2022’s Complete Guide to Creating a Nonprofit Marketing Plan

Published by
Kristen Dahlin

Marketing is essential for all businesses, even nonprofits. In a world dominated by digital media, changing industries, and other factors, it’s essential for marketers to know how to reach their audiences. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to create a nonprofit marketing plan.

What is Nonprofit Marketing?

Nonprofit marketing is the lifeblood of engagement and outreach for an organization like yours. This isn’t just about finding ways to reach donors but also promoting your message and ideals to your audience. 

A marketing plan is essential for nonprofits to succeed. Having a strategy of your objectives and methods will help keep your marketing consistent, on schedule, and within your budget. There are a number of reasons why nonprofit marketing is valuable:

#1: Helps Raise Funding for the Non-Profit Organization

Nonprofits may not be looking for money in the same way that other businesses are, but you still need a budget.

Without donors, your projects risk losing the funding they need to succeed. The more that you can accrue, the greater potential your projects have for succeeding. 

People who don’t know about your organization or its goals won’t donate. Marketing helps your organization expand its vision outward and attract new donors.

By making people more aware of your organization, its objectives, and your projects, you vastly increase the likelihood that someone will become a donor.

#2: Raises Awareness About Your Organization

Nonprofit marketing plans can help raise expand your audience and bring greater attention to the objectives you are trying to achieve. The wider your audience, the wider your pool of potential donors.

#3: Improves your Organization’s Reputation

Marketing isn’t just about gaining new donors and audiences. It’s also about maintaining your relationship with your current donors. Spreading awareness about your organization’s activities can help bring more attention to the good work you’re doing, and that can greatly improve your reputation as a nonprofit. This makes it more likely that current donors will continue to trust your organization. 

#4: Expand your Digital Footprint with Online Marketing

With a digital nonprofit marketing plan, you can improve your organization’s ranking on search engines and social media sites like Instagram. This can take your organization’s influence global, attracting people from around the world who are searching for keywords that are relevant to your objectives. 

#5: Engage Current Donors

Marketing can help attract new donors, but it can also maintain your relationship with existing donors. It’s important to make sure that your current donors are encouraged to keep contributing to your cause so that you can maintain a steady stream of funding for your projects and campaigns.

Foundations of a Nonprofit Marketing Plan

There are a few critical foundations that organizations need to pay attention to when building a nonprofit marketing plan. T

hese are branding, execution, analysis, and response. Together, these form the backbone of your marketing plan by establishing the visual representation of your plan, how you’ll measure your success, and how you will change in response to positive or negative results.

Branding

Every nonprofit marketing plan needs to have a plan for branding. It’s extremely important to pay attention to how outside observers see your organization. Think carefully about how you want your nonprofit to be seen, and make sure that what you choose remains consistent across every marketing platform. 

Branding is how people recognize that your organization is unique. Ideally, they should be able to immediately recognize that a logo or other piece of media from your nonprofit is yours. That branding should also be consistent. 

The best example of this is a nationwide restaurant. Let’s say you order a sandwich from one restaurant. You then travel to the same restaurant in a different location and order the same sandwich. You would expect that both sandwiches should taste the same.

The same applies to your nonprofit organization. Your color logo, color scheme, fonts, tone of voice, and more are all part of your branding and should be accounted for in your plan. 

Execution

It’s important to consider how you will execute your marketing plan. Are you building a campaign that will last several months? Are you constructing a general plan for the next several years? What exactly will you do over that period to accomplish your goals? These are all questions that nonprofit marketers need to answer to create their strategy.

It’s important to think about a few things when coming up with the execution of their plan, such as,

  1. The platforms where marketing will take place
  2. Target audience and their interests
  3. Methods of competitors or similar organizations
  4. Call to action: how will the pieces of your plan encourage your audience to donate or participate?
  5. Scheduling posts on social media
  6. Other aspects of executing your plan

Generally, the more detail that you can go into when planning your marketing, the better. Understand deeply what you plan to do, how it will be done, and why. Writing down a nonprofit marketing plan can help keep track of these ideas for your team.

Analysis

It’s important to make sure that your nonprofit marketing plan takes account for analysis. As you construct your plan, make room for recording information. This could be quantitative data in the form of website and social analytics, website views, social media likes and follows, number of donors, and how much each donor contributes. This could also be qualitative data, such as surveys from donors.

Having this data and collecting it over time is critical for measuring the success of your marketing plan. Without analysis, you won’t be able to see if your marketing plan is successful or not. 

