When it comes to marketing, every team has its challenges. Amongst non-profit organizations, however, those challenges can be vast. 

Bound to a tight budget, small teams and few resources to draw from, it may seem near impossible to create a successful marketing strategy to help your organization grow. For some, it may not be clear why a marketing strategy is necessary — you’re not working for profit, so why market at all? 

Marketing is more than just getting sales and boosting the bottom line; marketing creates valuable, memorable experiences that positively impact people for the long-term and, therefore, impact your business. 

You may not be looking to use your marketing goals to pull in revenue, but the right strategies will still work to bring in traffic (think new supporters or donors), funds and awareness to your mission.

We’ve created a quick how-to for creating a non-profit marketing strategy. By following these steps, you can grow your organization’s impact, and they won’t break the bank.

6 steps to creating a non-profit marketing strategy

1. Set marketing goals

Before you can do anything else, you need to set your marketing goals. These goals should focus on transforming your organization’s mission and objectives into actionable items. 

For example, if one of your objectives is to bring clean water to rural areas of a particular country, you should brainstorm three to five marketing ideas for advancing that objective.

One way you could use marketing to advance that objective is to post on social media about your organization and the people you are helping or by sending a weekly newsletter highlighting specific families or individuals impacted by your work.

Once you’ve brainstormed, you should turn these ideas into goals. These goals should be measurable, with specific steps to help accomplish your overall objective. 

To provide another example, you could state that one of your goals will be to see a 20% boost in traffic to your social media channels by posting X amount of times a week or month and by interacting with X amount of people on those platforms.

2. Create personas

A big part of marketing is understanding your audience, and one of the best ways to do this is to create personas of your donors, volunteers and recipients. 

It’s essential to define and understand each of these audiences because your marketing goals and strategies will differ based on which group you are addressing. For example, an email to a donor will have a different message than an email asking for volunteers.

3. Complete research on fundraising psychology

Being successful as a marketer includes having a basic understanding of human sociology and general psychology — when you know why people behave the way they do, you can start to create content they will identify with and respond to positively.

It will do wonders for you to complete research on fundraising psychology, just like researching consumer psychology aids for-profit businesses. This research can help you understand why more people donate when a campaign is closer to reaching its goal or why some people are more inclined to helping an individual than a larger group.

4. Craft messaging

The next step for creating a non-profit marketing strategy is to craft your messaging. This step is similar to creating a jingle or slogan for any business. 

You need to craft a key message that includes all the information your audiences need to hear, remember and hopefully share about your organization. You need to do this ahead of time, as it will help you keep your organization aligned. It will also simplify your marketing while keeping your different audiences organized.

5. Identify strategies and tactics

Although you may want to head straight for this step, setting up your personas and identifying actionable goals will make this step far easier and more successful. At this point, you’ve answered the who, what and how of your key messages and audiences. 

Now, you will identify which channels you are going to use. These can include social media, email marketing, events, blogs, etc. Once you decide which channels you plan to use, you will work up the strategies and tactics you plan to use on these channels (we’ll dive more into strategy specifics in the next section).

6. Measure results

It would be silly to implement any marketing strategy without a plan of measuring its success or failure. Doing this step will help you iron out any kinks and further solidify your non-profit marketing strategy. Regular analysis will help you figure out what is working and what isn’t.

Non-profit marketing strategies

The following are the best non-profit marketing strategies that will help you grow your organization’s impact. 

Focus on relationships

According to Emily Logan, a longtime activist — as well as a non-profit growth and advocacy strategist — focusing on relationships is one of the most important things a non-profit can do long before asking for anything. 

The emotional connection you make between your cause and potential donors can have a more significant impact on your organization than anything else. 

It’s not easy for people to part with their hard-earned money and according to VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk, “you can’t just expect someone to donate to your cause without bringing value to them first . . . it’s an open, transparent conversation and dialogue. You need to respect your target audience.”

One great non-profit marketing strategy is to capitalize on current events and social trends.

Do you know what ALS is? You probably at least recognize the disease simply because of the ice bucket challenge that went viral years ago to help raise awareness of the illness and the search for a cure. The ice bucket challenge became a huge social media trend that everyone was participating in, from grandparents to celebrities. Current events and social trends can be one of the most accessible strategies to utilize when coming up with content marketing ideas.

