All nonprofit organizations market their services and programs in some manner. This can range from e-mailing an electronic newsletter to posting an ad on a highway bulletin board. Whatever marketing strategies nonprofits choose to employ, they must always be conscious of their marketing budget. This article provides 11 possible marketing strategies nonprofits can employ, depending on their budget.
1. Send information to targeted groups or everyone on your mailing list. Sending information to people via regular mail takes more time than e-mail, as you have to print letters and stuff envelopes. And, there is the expense of stamps. However, some people may be more inclined to open regular mail versus an e-mail message. In addition, if you serve the elderly, some of them may not own computers or are not computer savvy. Even if they own a computer, they may still not be comfortable with receiving information via e-mail.
2. Send information to targeted groups or everyone in your e-mail address book. Although this is a much faster and cheaper way of disseminating information, not everyone opens and reads their e-mail, especially if they think it might be spam. You will want to make sure that people “white list” you or include your e-mail address in their address book, so your e-mails don’t end up in spam.
3. Use your newsletter and website to market your programs and services. The more people who subscribe to your newsletter and visit your website, the more effective this strategy will be. But how do you get people to subscribe to your newsletter? How do you get people to visit your website? Of course, your website address can be listed on other marketing materials, such as your brochure, but what about those people who have never received a brochure? You might want to advertise your website to a larger audience, via the radio or television, but this could be too expensive. An alternative might be to contract with a search engine optimization (SEO) professional to get your website ranked high on Google and other search engines.
4. Develop a list of groups and organizations that include or work with your potential clients. Once you have done this, contact them and ask if they would be willing to let you give a presentation to their members or staff, respectively.
5. Present and/or exhibit at conferences. Which conferences do your potential clients attend or do other service providers, who already work with your potential clients in some capacity, attend? Once you identify these conferences, contact the planning committee to see if you can present and if they allow exhibitors. If exhibitors are allowed, there is generally a fee so you will have to make sure this fits in with your budget. Exhibiting at conferences can be a great way to reach a lot of potential clients, and service providers who can refer people to you.
6. Develop a social media campaign. Today, many organizations are using social media as a way to promote and market their services and programs. You will need to first determine if social media is a good way to reach your clients and other stakeholders. If you decide to engage in social media, you will need to explore which social media sites would work best for your organization. Some common social media sites include Facebook, Linked in, and Twitter. Of course, there may be some sites that are local as well. If you decide to use one of these sites, you will need to develop a campaign to keep your site updated, to attract friends and supporters, to develop meaningful relationships with these individuals, to announce new services and events, etc.
7. Post ads in magazines, journals, and newspapers. Identify those magazines and journals that cater to the needs of your clients or those professionals who provide services to them. This would be a great way to market your organization’s programs and services. You can post an ad in a newspaper, but make sure it is in a section that would have a better chance of reaching your target population. For example, most newspapers have a “community section” that generally highlights organizations and their respective programs and services.
8. Work with the media, radio and television. If you can develop a relationship with the media, they can provide a lot of exposure. You might be able to get some radio exposure free of charge, especially when they are doing public service announcements. Exposure on television usually costs money. Nonprofit organizations may not be able to afford an ad on television, but it is worth investigating, as sometimes television programs need to fill airtime when they don’t have sufficient paid sponsors. In addition, someone on your staff or one of your board members might have a connection with a radio or television personality that could benefit your organization.
9. Post bulletin board ads. Some organizations purchase ads on bulletin boards to grab people’s attention as they drive to and from home, work, etc. Although these types of ads may be expensive, they can generate a lot of exposure for your organization. We have all seen the “quit smoking” ads on bulletin boards. These types of ads tend to stick in your mind, as you see them almost daily.
10. Market your services and programs through annual fundraising or other organizational events. The more exposure you can get for one of your events, the more effective your marketing efforts in this area will be. Annual events like walkathons, races (e.g., Race for the Cure), and cook-off’s provide a lot of exposure for nonprofit organizations. Also, if you can get a radio or television personality to MC your event, you can use this person to draw a lot of people to your event.
11. Canvass neighborhoods. If there is a specific neighborhood that serves your clients, such as neighborhoods with low income individuals, you might want to go door-to-door and talk to people or leave information about your organization and its programs and services on their doorstep or in their mailbox.
It is important to note that this article only identifies 11 common marketing strategies. Whether you observe how other nonprofits in your community are marketing their services and programs or conduct research online to explore other options, it is important to select those strategies that work best for your organization, while adhering to your budget.