Advocate like a Non-Profit, Market like a Brand

Illustration by Professor Vector via Dribbble

For many non-profit organizations, business operations are subject to tight budgets and the financial priorities are focused on supporting the cause. It is often economical to keep full-time staff to a minimum and to rely on volunteers to pick up much of the extra slack. This often doesn’t allow the best resources to be allocated for the range of other important processes required for running a successful business.

Due to these limitations, marketing is often one of the activities lacking funds and focus. In an ever-changing media landscape, navigating marketing on a low budget with a small team can be challenging, whatever the business. Often this core element becomes overlooked compared to the urgency of a non-profit organization’s purpose. Non-profits also tend to lack and struggle to afford experienced marketing directors that can guide the messaging and content strategy.

However, it is a mistake when non-profits fail to consider themselves as a brand and invest time and budget in brand marketing. Without identity messaging and a robust marketing strategy, raising awareness and funds becomes more difficult.

The Value Of Brand Marketing

Brand marketing is especially important in the current business climate. Responding to environmental concerns, the global health crisis, and social activism for the treatment of immigrants and minorities, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is rising.

Identify brand mission vission
Image by Gregory Warner via Dribbble

Companies are incorporating more philanthropy into their business plans, and consumers are supporting this activity. Cause marketing is now mainstream, and non-profits must compete within this ecosystem on far lower budgets.

Despite these challenges, the current market also represents an opportunity. As consumers become more socially responsible, they are more susceptible to cause marketing. For-profit corporations are leading by example and providing a model for how to successfully promote important causes.

Even on a low budget, there are plenty of tactics non-profits can apply to their promotional strategy if they adopt a brand marketing mindset. The following methods outline a marketing plan for non-profits to propel awareness and donations

#1. Remove Friction From Digital Assets

A non-profit website serves three purposes, accepting online donations, allowing volunteers to sign-up, and educating users about the available programs. Where many website designs fail is overcomplicating the layout, delivery of information, and process steps.

Removing friction involves taking an objective look at the usability of the site from the perspective of each type of target audience. Each page should be assessed and considered for its core objective. Are the descriptions too long and over-complicated? Are there clear calls to action (CTA)? Is the site easy to navigate and conversion points easy to locate? Is the site optimized for mobile? Are user forms too long?

Research shows that several elements will negatively impact conversion. For a non-profit, the site’s conversion funnel is guiding users to donate their money or time. If the budget won’t allow for an A/B testing firm, there are free plug-ins and software such as VWO and Unbounce that can be used to highlight where website friction is taking place.

#2. Define And Target Your Audiences

Know Your Audience
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Just like any other business, a non-profit will need to appeal to different audiences and demographics within these target groups. These target groups will require a curated approach to inspire conversion. Those benefitting from the donations and programs will respond to different content and calls to action than potential donors and volunteers.

User data can be gathered from the website to measure the type of demographics that are already converted by including fields for age, location, and gender to forms. If your non-profit isn’t collating users into a database already, now is a great time to start.

Once audience discovery is underway, content should be designed to appeal to each group and placed to optimize a higher conversion rate. For example, if a key group follows your content on social media, then messaging should be targeted to appeal to new users within that group.

#3. Increase Content Output

Developing a content strategy can be boiled down into actions based on one objective. The best way to start is to write a mission statement that encompasses the cause your non-profit supports, and what you want to achieve. This activity will inform the information you want your audience groups to receive via your content and the actions you intend to provoke.

Content should be varied, easy to digest, and include images, infographics, and videos. Hooking audiences in with a mixture of human stories that evoke emotions and thought-provoking facts they can share will boost engagement and gain followers.

Starting with the blog, increasing the articles you are publishing each week will educate your audience and provide sharable content for free PR. Applying basic SEO tactics such as linking out to authoritative relevant sites, and using keywords effectively will increase visibility in Google search.

Informative posts with helpful research and statistics about the cause will also encourage journalists to link back to your website as a source for citing data. The blog content can then be repurposed for your social media platforms

#4. Embrace Video

To get audiences to engage with your non-profit, storytelling is vital. If people can’t connect with your cause, they aren’t going to become converts. People need a narrative to engage with that provokes their emotions and inspires them to personally engage.

Video content is the best way to convey a story because it is a multi-sensory experience. Audiences get a visual and audible aid to accompany the information conveyed and this is far more likely to hook their emotions. People process video significantly faster than written content and it is swiftly becoming the preferred way the majority consume media.

Video is also the most shared type of content with 92% of content users on mobile sharing video with others. In the modern digital landscape, this is the most effective way to get your message viewed by the maximum number of people.

#5. Industry Leadership Positioning

How To Become an Industry Leader and Boost Your Business
Illustration by Anastasia Yashchenko via Dribbble

To be competitive within a saturated market, your brand must be viewed as the authority on your particular cause. This means collaborating with the media and seeking these opportunities.

Identify the member/members of your organization that will be best suited and comfortable as spokespeople for your brand. This should ideally be someone at the c-suite level who can embody what your brand stands for. Then, seek opportunities for public speaking slots, interviews, quotes, and guest author posting.

Making sure that spokespeople are promoted via your blog and social media platforms will allow the media a starting point to gauge their experience and knowledge. This can be via short videos discussing the cause, key quotes presented in image form, and the authorship of blog posts.

Creating profiles on platforms such as Medium and Quora for content placing will also build their online presence. Then, pitching relevant conferences, and publications (both regionally and nationally) will garner some interest and quality links back to the website.

#6. Inspire Community Advocacy

You may have a solid local following for your non-profit, but your digital audience is just as vital for building your brand and converting donors, volunteers, and users.

Social media is the perfect interactive space for developing a community. This begins with dynamic content that provokes emotion, but you also need to allow your audience to interact with you. By creating posts that encourage action, such as surveys, asking thoughtful questions, launching competitions, and responding to follower comments.

When users can participate in your content, they form a connection. This makes users become advocates of your brand and begin to organically market your brand for you through post sharing.

#7. Utilize Your Network

A network of influential and connected brand advocates is on the wish list of every non-profit. But, lacking celebrities and industry leaders, people within your, and your staff’s personal network can still represent untapped opportunities. Your existing relationships may be able to link you with other valuable contacts that can help your cause in some way through their time, reach, donation, or business advice.

Outside of the connections you already have in your network, industry events and hosting your own fundraising events are a great chance to speak passionately about your business and inspire support, priority donorship, and brand promotion from new people.

Building a strong online presence on platforms such as Linkedin and becoming active in relevant groups is a way to add a digital branch to your networking strategy.

#8. Develop Partnerships

As cause marketing has risen in popularity, there are many for-profit businesses interested in forming mutually beneficial partnerships with non-profit brands. These partnerships boost the reputation of the for-profit business and provide content for marketing strategy. The non-profit benefits from the increased audience visibility, purchase percentage donation schemes, and learning from a larger company’s marketing team and business leaders.

Corporate partners can be attracted via invitations to your events, via your network, or sourced through marketing outreach. Looking for a local business partner may be the best place to start as this will increase visibility you can leverage for the next potential opportunity. This could begin with a sponsored fundraising event that could appeal to local food providers, venue owners, and events companies that can donate their services for the positive PR.

About the Author!

Gemma Dodd is a Political Correspondent at Immigration News. She is invested in human rights and informing audiences about social injustice and positive global change.

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