Work with social media influencers

In tandem with social trends, you should start working with social media influencers. 

“Influencer” is in their title for a reason, some of the biggest names have millions of followers, and you better believe that if Jane from Carlsbad tells all the middle-aged moms to go buy this nifty kitchen gadget now, they’re going to do it. People trust individual influencers, and if you can win over a couple who will be able to spread your message, you can make a significant impact.

But, you don’t have to take our word for it. Per studies conducted by TapInfluence, “influencer marketing content delivers 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing,” and “influencer content on social media earns more than 8X the engagement rate of brand-direct content.” 

Not sure where or how to engage with influencers? Start by looking for micro-influencers in your local community or within your network and then go for the big dogs.

Incorporate video in content marketing

Videos are a huge part of content marketing today, and it would be a massive loss if you didn’t utilize it in your non-profit marketing strategy.

In 2017, HubSpot research found that most people will skim written or audio content, but (more noteworthy) these people were “more likely to pay attention to video content.” You’ve probably already seen other non-profits using this tactic. One great example is Charity: Water’s video — This is Pipeline.

Be sure to follow best practices with video — they don’t need to be lengthy segments to be successful. Also, video also can be produced quite easily without breaking the bank. Apps like Adobe Creative Cloud are affordable ways for a non-profit to create and edit great video content.

Find ways to automate email and text marketing

Email and text marketing can be powerful tools to have in your toolbox. When people join your email or text lists, it’s an indication of their investment — as in they care about your cause and want to support you. 

So, this likely means they’re receptive to seeing messages from you in their inboxes. To help you save time, start automating these messages. According to HubSpot research, Boomers and Gen-Xers prefer email or video content, so if they’re in one of your audience groups, you need to use email as a tactic.

Follow up after donations

It may feel small, but having someone follow up after donations can take your message a step further with donors. 

It shows you care about them — remember you’re trying to build relationships — more than just their donation. According to research from Software Advice, 60% of donors want information about impact stories, and 46% of donors prefer a personalized letter.

Build trust with consistent branding

Consistent branding is a smart practice for any organization, profit, or not.

In a case study between Lucidpress and MHA, MHA’s Community Marketing Specialist knew they needed a solution to help unify independent messaging. MHA provides care, accommodation and support services for more than 16,000 seniors throughout Britain. 

By using Lucidpress’s branding templates, they were able to streamline their messages and work seamlessly with their local homes, getting more done in less time. Having consistent, easy-to-use branding templates can save you a lot of time in the long run. Templates are easy to use for everyone within your organization and can be completely customizable.

Build your non-profit and your brand

By following these content marketing strategies of building relationships, capitalizing on social trends, working with influencers, incorporating video content, automating email, following up after donations and building trust through consistent brand, you will be able to grow your organization’s impact and start to see real results. 

Just as MHA found help with Lucidpress’s customizable templates, other non-profits are also finding help with Lucidpress. To learn more, check out how YMCA was able to keep their brand consistent across every location with Lucidpress’s lockable templates.

As a non-profit organization, your brand isn’t just a logo or text. It’s a symbol and a feeling — one that resembles hope, inspiration or kindness.

For your program participants, non-profit branding is often associated with the experiences they have while enrolled in your program. For your volunteers and donors, your brand is deeply connected to the feeling they get from giving back to the community and to others in need. 

To that end, non-profit branding and its image are synonymous with a mission and message because the brand doesn’t just serve the non-profit — it serves communities, too. 

For instance, when people see your logo or branding, whether you’re a YMCA or a garden project non-profit, you want them to remember what you’re working towards and call on you to help or be helped.

Why does non-profit branding matter?

Just as financial or food insecurity can prohibit growth, brand insecurity can have a similar impact. Writing grants and fundraising takes time, money and energy. Not only that, but it also requires you to tell a story, one of which you may not have the luxury of iterating again and again. But, if you find yourself worried that your non-profit is missing critical (and digital) fundraising opportunities, you’re not alone — 66% percent of charities share that concern.

However, a strong brand helps tell a non-profit’s story.

To quote the folks of Stanford Social Innovation Review, “a brand is a psychological construct held in the minds of all those aware of the branded product, person, organization, or movement. Brand management is the work of managing these psychological associations. In the for-profit world, marketing professionals talk of creating ‘a total brand experience.’ In the non-profit world, executives talk more about their ‘global identity’ and the ‘what and why’ of their organizations. But the point in both cases is to take branding far beyond the logo.” 

