Three Pillars of Nonprofit Digital Marketing Success

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When it comes to digital marketing, nonprofits must dedicate time and resources to ensure their approach furthers the organization’s mission. The following three pillars of nonprofit digital marketing success will help.

1. Clear Brand Messaging

According to Al and Laura Ries‘ “Law of Contraction,” a brand becomes stronger when you narrow its focus. Powerful branding always starts by contracting a category, not expanding it.

For example, the Khan Academy’s website makes it easy for site visitors to understand what the organization is about.

The message is clear: “You only have to know one thing: You can learn anything.” This statement of mission and purpose is then followed with clear messaging regarding cost and user types, eliminating potential barriers for entry. At all points the brand message is clear and focused.

(Sidenote: I can’t recommend the Khan Academy enough. As a homeschooling family, we are grateful for its many courses. I am even working through a course on microeconomics!)

2. Targeted Content

A common rally cry for web content is, “Make sure your content is compelling!” Yet I find the word “compelling” nebulous. Instead, what organizations need to do is make sure web content is targeted.

In the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,” Chip and Dan Heath share that our minds are governed by both rational and emotional forces in decision making. As these forces compete for control, making changes in our lives can be very difficult. As a result, we must learn to manage this tension in order to make changes leading to improvement in our lives.

This is why the word “compelling” shortchanges the driving force behind nonprofit digital marketing content, as nonprofits largely focus on improving the world, asking people to be a part of that change, and often make personal changes, sacrifices or contributions to contribute. As a result, content must strategically address the tension between the rational and emotional minds of humans – encouraging, educating, and inspiring responses that further the organization’s mission.

Heifer International‘s gift catalog is an excellent example of a nonprofit using targeted content to give people the opportunity to be a part of fulfilling the organization’s mission through providing specific gifts that will help a family in need. Instead of these gifts being straightforward monetary amounts, which are abstract to relate to by themselves, Heifer links monetary gifts to actual family stories and needs.

For example, a site visitor has the opportunity “give the gift of a water buffalo,” helping a family such as Bal Kumari Karki’s, located in the Chanwanbari village in Nepal. This opportunity touches on both the rational part of the human mind, providing a clear dollar amount for donating to purchase a water buffalo ($25), and the emotional part of the human mind by communicating a story about how that gift will meet the needs of a specific family.

This is targeted content!

(Sidenote: I used to work with adolescents, and it’s a pretty fun experience to raise money for water buffaloes and pigs with a group teenagers!)

Heifer International's Gift Catalog | Oneupweb

 3. Development Integration

Development goals must be completely integrated into nonprofit digital marketing efforts. Unfortunately, this is often where nonprofit organizations miss the boat, and organizations miss the opportunity to use digital marketing to raise funds. Of course, all digital marketing efforts must fundamentally be driven by the mission of the organization. Yet it is imperative the organization’s communication efforts include development. If the organization isn’t able to raise funds, it won’t be able to fulfill its mission – or exist.

There is no doubt charity: water is an excellent example of successful development integration. They are masters of not only communicating a clear brand message and using targeted content; charity:water successfully integrates development in compelling and creative ways.

From the homepage, it is made clear anyone can start a campaign, and a campaign can be anything from holding a garage sale to dyeing your hair blue. They offer three simple steps for starting a campaign, and testimonials include all types of people.

Pushed further, charity: water explains why water changes “absolutely everything” and provides clear and direct answers to the question, “Why fundraise for charity: water?”

This is an example of development integration: using digital marketing to not only communicate a clear mission, but giving people the opportunity to partner financially and meaningfully.

(Sidenote: the founding of charity: water is truly a compelling story. You should take a few minutes and read “Scott’s Story,” and be inspired by the story behind charity:water’s role in solving the world’s water crisis)


 Nonprofit Digital Marketing Success!

No doubt there are other pillars of digital marketing success for nonprofits. At the same time, these are three I feel are very important. If a nonprofit has clear brand messaging and targeted content, and integrates development goals – they are on their way to nonprofit digital marketing success!

If you work with or for a nonprofit, make sure you check out our guide “Notes from BBCON: Solving Three Nonprofit Marketing Pain Points.” 

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