Promotion and marketing are a huge part of nonprofit success, and nowhere is that brand more important than in your local area, for three reasons: 1) the people who you want to serve need to know who you are; 2) more people will donate to you if you have a strong, reputable brand; and 3) you have a wealth of free advertising available to you if you can make yourself known to local outlets. (More here.)
Of course, most local, small nonprofits have little to no budget for local advertising. Here are 7 steps to make your entire community know what you are doing, without creating a new budget line!
1. Build a Media List for News Releases and Blast Your Messaging
Spend a few hours, with the help of a search engine, filling in an Excel contact list of all of your local TV stations, radio stations, and newspaper editors. At least monthly, email blast a quick program accomplishment, a testimonial from one of your program participants, or a quick needs statement for work you are doing.
Different media outlets are looking for different types of stories, so vary your information and try to appeal broadly. You will eventually get bites, and with them, free advertising throughout your entire neighborhood. See this related article for how to write a press release for your event. (Also see Media Alerts Template.)
2. Dedicate a Contact for Your Public
With every email and document you send out to the media, all of your signage, all of your social media, and all of your business cards, post one general phone number and email for your organization that is always attended. It might need to be the Executive Director’s cell phone for a startup or small outfit, but make sure you are contactable and readily available to respond to your community.
3. Use an Affinity Organization Map to See Where You’re Connected
Make a list of all of your key board members, leaders, volunteers, and staff. Then consciously think about all of the connections they have to other groups in the community. Where do their kids go to school? Do they support particular politicians? Do they go to a certain church? Where do their spouses work?
Make a map of all the connections you have through your organization – and then ask all of those people to reach out to their community networks to advertise your programs, promote your events, or just be known to others. This is also a helpful tool to see where you have gaps in your leadership network. Join more organizations or recruit additional leadership to fill them.
4. Use Community Calendars to Post Events
Check with your local library, city or township council, and local schools to see if they have community calendars. United Ways, women’s organizations, and churches sometimes have them as well. Then get your events on them. Usually you just need to have the right contact within the organization to post your events regularly.
5. Get Your Neighbors to Promote Your Work
Knock on your neighbors’ doors and then get them to post a promotional flyer or even personally invite people to your events. If you have a neighborhood association in your area, join and regularly attend meetings (these are often registered and listed with your township supervisor).
You are surrounded by local businesses, schools, churches, and countless others who will be interested in helping you only because you are their neighbor. An added benefit to taking this step is that you will meet local business leaders and nonprofit champions that could be interested in supporting your cause!
6. Post a Big Branded Sign
If you do not have a big, legible sign with your name, logo, and mission snippet on the street outside your office, you need to put one out there as quickly as possible. Use a few hundred dollars in your communications and marketing budget if you can, ask a local corporation to sponsor a sign (with the incentive that they can add their logo as well), or conjure a few volunteers who are good at crafts and stenciling to use recycled wood, tin, or another handy material and paint something for you. Everyone that passes by your office needs to know that you are there.
7. Apply for a Google Ads Grant
Google will give nonprofits up to $10,000 of free advertising on search engine results pages to make their missions known. Your name will pop up with local searches by your neighbors and members of your community! Fill out an application on their website.
If you are a new or just small nonprofit serving your community, you need to make yourself as known as possible, by whatever means necessary! These 7 steps will lead you to being a household name in no time, as well as a better connected and supported organization within your community.