5 Biggest Nonprofit Marketing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)
Last updated March 28, 2017.
Does your nonprofit struggle with digital transformation?
Are you finding it difficult to have your voice heard online?
If so, you’re not alone.
70% of organizations feel they lack the time or knowledge to manage digital media effectively.
As a result, they are missing out on serious revenue growth opportunities.
In this post, I’ll show you how to avoid the 5 biggest nonprofit marketing mistakes that are preventing your online growth.
#4 might be costing you the most:
1. Biggest Nonprofit Marketing Mistake
The most common mistake nonprofit marketers make is confusing tactics for strategy.
This is especially true when it comes to content promotion.
When you create a piece of content, like a webinar, your goal is to drive attendance.
Your first thought might be to send an email, post on Facebook, or send a tweet to members and donors about your upcoming event.
However, unless you have a significant and loyal following these tactics will fall short of expected results.
The answer is in creating an integrated nonprofit marketing strategy.
- Goal – A broad outcome that you would like to achieve. Ex/ Increase Webinar Attendance
- Strategy – A means to achieve goals you’ve set. Ex/ Content Promotion
- Tactic – Methods you execute to achieve your strategy. Ex/ Email Marketing
Applying The Theory
First, post pieces of your webinar as blogs with a relevant call to action (CTA).
If your posts are useful to your audience, it will make them question how good your gated content is. You can then offer the full learning experience when visitors sign up for your webinar.
Second, make the webinar CTA available throughout your site.
This is important because an isolated landing page with an offer can be difficult to find.
In addition, global CTAs in the top and bottom folds of your site increase conversion rates.
You can also A/B test your CTAs to optimize for conversions.
For example, try changing the word “register” to “sign up” on the text of your CTA buttons.
It may sound silly, but this blogger increased conversions by 254% by analyzing word association in relation to CTAs.
Third, promote your webinar through as many channels as resources allow:
- Email Marketing
- Phone Calls
- Social Media
- Print Media
- Guest Blogging
Psychology plays a crucial role in successfully promoting your content.
This is because of a marketing concept know as the rule of 7.
It suggests a person needs to “hear” an advertiser’s message at least 7 times before they make a purchase. Therefore, the more exposure your audience has to an offer the more likely they are to take action.
For the best results, you should spend 80% of your time promoting content, and 20% creating it.
By following this step by step process you’ve integrated three core marketing strategies to promote your webinar.
Thus, you’ve better positioned your offer to achieve your marketing goals.
2. Overwhelmed By Too Many Marketing Channels
Before you sign your nonprofit up for another social site ask yourself these three questions:
- Are we effectively managing the platforms we’re on?
- What is the cost of being active on the wrong channel?
- Do we really need 15 different social media accounts?
Working with limited resources is common for small to medium staff sized organizations.
You could imagine why then some may feel overwhelmed by digital marketing.
This is especially true if your organization treats digital as a “nice to have.”
Marketing a nonprofit organization in the digital era requires you to test every action you make.
As it relates to marketing channels, your goal is to figure out which ones will produce sustainable online growth.
Take a look at the graph above for example.
While traffic increased by 100%, conversion rates decreased to near zero.
Your site may be driving more traffic, but it does not mean it’s the traffic you want.
This is fine if your marketing goal is to increase awareness to your mission.
But, what if you want to increase online donations?
By focusing on fewer channels you are attempting to target an audience that will convert on your offers.
Applying The Theory
Your core audience is not active on every channel and neither should you.
As a result, your first step is to identify where your audience reads most of their information.
The best way to identify a meaningful channel is to measure:
- Engagement: Likes, shares, follows, and comments.
- Traffic: Visits to your site.
- Conversions: Highest converting content including email subscriptions, membership sign ups, or donations.
- Content: Topics your audience interacts with or finds engaging and relevant.
Related article: 39 Nonprofit Content Marketing Trends You Need To Know (Infographic)
By experimenting with different digital channels you can identify the performers from the underachievers.
For example, content promoted through Facebook may generate more traffic and engagement than content promoted on Twitter.
You can measure this engagement in terms of social shares and traffic.
Measuring social shares is easy, but you’ll need to add a few tracking scripts to measure traffic from sources.
The first method is done by setting up a UTM tracking code to track URL performance.
If you already have Google Analytics connected to your site, Google will automatically track your campaigns in the dashboard.
Alternatively, you can set up the following pixels to monitor social traffic and conversions:
- How to set up a Facebook Pixel
- How to set up Twitter conversion tracking
- How to set up LinkedIn conversion tracking
Next, survey your audience asking where they search for information online.
When you’re surveying visitors on your website, be concise.
The process should be effortless and take no more than 30 seconds to complete.
Furthermore, ask questions that you can take an action on.
Here are a few simple, but effective questions to ask that will impact your nonprofit marketing activities:
- What topics would you like to learn about?
- Did you find what you were looking for on this page?
- Is there anything preventing you from committing to a donation at this point?
The first question, “what topics would you like to learn about,” is helpful because it ensures your content strategy is aligned with what your audience wants to read.
Once you’ve collected the survey results, combine it with the data on channel measurements to identify your optimal marketing channel.
Lastly, double down your investments in one or two channels that you’ve identified a positive trend in.
This may come in the form of increasing the frequency of posts to promote content.
Or, it could be targeted campaign like Facebook advertising for nonprofits to generate more online donations.
By following this exercise, you’ll have a better understanding of which channels can generate sustainable online revenue for your organization.
Likewise, you’ll collect invaluable data on how your community feels, thinks, and behaves towards your organization.
3. Proving Immediate Return On Investment (ROI)
Marketing for nonprofits, both online and traditional, takes patience and persistence to yield results.