Response

This is a commonly overlooked step when creating a nonprofit marketing plan. Having information when doing analysis is helpful, but it means nothing if action isn’t taken in response to it. For example, if your marketing isn’t getting as many donors as you expected according to your data, it’s important to explore why that might be. After thinking about this, it may be wise to take action to pivot and change the plan in an intelligent manner. 

Changing your strategy isn’t always a bad thing. Staying steady with a marketing strategy that isn’t working can be extremely costly for a nonprofit, especially when donors are on the line. Instead of running a flawed marketing strategy into the ground, listen to your analytics and pivot before it’s too late. 

If your analysis shows that you are gaining more conversions than expected, maybe it’s time to scale up your marketing strategy further! Pay close attention to the data you collect and take action to make the most of your nonprofit marketing plan. 

How to Create a Marketing Plan for a Nonprofit Organization

With these foundational elements in mind, you can create a marketing plan for your nonprofit organization more easily. Let’s go through it step by step. 

#1: Acknowledge your Objectives

Before coming up with any kind of nonprofit marketing plan, consider what your objectives are. This can go beyond simply attracting more donors. Understanding why you need the funding and what you are ultimately trying to achieve will be more helpful when coming up with the shape of your marketing strategy. Going beyond the monetary aspects will also help your marketing stay grounded and connected with your donors. 

One way to understand your objectives is the SMART goals method. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

It’s important to be as specific as possible to ensure that you aren’t straying away from what really matters. Make sure that your goal is also measurable. For example, you can track the number of donors and their contributions. 

It’s also critical that your goals are achievable. Make sure that you aren’t being unrealistic in your expectations and reaching too far out of your budget and ability.

Make sure that your objectives are also relevant to your organization’s values and objectives. Finally, make sure that you keep your plan bound by deadlines to make sure that the pieces of your plan are accomplished in a timely manner. 

Coming up With Your Objectives

It may be a good idea to discuss the SMART goals tenets with your colleagues to have a better understanding of the goals of your business. This can help give you a more diverse understanding of what the people in your organization want to achieve. 

If you are having trouble making your objectives more specific and measurable, look closely at what your organization needs to succeed. How are you mainly getting funding, or where could you be getting funding that you currently aren’t? 

#2: Understand Your Target Audience

Before you can come up with any kind of marketing, it’s vital to understand your target audience. Research in this stage is critical because it not only will tell you who your potential donors are but also what interests them and what they value. If you can align with their values, you will be more likely to make conversions to achieve more funding. 

Narrow and Segment When Possible

It may seem like a good idea to target as many people as possible to reach the most potential donors, but this isn’t always the best idea. If your campaign is too broad you may not reach the people most likely to contribute as easily. In fact, you may even alienate them from the campaign entirely! 

It’s better to have a deeper understanding of who cares about your nonprofit organization, who your work directly impacts, and who has money available to contribute to your cause. If you can tailor your campaigns to these people, you will be more likely to succeed. 

#3: Understand your Marketing Budget

Your marketing plan ultimately is intended to expand your organization’s budget for projects, but every marketer has to start from somewhere. It’s important to understand what funds you have at your disposal and how much each aspect of your plan will cost. Keep track of this continuously as you come up with the pieces of your strategy. Don’t overextend yourself and use the resources you have wisely. 

#4: Audit Existing Marketing Strategies

Before beginning, it’s important to examine existing marketing strategies your organization is using and has used in the past. What has worked in the past? What didn’t work? Think carefully about how you can leverage that information to your advantage. 

A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis can be a great starting point when auditing previous marketing strategies. Start by listing details you notice under each category, like this: 

Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats
What worked well for your marketing strategy? What didn’t work as well for your organization’s marketing? What could your organization have done to take advantage of strengths, or correct weaknesses? What stood in the way of your success? What could prove problematic in the future if uncorrected?

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

Make sure that you continue to perform these audits for each marketing strategy you come up with. In marketing, it’s okay to make mistakes. However, it’s critical that we learn from those mistakes to improve our work in the future. A lot of what goes into a successful campaign is experimentation. You won’t know the best route to take until you try it. 

Keep track of all the data that you collect for review later, it will definitely come in handy when planning your next campaign! 

#5: Keep Track of Your Executables

What exactly is part of your nonprofit marketing plan? Do you plan to create posters? Run live events? Post on your organization’s website and social media accounts? Reach donors with weekly emails? What you choose is up to you, no matter how broad or how narrow. This will depend on your objectives, your budget, your target audience, and other factors. 

Regardless, each of these ‘executables’ should be kept track of. Know the purpose of each, how much they will cost, when they will be implemented, and who will create and implement them. 