So in sum, there are two core components a strong non-profit brand can lend a hand in:

  1. Fundraising
  2. Identity

For many non-profits, these two components are inextricably linked. The stronger presence and identity you possess, the more likely people are to donate money. And the more money you can accrue, the more you can build your brand presence. 

By building a brand, you extend your capacity and reach. But, how do you do that when you’re already strapped for resources and time?

How to build your non-profit brand

First, let’s address the elephant in the room. 

The work you’re about to do (i.e., brand building) might sound counterintuitive, but it’s not. Take a minute and remember that your non-profit brand experience contributes to your collective community effort, which in turn empowers you to build a brand that lasts.

Maintain long-term brand authenticity

Whether your non-profit is well-established or relatively new, you must maintain long-term authenticity for branding to be effective.

Authenticity, while a relatively played out terminology, is a critical component to ensuring your non-profit messaging can stand the test of time and resonates with donors, program participants and volunteers. Authenticity can manifest itself in many forms, for example:

Evaluate your current impact

Having a clear, measurable impact translates into a clear, memorable experience, as well as more donations or grant opportunities. So, start building your brand strategy by evaluating your impact effectiveness.  

To do so, ask yourself, board members and core staff:

While this might be a time-consuming task at first glance, answering each of these questions ensures your organization has an appropriate and solid foundation from which to build your brand strategy from. To learn more about basic marketing strategies for non-profit organizations, check out our comprehensive (but approachable, we swear) blog post.

Make a statement

There are two statements worth making — a brand positioning statement and a value statement. 

As we mentioned in one of our previous blog posts, “a brand positioning statement is a short and concise description that sums up your brand. It includes: 

Whereas a value statement (or proposition) “should describe beneficial features of your product, services, strategy or approach.”

Keep in mind, both your brand positioning statement and value proposition are not intended to be used or seen by folks outside of your immediate organization. Both are intended to serve as a north star for branded content creation. Whether you’re writing a grant or creating new program collateral, leveraging these two statements can help content stay on-mission and helpful.

Be consistent

We can’t stress this one enough. Being consistent is your key to unlocking access to new donors, volunteers and program participants. To be consistent is to be recognized. Because being consistent not only helps set the stage for future content creation, but it also helps ensure your message is understood loud and clear.

Consistency can mean a lot of things. For example, consistency is:

Streamline and templatize

Making do with very little is the M.O. for most in the non-profit sector, so it makes sense to streamline, templatize and craft easy-to-duplicate (or copy and paste) content wherever possible. While it might feel redundant, empowering colleagues with cut-and-paste (with some customizable flair) content ensures that collateral and messaging stays true to your north star mission.

non-profit report
non-profit report

(Screenshots are from the Philanthropy report template found in the Lucidpress gallery)

Do your non-profit branding justice

Your brand, and more importantly your community, deserves a proper foundation from which you — and your colleagues — can build out from. Doing so not only ensures your ability to successfully create content in the future but it also ensures you remain visible, consistent and memorable to your target audiences. Regardless of whether or not these folks are donors, volunteers or program participants. To learn more about how to specifically create a consistent brand story from touchpoint to touchpoint, check out our ebook on nonprofit messaging and how to make do with very little.

An effective communications strategy is crucial for any business, but it’s especially important for nonprofit organizations. There are a lot of worthy charities, advocacy groups, and community projects competing for attention and dollars. 

In the U.S., there are approximately 1.5 million nonprofit organizations that include social advocacy groups, private charitable foundations, and even civic leagues and corporate giving programs. The nonprofit sector is also the third-largest employer in the United States, with healthcare-related nonprofits making up a clear majority of the organizations across the country.

These nonprofits all rely heavily on a donor or client base to fundraise and generate revenue to help their organization grow. Here are a few tips for developing a nonprofit communications plan that can help your organization stay mission-focused and thriving for decades to come.

Tips for developing a seamless nonprofit communication strategy

Clearly articulate a compelling brand story 

Thriving nonprofits know that the secret sauce of success is that every stakeholder, donor, volunteer, and board member is a brand ambassador. The more people who are passionate about what you do, the more power you’ll have to raise awareness and fundraise. 

