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It can be challenging to wrap your head around all of the buzz words, trends, and jargon attached to the idea of “marketing”. Once you have identified what your marketing budget for your nonprofit will be and what your core audience and service area are, you need to make sense of all of those marketing tools and strategies to form your plan and allocate your budget dollars in the best way possible.

Following are five trends that are not just buzz words and jargon but real indicators of societal movement and the philanthropy future that you must consider in your planning.

1. Content marketing

A new study by Curata indicates that 71% of professional marketers are increasing “content marketing” budgets in 2014.

According to the Content Marketing Institute this buzz phrase simply means actively delivering information as opposed to simply pitching a product or service, to make consumers more informed to invest in your product.

Companies large and small are actively applying this strategy because it works: Give people interesting information to read, not pitches for your product, and they will invest in you.

Even more than businesses, nonprofits need to instill confidence in their “customers” – their donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries. Try reorganizing your online pitch and marketing materials (brochures, annual reports, etc.) to be more information oriented – apply your product to them directly.

This can work for even the most static nonprofit. For example, if you run a fine arts museum trying to engage more children, replace the needs statement for why kids need to understand art on your website with a paint-by-numbers discovery Monet application.

In brief, your content should not try to sell by pitching, but rather by engaging.


marketing concepts


2. Cause marketing

“Corporate social responsibility” leads to a corporate desire to pair with nonprofit causes to advance messaging. Corporate foundation gifts have dropped as corporations invest more of their giving dollars in directly supporting campaigns that improve their corporate social responsibility image, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy study. (More about cause marketing.)

The more you can make your marketing and development strategy masses friendly, impactful to a large number, and as visible as possible, the more corporate funding you can receive. You need to simultaneously think about where and to whom your corporate funding targets want to market while deciding where and to whom you want to market.

If you want to connect to school children as your primary beneficiaries, you should think about which corporations are also trying to connect to them in your geographic area. Then pitch a corporate partnership opportunity to those businesses to pair their marketing with yours.

For example, perhaps a soft drink company wants to improve their social responsibility by providing a juice alternative product for kids, and might have an interest in pairing with your positive image as a nonprofit that advances children’s health via an afterschool biking program. Be creative! These strategy formations can be fun.

3. Crowdfunding

Forbes reported that “crowdfunding” sites raised $2.7 billion in 2012 and were expected to jump to $5.1 billion in 2013. (These numbers include fundraising for charitable causes and for commercial projects.) Simply put, they are web-based sites that charge a small fee or percentage to help you organize a fundraising initiative online that incorporates social media and is aimed to be spontaneous and grassroots.

Whether or not you choose to portion a significant part of your revenue goal to this trend, you might consider marketing at least one of your projects through it. The American fundraising and volunteering culture has shifted with mobile apps and Internet prevalence – people like causes that at least look grassroots and action-oriented. You will, in short, look “cool” and be widely community-supported if you jump on the bandwagon.

You will need to research which service is best for your particular nonprofit; to make it easier we’ve put together a list of most popular online fundraising sites for charitable purposes.

If you have an upcoming community event like a Fall Harvest festival, post a modest campaign goal of $7,000, email the link out to your constituent networks, and post it on your social media sites. At minimum it is great advertising and message marketing!

4. Show your story

Instagram is the fastest growing social media site for a reason – people increasingly want a picture to tell them what words used to say.

Nonprofits often stay away from pictures and video because their budgets are small and cannot afford copyrighting, photographer costs, administration for releases, or high resolution multicolor print materials. Erase that mentality and look for free outlets for picture posting! Suggestions include:

  • Using social media such as Instagram, Youtube, and Pinterest informally via encouraging volunteers to post their pictures and videos and link to your site.
  • Making social media part of your programs – and having your beneficiaries, like students, artists, or hospital patients post their pictures and videos.
  • Getting a corporate “cause marketing” partner to pay for your fancier print materials and new web content.

5. Move to mobile

People are engaging more and more in media through their mobile devices as primary outlets and nonprofits should think about marketing via mobile friendly apps and adapt their web content to be mobile friendly. If your audience is on-the-go, you need to be on-the-go to connect with them!

  • One way to do this is to incorporate more pictures and videos, as discussed above, but by making sure they are mobile friendly file sizes.
  • Also, content should be brief and button-oriented to quick link to other ideas and direct people to where you want, like giving pages.
  • Contact information should be Skype-friendly and email-friendly to make it easy for mobile users to get in touch.
  • Mapping app technology can be integrated for people to easily locate your offices, centers, and projects. Make sure you have a presence on Google maps, etc.

Even if you cannot afford a marketing professional for your nonprofit, you can still be marketing savvy by understanding basic trends and marketing tools available to help your nonprofit be more successful in both its programming and fundraising!


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