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Do Nonprofit Marketing & Communications Really Matter?
The answer is yes. That’s it, that’s the post. Kidding, sort of…
I’ve heard it time and time again from staff and volunteer leaders alike “Why does it matter if we post on social media?” First of all, it’s 2023 so not having a social media presence is kinda a red flag…and might cause you to lose some credibility, especially with younger generations of supporters. And second, while social media plays a role, Nonprofit Marketing and Communications encompasses so much more than that i.e. emails, donor welcome letters, annual appeals, donation acknowledgement letters, digital fundraising pages, event collateral, etc.
As a Nonprofit Marketing and Communications (MarComms) professional, I know firsthand the important impact this work has on fundraising. I also know that our budgets for marketing are often slim, if they exist at all. The truth is, nonprofit marketing is ESSENTIAL for building awareness of your cause and impact, maintaining connections with existing supporters and attracting new ones, and extending your mission and advocacy efforts.
I’m fortunate to work for an organization that has come to understand the value of MarComms and has made great strides in resourcing my efforts, but I know that this is rarely the case across the nonprofit sector. So, I’m here to share my thoughts on the five key marketing pieces that every organization should have. Hopefully, this will help you make the most out of limited resources and help you level up your organization’s marketing.
1. Media Kit
Creating a repository of marketing assets will ensure that you’ll have consistent branding across all of your content, no matter who’s creating or sharing it.
Your media kit doesn’t have to be super extensive, but whatever you have, add it to a digital folder – your logo, color palette, mission statement, leadership bios, photos for posting externally, and an agency video if you’ve got one.
This is also a great resource to have handy for any partnerships with other organizations, corporations, etc. Instead of having to search for content for each individual opportunity, you’ve got approved content ready to share externally. Bonus points if you can make it a page on your website for even easier distribution!
2. Quarterly Annual Fund Appeals
Our donors need to hear from us regularly and data shows that an individual donor is typically “touched” eleven times before they make a donation. Consider your annual fund communications the heartbeat of your MarComm program…Start by picking a quarterly theme – this is a great way to get specific with your messaging and let donors know exactly what they’ll be supporting. Potential themes include back to school, the holiday season, the new year, important anniversaries or program-specific urgent calls to action. The possibilities are endless so pick the ones that align with times your work is most relevant and/or you’re most in need of support.
I recommend running an appeal for one month and sending out messaging a minimum of once a week through email and social media. Remember, consistency is key, so if you’ve only got time to send out one reminder a week, that’s okay!
Pro tip: repurpose your content!! Don’t create more work for yourself. Take messaging from your email, pair it with a great photo and boom! you’ve got a social media post.
3. New Donor Welcome Letter
My organization implemented a “new donor welcome packet” a few years back, and it’s helped us level up our stewardship tremendously. When someone makes their first donation, they receive an email from us complete with a short letter from our CEO and CDO and a pdf outlining our mission statement and programs, as well as all the ways they can get involved moving forward – hands on volunteerism, signature events, committee service, etc. It’s a great first touchpoint that lays everything out in an organized and accessible way. Don’t forget to include staff contact info!
If you’re using a mailing platform like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, you can create an automation so that new subscribers automatically receive a welcome message (aka less work for you!).
4. Donor Acknowledgement Letters
While it’s imperative that you provide your donors with some kind of receipt for tax purposes, this is a great way to add on some extra personalization. The letter doesn’t need to be an essay, in fact, it’s better to keep things short and sweet. Be sure to include a personal greeting and mention of the amount that was donated, along with a few statistics about what you’ll be able to do as a result of your donors support (i.e. “Your generous contribution of $100 will help us serve 10 meals”).
I recommend updating these letters quarterly, and creating a few special one’s for any big fundraising events you have throughout the year. P.S. Your CRM software likely has automation capabilities, so if you take the time to set it up once, it’ll take care of the sending from there! Or, if you’re using a fundraising platform like Classy, you can upload the text to the automatic email feature and you’re good to go!
5. Annual Impact Report or Newsletter
This doesn’t have to be a super sleek, overly designed piece, but it does have to paint a clear picture of how your supporters’ funds are making an impact. Include some infographics, a few high quality photos, donor recognition and staff contact information. It’s a great piece to have handy to share with your existing supporters and to share with new folks on tours or at volunteer events – plus, it’ll last you for a year!
Pro tip: this doesn’t necessarily have to be a printed piece. In the age of technology, having a digital version as a pdf to share with folks is a great option that will save you money on printing costs.
Bonus: Social Media
It’s important to have a social media presence to build trust with existing and potential supporters. Even if you’re posting once a week, something is better than nothing. (If you don’t have any social media, I’d suggest creating an Instagram and Facebook account for your organization to get started).
As I mentioned above, repurposing your assets is a great way to save time. If you have an agency video, try chopping it up into smaller chunks using software like Adobe Spark or Canva to post one at a time – this will take your content a lot farther without a ton of extra work, plus shorter clips are more digestible for viewers.
Designate one day of the month as “photoshoot day” – have someone walk around and capture a bunch of your work in action, that way you’ve got a ton of content to work with for the upcoming month.
Pro tip: try searching for local photographers. I’ve found that people are often willing to take photos for free to build up their portfolios, it’s a win-win!
And lastly, remember, social media is designed for sharing! Once you create a few really engaging posts and let your followers do their thing. Enlist the support of your board and other volunteer leaders. Tag them in your posts on LinkedIn and email them links to your posts with a request to re-share with their followers – the more, the merrier!
Nonprofit Marketing can seem like a huge undertaking, but I hope this post will help you to implement these simple yet essential pieces into your strategy. I promise, if you take the time to set them up now, they will pay off in the long run!
Special thanks to Hannah and The Philanthropy Coach, LLC Team for inviting me to be a guest on the blog.
As they say, you got this! We’re rooting for you.
– Maggie Stillman
Connect with me on LinkedIn!
Maggie Stillman is a communications professional with experience in social media marketing, digital and print communication, and donor relations. In addition to using her expertise to enrich The Philanthropy Coach marketing and client offerings, Maggie is the Communications Manager for A Place Called Home. Passionate about fostering community and connection from a young age, Maggie has used her skills to support nonprofits in New York and Los Angeles. Maggie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Hunter College, CUNY, and a certification in Nonprofit Marketing and Communications from Arizona State University. When not at work, Maggie enjoys singing in choir, watching true crime documentaries, and spending time with her cat Milo