And the key to creating vocal brand ambassadors is to have a compelling nonprofit brand story and to cultivate people who are good at telling it. Everyone involved in your organization should be able to clearly articulate your mission, how you work to achieve it, and what others can do to help. But it’s also worthwhile to boost your best brand storytellers into positions (and platforms) where they can connect with a wider audience.

Simplify your messaging

Volunteers and activists are often very knowledgeable and passionate about the issue they’re advocating for. In truth, you wouldn’t want it any other way! But all that enthusiasm means strategic communications for nonprofits can suffer from information overload and muddled messaging. 

Take a close look at your nonprofit organization’s website and social media profiles and ask yourself one question: Could a stranger identify what you do and why it’s important in 60 seconds or less? If not, your nonprofit communications plan needs to focus on simplifying and streamlining your messaging across platforms, including email communications.

Develop a nonprofit communications plan playbook

Getting everyone within your organization on the same page can be challenging. That’s where creating a nonprofit communications plan playbook comes in. Think of this as your nonprofit brand style guide. 

While it can identify logos and colors and fonts, it should also articulate your brand story and demonstrate how to produce consistent, clear messaging for potential donors, volunteers, and the general public. Lucidpress has branding templates that can help nonprofits produce this kind of personalized, scalable digital content.

Recruit social media brand ambassadors

Effective nonprofit communications strategy is all about relationships. In a way, nonprofits are in the business of recruiting advocates and activists, so every connection matters in terms of the impact your organization can make. 

It’s especially important to recruit advocates among influencers with popular social media platforms who can amplify your mission and support fundraising efforts. Make sure you can clearly articulate to brand ambassadors the value you bring to their brand and how you can partner to create something meaningful. Depending on the realm in which your nonprofit works, you should also consider micro-influencers with niche followings that are better aligned with your goals.

Effective strategic communications for nonprofits is about engaging donors

At the end of the day, creating a thriving nonprofit means having engaged donors and volunteers who regularly support your mission with time, attention, and money. Nonprofit marketing that produces real-world engagement doesn’t happen accidentally. 

It’s the product of an effective nonprofit communication strategy that understands who your audience is and what they want to hear. In the same way businesses create customer personas to drive conversion, developing several donor personas can be helpful to target your fundraising messaging. Consider including the following characteristics as part of your donor personas.

Last but not least, make donation history a component of donor personas. Nonprofits often rely on pools of repeat donors that can be counted on to provide financial resources consistently. Make sure you’ve got email and mailing lists that align with donor personas so you can fall back on those most likely to help in a pinch.

These tips for developing an effective nonprofit communications strategy should help your organization turn what you’re passionate about into high-quality, consistent messaging that converts donors into brand ambassadors.

Nonprofit fundraising is the heart of every successful charitable organization. And it’s not just because fundraising is the primary income for most nonprofits. A steady stream of donations and events also raises awareness within the community and keeps donors mission-focused and engaged. In 2020, Americans gave $471 billion to charitable organizations, with an increase among individual donors compensating for a decline in corporate giving.

Fortunately, building a successful nonprofit fundraising machine to leverage that momentum doesn’t need to be a herculean effort. Creating a flurry of social media activity and organizing events can seem exhausting and expensive, but there are ways to generate charitable donations that don’t have to break the bank. The goal of a nonprofit fundraising strategy is to build a donor base that efficiently and consistently equips your army of volunteers with the tools and resources they need to make a difference.

Creating a nonprofit fundraising strategy 

The fundraising strategy for some charities seems to amount to little more than picking random fundraising ideas for nonprofit organizations from a hat. To see consistent success, follow these tips to build a nonprofit fundraising strategy that’ll tick all the boxes for potential donors.

Refine your brand story

Your nonprofit organization’s ability to fundraise is directly tied to the enthusiasm and engagement it generates among potential donors. Start by building a compelling, nonprofit brand story and make sure every stakeholder and volunteer can articulate your mission clearly and simply.

Set fundraising goals

Before you design a nonprofit fundraising strategy, it helps to set goals. Think of your fundraising goals as the destination and your fundraising strategy as the roadmap for how to get there. Focus on SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

Find a fundraising team

Some of your board members, employees, and volunteers are going to be better suited to fundraising efforts than others. Build your fundraising team out with people who are not only passionate about the mission but have a natural affinity for organizing events and feel at home on social media.

