I think it’s safe to say that the non-profit and for-profit sectors exist at opposite sides of the business spectrum. After starting my career in charities and moving to the private sector, I realize that those 3-letter qualifiers make a world of difference!

But much in the way that old-school marketers said that the rules of B2C don’t apply in the B2B world, smart marketers are realizing that whether your organization is trying to attract businesses, individual customers, or petition signatories, at the end of the day, we’re all just people talking to other people, trying to convince them that your cause, business, or service is worth their time (please excuse the vague Notting Hill allusions).

And yes, while many of the marketing tactics of the private sector ‘need not apply’ in the non-profit world, there is no reason charities can’t cater some tried-and-true marketing techniques to support non-profit goals.

Here are 4 marketing techniques non-profits can cater to their cause:

1. Measure ROI

Yes, you’ve probably heard this term touted in the private sector—along with a multitude of other acronyms like KPI, AIDA, and WOM—and for good reason! Yes, the ‘for-profit’ world is a bit obsessed with Return on Investment or ROI, and why wouldn’t they be? When the goal of your business is to be monetarily successful, then measuring how your ‘investments’ contribute towards that goal is a key part of the equation.

While ROI is widely used in the private sector, some charities are hesitant to measure it for one key reason: because their goals aren’t necessarily monetary goals. ‘Measuring’ results does get tricky, but that doesn’t make it any less important.  Put simply, ROI is the best way to measure the results of your marketing activities and to decide whether an activity is worth investing your team’s time and (usually very limited) budget. The results that are being measured don’t have to be a profit: instead, your ‘results’ can be things like volunteers recruited, petitions signed, or donations made.

2. Establish Goal Values

To measure ROI, a charity must be able to ‘measure’ the value of non-monetary goals like volunteer recruitment, petition signatures, and rally attendees. But, when you aren’t necessarily working with money, how do you measure your ‘goal value’? As unromantic as it sounds, you’re going to have to break it down to dollars and cents. To do this you will need to ask yourself: ‘How much is this worth to my organization?’

For example, if a non-profit were launching a volunteer recruitment campaign, a large part of the planning should be based on how much to spend on trying to recruit a volunteer. For many volunteer organizations, this involves combining several factors.

A basic calculation sounds something like this:

  • first, determine how much you would have to pay an employee to do the same work;
  • then look at the average numbers of hours worked per volunteer;
  • and finally look at the average retention of a volunteer.

Once you reach a number, don’t panic if your current cost per acquisition exceeds it (most organizations do initially). Look at this number as your goal. It doesn’t need to be exact. The point is to be aware of your ideal goal value and measure your marketing activities against it.

3. Understand and Use User Personas

User personas answer one simple question: ‘Who are our customers and how do we find more like them?” Personas are a profile of your ideal customer, encompassing the various needs, goals, and behaviours.

Since the non-profit world doesn’t deal with ‘customers’ per se, this marketing standard isn’t as commonly used (and in fact, many private businesses have yet to harness the power of user personas). While charities aren’t focused on attracting customers, they can utilize ‘user personas’ for campaigns to attract signatories, volunteers, and donors, all of whom fall into unique demographics with differing motivations, communication methods, and personalities.

Say you’re running a campaign to recruit student volunteers between the ages of 17-24. Instead of utilizing email or Facebook for a campaign (both of which are better for targeting older demographics), your user personas could point you to platforms more popular among your younger target audience. (Snapchat takeover anyone?)

4. Focus on Your Brand Mission

Recently, you may have noticed the for-profit world borrowing marketing tactics from non-profits. The rise of companies like Toms and Everlane mark the trend towards mission-driven marketing, in which ‘for-profit’ companies focus their marketing on a philanthropic mission rather than just their product or service. Blurring the lines between ‘for-profit’ and ‘non-profit’ has presented issues for some enthusiastic ‘mission-driven’ brands like Bono’s (RED) have faced criticism for their lack of both transparency and actual contributions to their mission (and not their bottom line).

The advantage that non-profits have is their story—their goal is their mission (no balancing sales targets with philanthropic contributions). Leveraging that mission in content like videos, editorials, and campaigns prompt huge digital engagement with a strong (and genuine) call to action.

Digital Marketing for Non-Profits

Interested in learning how to leverage digital marketing and SEO tactics for your non-profit? Get in touch with one of our experts to get the ball rolling. Don’t forget that non-profits and charities can qualify for $10,000/month in free advertising money from Google Ad Grants. Start getting more volunteers, signed petitions, and donations today!

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