#6: Create a Schedule

Now that you know what you want to do in your nonprofit marketing plan, create a schedule of these executables so that you know when they will take place over time. If you need to pivot at any point, leave room to rearrange some of these events if possible. Pivoting strategies can be expensive, but it’s also possible that a pivot could help you avoid an even more dangerous loss in donations.

#7: Create Templates and Materials

Information can change over the course of your marketing campaign. If your plan involves email marketing about news and events, it may be impossible to predict what these messages will look like in advance. However, you can get a head start by providing your team with templates to work with. Creating email templates, sample newsletters, and basic outlines of blog posts can help you get a head start on producing content to reduce the rush when the time comes. 

Automatic Personalization

As you plan your templates, leave some room for automatic personalization. For example, in email marketing, you can add placeholders for the recipient’s name. It might appear as, “[RECIPIENT], We Need Your Help!” The bracketed text can be replaced with the recipient’s name with whatever software you’re using to run your email campaign. 

#8: How do you Write a Marketing Plan for a Nonprofit Organization?

It can seem daunting to put all of the previous steps into a single, written plan for your nonprofit organization. However, writing down your thoughts can be extremely helpful for the success and implementation of your plan. Marketing plans can be complex and hard to keep track of, but a written document can be a great reference over the course of the campaign. 

Once you’ve created the document, you can present it to organization leadership for discussion and approval. Documents like this make discussing and analyzing marketing plans much easier and more efficient.

Marketing Strategies for Nonprofit Organizations with Examples

There are a number of different ways that you can implement a nonprofit marketing strategy. Some avenues that you can approach digitally are social media, website blogging, and email marketing. 

#1: Social Media

Just like regular businesses, nonprofits can utilize social media to expand their outreach and connect with current and potential donors. However, since social media is most often used by consumers instead of businesses, it can be easy to approach this without an effective strategy. Instead, make sure that you are approaching social media marketing for your organization methodically and thoughtfully. 

There are a number of reasons why social media is an effective outreach tool for your nonprofit organization:

  • Millions of people use social media every day, including potential donors.
  • Social media is one of the fastest ways to reach your audience.
  • If you post often, your audience can stay engaged with your organization, maintaining your relationship with them.
  • Social media is a great place to draw in engagement, encouraging users to click on links to your website to donate or participate in projects.

Tailwind is an effective social media management tool that can help your nonprofit succeed. With a variety of automation tools, Tailwind helps make social media marketing on Instagram and Pinterest easier than ever.

Get ideas and get designs suggested to you automatically to schedule posts to save time. Optimization tools are also available to help your posts succeed. Best of all, it’s easy to get started using it for free. 

#2: Website Blog Posts

Your website’s blog isn’t just a place to share your nonprofit organization’s latest news. It’s also a critical tool that can help people find your website when using search engines. 

One of the most valuable things to consider when creating blog posts for your nonprofit marketing plan is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is a practice by which you create website content in such a way that it’s more likely to be seen by search engines. 

Your ultimate goal should be to rank as high as possible for a valuable keyword. Think carefully about what keywords your audience is searching for. Be as specific as you can to your organization’s particular niche. For example, if your organization is dedicated to preserving trees in a local watershed, you may target keywords like “how to save trees” or “how to plant a tree in [location]”.

Short vs Long-Tail

If you are a local business, you may want to target long-tail keywords. These are longer keywords that are more specific and generally have less traffic. However, despite having less traffic, long-tail keywords may have more conversions.

In contrast, short tail keywords like “how to donate food” are much harder to rank for because they have a lot of competition from other websites. For a local business, “how to donate food in Philadelphia” may be more appropriate.

#3: Email Marketing

An effective way to enrich your nonprofit marketing strategy is to utilize email marketing. If you are able to drive your audience to subscribe to an email list, you can directly communicate with them using newsletters and other emails. From here, you can encourage them to donate to your cause and participate in your projects. 

Ensure that your emails are high quality and interesting to readers. It’s almost guaranteed that your audience is already being bombarded by marketing emails from other companies, so you need to make sure that your emails are valuable to your audience. 

You can also personalize your emails to automatically address readers by the name they provided when they subscribed. This helps make them feel more acknowledged. According to Campaign Monitor, if an email has a personalized subject line, it’s 26% more likely for that email to be opened. 

However, it can be challenging to get people to subscribe to your emails. Make sure that you are encouraging people to subscribe on other platforms, like social media and blog posts.

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Kristen Dahlin

Kristen Dahlin is the Content Marketing Manager at Tailwind — your new Marketing team, helping you create social media designs, schedule posts, and optimize across Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest with one easy-to-use social media management tool. Kristen lives in rural Oklahoma with her husband Kyle, daughter Sophie, boxer Lila, and a very temperamental flower garden.

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Kristen Dahlin

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