Know your donors

In business, knowing your customers can help hone a sales strategy that connects. In the nonprofit world, knowing your donors has similar benefits. Draft a few donor personas based on what you know about the individuals and businesses most likely to support your work. Use these donor personas to direct your outreach and refine your fundraising messaging.

Design a nonprofit fundraising plan

Implementing a careful and thoughtful nonprofit fundraising plan can help organizations raise revenue ethically. Take time to define the tactics you’ll use to fundraise, the methods you’ll provide to receive funds, and what sort of nonprofit marketing you’ll engage in to raise awareness. 

Produce consistent, on-brand messaging

Once you’ve solidified your nonprofit brand story, it should be sprinkled liberally into everything you do, from social media posts to online fundraising and in-person events. Research shows the biggest driver of donations among millennials is a compelling cause, so make sure your nonprofit brand story is front and center.

Build donor trust

Transparency is important to any business, but it’s vital to the health of nonprofits. Your donors need to trust that your organization is investing money in ways that matter. Be transparent about how donations are spent and report back to donors so they can see the outcome of their charitable investment.

Follow up with a thank you

Circling back to donors to express appreciation may seem perfunctory, but it’s an important part of creating rapport and community. Donors who require receipts for tax purposes will appreciate the outreach, but it’s also an opportunity to build in a little donor loyalty. More than 15% of annual revenue came from recurring donations for nonprofit organizations who followed up by offering the option.

Nonprofit fundraising ideas

While there are a lot of ways to raise money for a nonprofit, types of donations fall into two distinct categories: individual donors and corporate giving. The kind of nonprofit fundraising ideas you pursue may depend on what sorts of donations you’re hoping to attract.

It’s also worthwhile to consider diversifying your fundraising so you don’t rely too much on one channel. The goal is to reach donors where they are, whether that’s direct mail, online, or on social media platforms. Here are a few fundraising methods to consider:

Last but not least, consider corporate giving as an opportunity to grow your organization. In 2019, The National Philanthropic Trust estimated corporations donated over 75 billion to charitable organizations. Partnering with businesses not only generates a good chunk of revenue but also grows awareness among employees for your nonprofit. Corporate giving can take many forms, including matching gifts, corporate grants, employee events, and even in-kind donations like supplies, products, or equipment.

More fundraising ideas for a nonprofit organization

Now that we’ve discussed both fundraising strategy and methods, let’s start digging through a treasure chest of practical ideas you can implement to generate revenue. Nonprofits have faced some significant challenges recently in soliciting donations due to the pandemic, so we’ll divide and conquer with both in-person and online events designed to engage donors.

In-person nonprofit fundraising ideas

Turn these events and thoughtful activities into a windfall of donations for your charity or nonprofit organization. The community goodwill you build is just a bonus.

Get active

Be creative

Offer a taste

Game it up

Build community

Online nonprofit fundraising ideas

While you can take most in-person nonprofit fundraising ideas and turn them into virtual events, here are a few tried-and-true solutions for opening donor’s pocketbooks online.

This deep dive into nonprofit fundraising ideas proves that raising money for charity doesn’t have to be a chore. Whether you hold in-person or online events or some combination of both, make sure your organization is registered as a nonprofit and follows guidelines for soliciting donations.

Increasingly, social media platforms have become online communities that are central to the way users connect, spend, and socialize. Pew Research’s 2021 report on social media use indicates 72% of American adults use social media, with a majority of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram users logging in daily to check their feeds.

While it might be tempting to turn a blind eye to your employees’ social media use, the reality is most of your staff has an online presence. And without a social media policy for nonprofits in place, a small misstep online could do damage to your organization’s reputation and brand. That’s why it’s imperative to establish and implement a nonprofit social media policy.

What is a nonprofit social media policy?

A nonprofit social media policy is a set of guidelines about how a nonprofit organization and its staff and volunteers should interact online, specifically on social media accounts. Social media policy for nonprofits can cover both the organization’s brand channels as well as how employees use their own social media accounts either professionally or personally.

