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A High-Level Guide To Low Budget Marketing for Nonprofits

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Marketing is crucial for nonprofits, but if you have spent any amount of time in the nonprofit sector, you know that this comes with its own seemingly impossible challenges. Nonprofits depend largely upon funders for money. When a person, business or organization sends money your way, they want to make sure that each of their hard-earned dollars is spent making an impact. They want to make a difference.

Most of them don’t feel that spending their money on marketing is achieving this goal.

Research estimates that for profit business spend about 10% of their budgets on marketing. For highly competitive industries, this number can go as high as 20%.  For nonprofits, both numbers are pretty much out of the question.

You simply have too much to do with the money you do have to devote such a large amount of valuable resources to marketing.

So, you have an immediate need for marketing, but no budget to do it with. What are you supposed to do?

The answer is you become creative and resourceful. It is entirely possible to run an effective, budget friendly marketing campaign when you know where to turn for inspiration.

Here, we set you in the right direction.

Go For Grants

Many nonprofits are unaware that grants exist for the sole purpose of helping them market their cause. One of the best marketing grants available is offered by none other than Google.

Google offers $10,000 a month in Google Ad grants that help nonprofits get noticed. In all, they award $120,000 annually. If you have ever run a PPC campaign, you know the type of impact that amount of grant money can have on your marketing success. Google Ad grants increases your online visibility which is a sure way to boost donations and the number of volunteers that contact your agency. Want to know if your nonprofit is eligible? Check here to find out.

Earned Media Opportunities

Earned media refers to the opportunity to promote yourself through PR, or unpaid sources, such as featured local news articles, TV, radio or newspaper interviews and free engagement through social media channels. This type of marketing strategy is one of the most sought after by nonprofits, but also one of the most difficult to attain. Why? Because everyone wants it.

To make the most of your earned media, you need to make sure that you have positioned your nonprofit to be highly visible when opportunity comes knocking. To optimize earned media opportunities, ask yourself these questions.

  • What are you doing to reach out and get noticed in the community? Has your organization done anything newsworthy recently, and what do you have planned as newsworthy happenings in the near future?
  • What is your press release strategy?
  • Do You have a process for optimizing press releases on your website?
  • What earned media channels is your target audience interacting with on a regular basis? Are you finding ways of reaching them there?
  • Do you have a strategy for taking earned media and transforming it into a larger following and engagement in social media?
  • Are you using tools to analyze the impact of earned media channels on converting supporters, donors and volunteers?

Optimizing earned media strategies is a three-step process that involves identifying opportunities, maximizing the power of each, and making sure you are reaching your target market.

Understand Who You Really Are Marketing To

With limited marketing dollars, it becomes even more important to really understand where your support is coming from. You are looking for the person, or group of people, that can make decisions that will positively impact the future of your nonprofit.

For many nonprofits, this area of focus will be corporations, not individuals. The public, in general, is more likely to donate when they receive something tangible in return. For example, once a year, Girl Scouts take to cookie booths to gain financial support for the organization. In return for a donation you get a box of cookies and everything is great.

But, unless you have the budget to invest in an incentive program, you have to turn to the people who are more likely to respond to the long term, big picture incentives of investing in your nonprofit, and those are the businesses and corporations with pockets deep enough to offer support and funding.

Before you invest a single cent in marketing your nonprofit, make sure that your dollars are going in a direction that will yield the highest results.

Come From Different Directions

It is never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket, and marketing your nonprofit is no different. Avoid the temptation to take every dollar of your marketing budget and invest it in one marketing avenue, such as PPC, Social media or developing an email strategy.

The best approach is to instead reach your market from as many different directions as possible. In the short term this might dip into your nonprofit’s wallet a little more than you like, but let’s look at the potential.

People need to see your message multiple times before they are engaged enough to act. What if over the period of couple months, you received a dozen emails from the same nonprofit looking for support. At some point, you would probably become annoyed, and it is likely that you would stop opening the emails and unsubscribe before you addressed their request.

Now, what if you read a press release about something that organization was doing to build the community, and later that day you easily pulled them up in a Google search (thank you Google Ad Grants). Then the next day, you caught a glimpse of a Tweet. By the time you got around to opening your email, you have received multiple different and interesting bits of information about this nonprofit. You automatically feel more invested and willing to engage.

The key for nonprofit success is learning how to optimize free or low-cost marketing tools across a variety of platforms for higher engagement and greater success.

Assess Your Marketing Channels

Where are your marketing dollars being spent, and are you getting the maximum ROI on your investment? Now, with a heavy shift toward digital marketing, outlets like print, radio and television are taking a back seat to less expensive digital channels that produce more in terms of engagement and financial support.

This is also the time to contact any non-digital channels and talk to them about what they can offer you to keep their business. Many of these marketing outlets are willing to cut deals and even offer a certain amount of free advertising just to stay competitive in the changing marketing industry.

Nonprofits can have as much marketing power as for-profit businesses once they learn how to harness all the opportunities in front of them.  It takes more strategy, and you need to put in a little more leg work to compensate for the funds you don’t have available to spend. But, the affordable marketing channels are there to help your nonprofit reach a greater level of success than ever before.

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