serve.
It may not be the most giving month that is February, but fundraising to increase giving is a full-time, all-year affair.
Be authentic, be true, and always remember that the purpose is in the mission. To the community! To change! Thank you for learning about digital marketing for nonprofits!
About ForGranted: ForGranted Media specializes in all facets of emerging technological advancements, finance, fundraising and marketing for your nonprofit. Our sole mission is to provide with resources to become a stronger organization!
About the Writer: Zakiya Moore is a freelance writer from Oakland, California specializing in dance, nonprofit, literature, and culture. She has worked with the American Bar Association, National Black Cultural Information Trust, Woke Dancer, and many other nonprofit organizations and publications!