You can think of a social media policy for nonprofits as a code of conduct for online spaces instead of office spaces. It can span a wide range of issues, from responding to customer service complaints to security and password protocol. A nonprofit social media policy template also details the kinds of content that would be considered problematic and how employees can participate in brand advocacy.

Why do you need a social media policy for nonprofits?

The days of saying employees can’t be held responsible for what they post online have definitely passed. Today you ignore the need for a social media policy for nonprofits at your peril. Here are a few reasons drafting and implementing a social media policy is crucial to your nonprofit marketing strategy and can help mitigate risk for your organization’s brand.

Clarify expectations for employees and volunteers

Setting expectations for social media use can be tricky for nonprofits because they can be staffed by a large number of volunteers. But when people join your organization, your social media policy for nonprofits should detail how to engage in advocacy online and empower your mission with appropriate messaging. Otherwise, you risk an errant post on Instagram or Facebook compromising the reputation of your nonprofit and alienating potential donors.

Squash PR problems before they happen

Increasingly, online platforms have become clearinghouses for customer service complaints, and the nonprofit space is no different. Establishing a social media policy for nonprofits ensures that when staff stumble across someone with a negative experience, they know how to respond and who to contact. The Humane Society was an early adopter of social media, and its network of nonprofit organizations is a great example of how staying active and engaging in online communities can avert a PR crisis and build your brand.

Keep your brand consistent across channels

Because a social media policy for nonprofits also defines content and tone on brand channels, it can be a great tool to keep the voice of your organization consistent. Clarifying who is in charge of posting on social media is also essential because it helps employees and volunteers understand their online responsibilities and avoid potential security breaches. The fallout when a social media account has been compromised will garner your nonprofit attention, but for all the wrong reasons.

What your nonprofit social media policy should cover

While you might run out and start googling “nonprofit social media policy template” after skimming the section above, it’s worthwhile to consider exactly what a social media policy for nonprofits should include. Look for a nonprofit social media policy template that details the following:

And last but not least, provide plenty of easy-to-use social media templates that reflect your nonprofit branding. Lucidpress has customizable templates that are perfect for keeping your nonprofit social media posts consistent and professional.

Download our free ebook to learn more about social media policy for nonprofits and how to keep your nonprofit messaging mission-focused.

Have your organization’s social media platforms gone radio silent since the intern left? Welcome to the world of social media strategy for nonprofits where the struggle to post consistently is real. Nonprofits rely on an army of volunteers and don’t always have the financial bandwidth to staff an office. This bootstrapped approach means social media marketing for nonprofits can become an afterthought.

Like gardens, social media channels languish unattended. Following the social media best practices for nonprofits listed below is a great place to start building a social media nonprofit marketing strategy or to revive an existing one. In each tip, you’ll find insight on how to use social media for nonprofits from social media managers and CEOs who know what it takes to engage successfully.

7 tips on running social media for nonprofits

1. Go where your audience is

You can’t be all things to all people. Part of a successful social media strategy for nonprofits is to think about where your audience is spending time. Focus your efforts on the social media platforms that potential donors are most likely to use either personally or professionally. 

Whether it’s the eye candy on Instagram or the younger crowd on TikTok, focus on the platform your audience calls home. And keep in mind it might not be Facebook.

“I think nonprofits benefit from being on LinkedIn so that they can be found easily. It adds credibility and transparency when you know the people you are meeting or working with know people in common. LinkedIn has become more than an online rolodex — it is the foundation for building trusted relationships in the digital economy.”  

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls

2. Post with a purpose

Starting with the purpose in mind is a key part of social media best practices for nonprofits. If your timeline hasn’t seen much action in a while, posting a flurry of updates won’t produce engagement. Instead, develop a strategy for each platform that considers how your content can have the most impact. 

Think carefully not just about social media best practices for nonprofits but also about your organization’s goals. What do you want to accomplish? Get specific. If the purpose of your social media strategy is to gain more followers, connect to your why. There’s a reason that’s important to social media marketing for nonprofits. Consider what success looks like, whether that’s increases in nonprofit fundraising or recruiting more volunteers.

3. Get consistent across channels

In social media, consistency is about more than posting at the same time every day. Cracking the formula for how to use social media for nonprofits requires both the right amount of engagement and keeping content streamlined across different channels. It’s about frequency, timing, and a dash of experimentation to determine what works for you and your audience.

