Nonprofits have limited resources, and your marketing efforts need to be sustainable to continue to scale up your organization.
Nonprofits are commonly stretched for resources, relying on support from volunteers, corporate partners, and government assistance to fulfil their missions. Another challenge is that many major sources of support and funding are restricted, and nonprofits often have to compete for these. Those sources can only be used to advance the programs and initiatives dictated by the funder. Funding and fulfilling these initiatives is your nonprofit's purpose, but a lack of funds for marketing and other overhead expenses result in insufficient revenue for outreach and growth.
Ultimately, marketing is an expensive but necessary part of maintaining and growing a nonprofit. Marketing encompasses your nonprofit’s digital strategy, events, merchandise creation costs, and anything else that serves to promote your organisation.
While marketing is essential for bringing in funding and attracting volunteers, it is also easy for a marketing campaign to become unsustainable and either absorb too much of your budget or time. To help your nonprofit strike this balance between attracting necessary attention and still devoting time to other projects, this article will walk through four factors for creating a sustainable marketing plan.
Attracting new supporters to your cause can be expensive, and it’s not uncommon for nonprofits to struggle with a lack of long-term commitment from volunteers. This is why it’s important for nonprofits to not only focus on how to gain new supporters but also how to retain them.
Your nonprofit only needs to pay the marketing costs of attracting a supporter once. After that initial investment, a retained supporter will continue giving, providing long-term value. Retaining supporters is thus an essential part of a successful, sustainable marketing program. This applies to volunteers, as well as donors.
You can improve your retention rates by providing incentives, such as:
The supporters your nonprofit has retained can also be a useful marketing tool. These supporters have had a positive experience with your nonprofit and can likely be persuaded to promote your cause to their friends and family, providing your nonprofit with a source for word-of-mouth marketing.
Nonprofits intending to grow their marketing strategy should develop a plan to do so sustainably. Part of this plan should involve assessing your current communication tools and determining these tools can meet your long-term needs.
Software licences can be expensive and changing platforms can result in dips in productivity as your team gets acquainted with your new tools. To avoid repeatedly changing software, nonprofits should invest in scalable solutions that will adapt to their needs.
For example, DNL OmniMedia’s guide to Salesforce NPSP explains that the Salesforce CRM is popular because of its flexibility for organisations of all sizes. Small nonprofits will be able to use Salesforce NPSP for free and have their first 10 licences provided at no cost. Nonprofits can then purchase additional licences and storage space as they grow, allowing them to expand their marketing campaigns without a dramatic change in software.
Sustainability is about setting your nonprofit up to make an impact long term. This means having reliable tools, budget, and staff and to fulfil your initiatives and handle day-to-day operations now and into the future.
Focus on retention and how you can invest in various aspects of your organisation, from your software to your volunteers, to set them up to make a bigger impact down the line. Nonprofits should consider methods to make their organisations future-proof. You can set your nonprofit up to continue impacting long term change through:
When planning for your nonprofit’s future, consider the value different investments can bring. For example, the dedicated volunteers your nonprofit is able to retain long-term, can bring continuous value to events, fundraisers, and your programs. For these volunteers, devoting a few hours of their normal work to help them learn a new skill will likely be well worth it.
Marketing is expensive in both money and time. Organisations often underestimate how much time is required to develop a marketing plan, create outreach materials, edit those materials for different platforms, create posts, and follow-up with supporters who engage with each post.
Many nonprofits hire a member of their team specifically to manage their social media accounts and outreach on those specific platforms. To manage your outreach and your team’s time, create an outreach calendar with specific dates for when outreach materials should be developed , which platforms they will be posted on, and when they will go live.
A well-planned calendar will not only help your team create sustainable day-to-day schedules for their individual workloads, but it can also be used to coordinate campaign outreach across multiple channels. For instance, in the lead up to an event, a nonprofit may plan to reference the event in the previous month’s newsletter, send a formal mail invitation the next week, followed by an email invitation a few days later.
Creating an outreach schedule can also help with A/B testing and other marketing experiments. For example, if your nonprofit has multiple marketing ideas, you may want to compare how the same message will be received on numerous platforms. You could then plan to have your message finalised and send it out through email and direct mail to two groups of supporters during the first week of the month. Then, plan to receive responses in the following two weeks, providing a specific timeframe for the duration of this test.
Marketing helps your nonprofit reach new audiences, spread awareness, and build up brand recognition. Expand your marketing efforts sustainably by accounting for your long-term needs and resources. By implementing these four steps to make your nonprofit’s marketing more sustainable, your nonprofit should start to see results from the methods that work best for your organisation.