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You are sold on marketing as necessary to your nonprofit development program, and you are intrigued by the new trends in marketing. You now are perplexed at how to actually integrate marketing into your board-approved fundraising plan! Here are some tips to integrate marketing strategies into what you are already doing under the classic headers of nonprofit development plans – foundation and government grants, major gift fundraising, and membership drives – while making your appeals and your programs stronger in the process.

1. Foundation and government grants

If you are like most nonprofits, you have dedicated a significant portion of your fundraising budget and strategy to procuring foundation and government grants. You might even have one or two dedicated staff working strictly on research and proposal writing. These funds are supporting a significant if not majority portion of your work, and they are mostly tied to specific project outcomes. Where does marketing fit?

Program outreach:
Outreach is connecting your key program recipients/target audience with your services and message. That sounds very similar to the definition of marketing because it is the same thing! Your program goals have to include some sort of outreach, whether that be in community awareness via a newsletter, in working with school children, in mailing brochures to community members, on a website, etc.

  • Increase your program outreach budget if you can, asking for a bit more from your funders or reorganizing your budget. If extra dollars or reorganization is impossible, be creative about how you spend what you have already allocated.
  • Then, really look at where you are spending those outreach dollars. If they are on static brochures or physical newsletters, why not replace those line items with one or two of the innovative, trendy marketing strategies discussed in 5 Marketing Trends that Nonprofits Should Not Ignore?

    For example, invest in a social media strategy that has volunteers pin program pictures on your Pinterest page which readily advertises your public event fundraiser. Or just get a website up that is interactive and engages people in your work!

Your evaluation:
Every foundation and government agency requires evaluation, and usually this is the weakest part of nonprofit pitches. If you are stuck on what to make your evaluation outcomes, integrate numbers-oriented indicators that are tied to marketing goals.

  • For example, if you are running an arts organization trying to prove that your theater program for youth makes them better leaders, you can create an evaluation metric where you measure their 1) Crowdfunding or personal fundraising pages, with number of dollars raised and number of people in their outreach networks on the Web (Facebook friends) as indicators or 2) how many volunteers or program participants they recruit via their social networking or personal networking.
  • You are inspiring your primary program recipients to be more involved, demonstrating measures to make your program sustainable via expansion of your fundraising and volunteer networks, and showing actual involvement that proves leadership capacity – while marketing your program and increasing revenue.




2. Major gift fundraising

If you are like most nonprofits, you have at least one major gift fundraiser or annual appeal on your calendar this year to cultivate new donor prospects and ask your individual donors for their annual gifts. These are fantastic marketing opportunities, of which nonprofits should take more advantage.

Cause marketing:
Get corporations to sponsor events under the guise of cause marketing! You might already ask for corporate sponsors, and, if you do, great. If you struggle to get those marketing dollars from corporations, start advertising your sponsorship opportunities in a better way.

You can pitch that you will have a minimum number of participants, that a certain press release initiative will take place, and that they can have a visible logo and personal preference at the event which could have investors or new prospects for their business. The event can even be the door to build the relationship with the corporate prospect to ask for a larger donation going forward.

Annual appeal:
Are you sending a static letter with a donation envelope and organizational brochure to your top donors for their year-end or annual appeal gift? Or, worse, a direct mail appeal? Most nonprofits are, though mail response has declined 25% in the last 9 years according to the Direct Marketing Association.

  • This year, call them all instead, and ask them to give online via your new, improved website that also asks them to link you in with their social networks.
  • You can send a brief letter – preferably an email or text linking to your mobile-friendly giving page – to follow up on your call and link to your giving site, but the idea is getting them to connect you to their networks and to reallocate the line item you have allocated for mailing and brochures to improve your online marketing!

3. Membership drives

You probably have some sort of membership program and/or annual membership drive. If your nonprofit is very small this might be your Annual Appeal, but usually they are lower level donors on which you try to spend less money. You still have a line item though small, however, and all or nearly all of it should be considered marketing dollars in addition to fundraising.

Give them information:
To get new members to invest in your program, try content-based marketing where you actually provide a useful service on your website, at your center, or in your literature. For example, if you are a biodiversity institute, give people an online resource to identify the native plants in their yard that help endemic wildlife.

Or if you run an after-school program for pregnant teens, create an online sharing forum for common concerns and provide contacts to connect them to free vitamins and other resources. Content-based marketing is really just good program that inspires people to invest in you!

Run an online campaign:
Your membership drive could be a crowdfunding page. If you do not have the 5-8% budget to invest in the crowdfunding site fees, set up your own website-based crowdfunding page with volunteer and donor testimonials to your cause advertising a campaign goal and linking them to your donation form. You can even recruit volunteers and board members to set up pages and recruit new members!


You do not have to call it marketing for it to be marketing – but you should constructively apply marketing with cognizant focus to your development plan to make your program more effective as well as increase the efficacy of your fundraising! A huge investment and budget restructure is not necessary either, only a creative twist on what you already have in the works.

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