If that sounds a little daunting, don’t despair. Julia Sellers from Thirty Press, a communications consultancy for nonprofits, advises falling back on the 80/20 rule, which is one of several social media best practices for nonprofits.

“Posts should follow the 80/20 rule. 80% education and inspiration versus 20% hard asks for donations. Nonprofits do not have to be on every social platform. Evaluate your target market and get really strong at being present on the one or two platforms where that market intersects.”

4. Find an authentic voice

It can be tempting if you have the financial bandwidth to outsource social media management, but that can be tricky for nonprofits. Social media strategy for nonprofits relies on connecting to the passion people have for a particular cause and turning it into action. 

As Magie Stevens from Lets All Do Good advises, it’s crucial to find an authentic voice and to use it in your social media marketing for nonprofits.

“Having both in-house and agency experience, my advice on running social for a nonprofit is to not outsource it. It seems to be one of the first things marketing departments look to give to an agency to take over, and it doesn’t work. For organic social to resonate, it needs to be authentic, agile, and timely. It requires someone who knows the industry, the organization, the mission, and the audience — all pieces of the puzzle that an agency cannot bring to the table.” 

5. Make it emotional

Hitting the jackpot with viral content is peak success in social media for nonprofits, but research indicates it’s less a matter of luck and more about well-crafted, highly emotional content. 

And contrary to expectations about how to use social media for nonprofits, the content doesn’t have to be relentlessly upbeat. While it might not seem out of the playbook for social media best practices for nonprofits, anger can actually drive viral content with outrage clicks.

“One important point is nonprofits need to tap into high-arousal emotions. We learned this in Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious. That means not posting sad, demoralizing, or bland informational content. Instead, try to inspire awe, inspiration, excitement, or even anger.” 

Allison Mahoney, Estorie Agency 

6. Make it visual

While it can depend on the platform, dynamic visuals remain one of the most vital aspects of successful social media marketing for nonprofits. Infographics, photographs, and videos are the staples of social media posts for a reason. 

However, as the CEO of nonprofit Cancer Kids First, Olivia Zhang, explains, viral videos are no accident. Incorporating viral videos into your social media strategy for nonprofits requires paying careful attention to a platform’s algorithms and users to determine the best framing, timing, and topics.

“TikTok has become extremely popular during the pandemic, and nonprofits can use this new audience to their advantage. Before launching our official account, I did in-depth research on the best ways to go viral. I studied TikTok algorithms and watched countless videos with titles such as “How to Go Viral on TikTok in Under a Week” or “Knowing When and What to Post on TikTok to Gain Views.” I even created a schedule of the best days to post — Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays — and the best times.”

7. Engage, engage, engage

Instead of thinking of social media as a bullhorn for your nonprofit’s mission, consider it a channel for conversation with a community of users. The best advice for how to use social media for nonprofits boils down to focusing on forging relationships with followers. And like any relationship, you have to invest the time and engage.

Social media best practices for nonprofits include asking your audience what they think through surveys, polls, and feedback. Get into the comments regularly. Listen carefully. While your ultimate goal may be to recruit volunteers or gain donors, you’re also raising awareness and creating a community that’ll rally your cause.

Social media marketing for nonprofits can be a powerful tool to expand your donor base and fundraise. But your channels require a social media marketing strategy for nonprofits that focuses on consistency and platform- and audience-specific insights that maximize your organization’s impact.

Learn more about social media for nonprofits, including how to amplify your mission with our free nonprofit messaging guide.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of nonprofits. Their involvement can make or break your organization’s ability to make meaningful progress towards your mission. And like employee management, volunteer management is a tricky balancing act. Nonprofits need to empower people with appropriate volunteer opportunities while ensuring the work they do feels both meaningful and personally rewarding.

Recruiting a steady stream of volunteers is crucial, but volunteer retention is actually where the rubber meets the road for most nonprofits. Tapping into the passion people feel for an issue or concern can convert them into volunteers, but volunteer engagement is what helps your organization build a reliable team that’s in it for the long haul.

What is volunteer engagement and why does it matter?

Volunteer engagement is keeping your volunteers connected to your organization on an ongoing basis. And it can be a pretty tall order considering about 25% of adult Americans volunteer their time every year. Volunteer engagement strategies are an approach or plan that accomplishes engagement through keeping volunteers informed and involved. 