Realizing a noticeable lift in revenue from digital marketing within the first year is rare.
In fact, 43% of marketers say proving the ROI of marketing activities is a top marketing challenge.
You could see then why focusing on immediate ROI will set you up for failure.
A common reaction to little or no measurable results is to give up.
But, this is one of the biggest nonprofit marketing mistakes you can make.
You know your organization could realize unprecedented online growth with slight tweaks to your strategy.
However, your board and executive officers want to see results in their investments.
While there’s no silver bullet to guarantee results, there is a formula used by marketers to determine marketing ROI of individual campaigns.
Enter the revenue to cost ratio, or efficiency ratio:
This ratio looks at incremental revenue driven by a marketing campaign divided by its cost.
Applying The Theory
Let’s say your goal is to increase online registrations for an upcoming conference.
With this in mind, you’ve decided to send a member only discount for the conference in an eNewsletter.
At a total cost of $500, you are able to reach out to 1,000 members.
As a result, you notice a 2% conversion rate on online registrations, signing up 20 attendees.
At $250 per registration that’s $5,000 in revenue, or a revenue to cost ratio of 10x.
A 5x yield is good, while 10x is great. Anything above 10x is considered a home run.
In addition, you can apply this concept to social media or paid advertising to measure impact.
Since the revenue to cost ratio measures incremental impact you will help to satisfy leadership’s need for results.
Related article: How to Convince Leadership Content Marketing for Nonprofits Matters
Likewise, it builds a strong case to invest in long-term marketing strategies.
4. Hiring The Wrong Talent
Marketing for nonprofits can mean staff wear many hats, where responsibility for online initiatives often falls to development specialists.
Of course, this makes sense.
After all, they are in the profession of generating revenue for your organization.
Online marketing and sales have two completely differing skill sets, yet complement and support each other in all nonprofit marketing initiatives.
Just because you are responsible for development does not mean you have the skills to transform your marketing plan into a revenue-generating opportunity.
This is why SEO and digital marketing agencies are in such high demand.
And hiring the wrong talent can be a costly mistake.
Even worse, it will take time for you to realize your online goals are not meeting expectations.
This blogger increased organic traffic by 583%. It just took a year until the results showed.
This means it could be months before you know if you have the wrong people behind online outreach.
Personally, I believe application trumps theory.
The ability to do will always overcome those who say you should do.
Applying The Theory
Here’s how I applied theory to help improve search visibility for the Direct Marketing Association.
I noticed some posts lacked a featured image. A costly mistake losing potential views to their blog.
This is because content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without images.
Digging a little deeper into the source code I found this:
A post with an image is missing an optimized alt tag.
Unlike humans, web crawlers are not able to visually read and categorize images.
They rely on a description, or alt tag, to index images in search results.
When we view this picture we see a baby laughing under a towel or blanket.
Unfortunately, search engines will view this picture as the default tag if the image is not optimized.
This is important because optimized alt tags reinforce search engine confidence in your site.
Alt tags don’t increase traffic by thousands. But, it is best practice for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
I was also able to see that the Direct Marketing Association runs their website on WordPress.
In 2 minutes I was able to identify an area of improvement and suggest tools to optimize their site.
If you’re hiring for a digital marketing position consider posing a similar challenge:
- Have a brief unscheduled phone conversation with the candidate
- Ask the candidate to evaluate areas of improvement on your site
- If they don’t have immediate recommendations, move on
An unscheduled call will place the candidate under pressure to prove their application of knowledge.
Talented marketers need to be able to think on their feet.
In this case, it means identifying at least one key area of improvement at a glance.
5. Your Content Is Not Useful or Relevant
How useful is your content?
Does each post get you hundreds or thousands of social shares?
Don’t get too discouraged if they don’t, even the biggest nonprofits struggle.
In fact, 79% of consumers feel brands deliver “irrelevant” information.
This means content is produced without the audience in mind.
Before posting a new piece of content ask yourself this question:
Will potential donors or members find this useful?
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to do this.
Comments, for example, could be used as a source of content topic ideas. After all, comments are a continuation of the author’s conversation.
They allow us (readers) to interact with one another in a forum setting. We can then share ideas, and expand upon key points.
For example, there is a subreddit called Water: policy, science, controversy, issues, hydrology.
The community has over 9,000 active subscribers who post about issues relating to water use.
In this case, an organization like Charity: Water could find useful content topic ideas within the comments.
This market research is quick, easy to do, and has a compounding impact on donors and members.
Whatever you do, think to add value for your members first.
With this in mind, try giving something away for free.
Applying The Theory
I am a firm believer of going above and beyond expectations.
This simple idea forges deep, meaningful relationships that can be built upon.
I recently gave away a 40-page digital marketing plan for a nonprofit.
The plan included detailed examples and step by step processes to improve their digital presence.
For example, I analyzed hundreds of posts and pages and provided actionable ways to better optimize their site.
Then I reinforced my points by combining screenshots from their site with relevant statistical data.
It wasn’t that difficult to do. It just required an investment of time on my end.
As a result, I formed meaningful relationships with key executive officers.
In short, too many people look for quick wins.
Building authentic relationships with donors and members take time, trust, and persistence to form.
By applying this approach in marketing for nonprofits, you will provide useful content for your audience.
Nonprofit marketing is slow.
At times, painful.
But, the first step to a successful digital strategy is to acknowledge the long-term investment.
Focusing on how many likes you have, views your content received, or an immediate return on your investment.
Instead, focus on providing value to your audience. This is the first step to building an authentic relationship.
By avoiding these 5 biggest nonprofit marketing mistakes you are one step closer to realizing your online goals.
Have a digital marketing mistake you’d like to add? Leave a comment below and tell us how you plan to overcome that challenge.