Volunteer engagement strategies should span every step in the life cycle of a volunteer, from recruitment to advancement and leadership opportunities. Volunteer engagement ideas should also encourage communication and focus on developing a sense of community. Ultimately, your efforts to help volunteers thrive within your organization can pay dividends and create the kind of engagement that can be mobilized effectively to meet challenges.

6 effective volunteer engagement strategies

Great volunteer engagement doesn’t just happen. It’s an intentional act born out of thoughtful, well-executed volunteer engagement strategies. Consider using the following ideas to start laying the groundwork for better volunteer engagement in your nonprofit organization.

1. Mine volunteer data to develop personas 

As part of your nonprofit marketing efforts, you’ve likely collected data not just on potential donors but also volunteers. Use it to create a dynamic recruitment strategy by determining who your volunteers are and what they care about. Build personas that capture the following volunteer data to help not only attract people to your nonprofit but keep them coming back.

This data can inform not only which volunteer engagement ideas will be most useful but how you match people with volunteer opportunities. Strive for experiences that fit their priorities and look for ways to leverage skills and connections that can be particularly valuable to your organization.

2. Create consistent, streamlined volunteer communication

Keeping volunteers in the loop is critical to volunteer engagement, but you can also create too much of a good thing. If you’re sending a flurry of emails or texts daily, volunteers will start to feel overwhelmed and tune out. Strive to streamline volunteer communication by segmenting your mailing lists, templatizing updates, and making sure what you send is relevant, timely, and helpful.

Don’t forget that communication is a two-way street. Give your volunteers plenty of opportunities to provide feedback. It’s also vital to report back on issues raised, so people know you’re listening and that their input is valued. Volunteer engagement strategies should take into account the fact that most of your team has limited time, so keep the surveys short and sweet.

3. Stay mission-focused

Your nonprofit has a mission that matters. Connecting volunteers to that collective “why” can supercharge your volunteer engagement. But it’s easy to lose focus or get bogged down in bureaucracy in the day-to-day work of running a nonprofit and miss the forest for the trees. 

As often as you can, try to mine for connections to your cause and bring it to the forefront of what you do and how you engage with volunteers. In the same way that you keep donors informed of how their money makes a difference, let volunteers know the real-world results of their efforts. Provide status updates on special projects, broadcast volunteer achievements, and highlight volunteer success stories on your social media channels. 

4. Show your appreciation

Volunteers have a lot of choices about how to donate their time. After all, there are millions of nonprofits across the country competing not just for donors but also for volunteers. 

Thanking your volunteers for their loyalty is one of several volunteer engagement ideas that can pay off in volunteer retention. And showing your gratitude doesn’t have to involve extravagant gestures like parties or fancy galas. Even small gestures such as handwritten notes at the end of a shift or fresh baked cookies delivered to their doorstep can provide a personal touch that deepens connections.

5. Training and development is essential for volunteer engagement

Volunteer engagement strategies should also grapple with the practicalities of the work you do. It’s not just your staff that requires onboarding, training, and periodic professional development to be successful in their positions. Volunteers need the same guidance and investment throughout their experience with your nonprofit.

Conducting a thorough orientation and providing organized and professional training materials can get volunteer engagement off on the right foot. Volunteer management should also involve consistent check-ins and one-on-one meetings to ensure your volunteer engagement strategies are resulting in volunteer opportunities that feel meaningful and rewarding.

6. Keep volunteer opportunities flexible and fun

Your volunteers are busy people. So whatever volunteer engagement ideas you decide to utilize, keep it flexible and fun. Find not only plenty of times for volunteers to roll up their sleeves but a variety of ways to get involved. The more accessible the work is, the more likely volunteers will come back again. And maybe bring their friends and coworkers along.

It’s also worthwhile to point out that while volunteers may be pressed for time, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for more. The Census Bureau’s Current Population Study found that while the majority of volunteer hours were spent fundraising or distributing food or supplies, more than a quarter of volunteers engaged in more time-intensive activities such as mentoring youth or tutoring.

And last but not least, volunteer engagement strategies are only as effective as the tool you use to measure them. Decide what success in volunteer engagement looks like for your nonprofit organization. Whether that’s increasing recruitment or improving volunteer retention, set benchmarks and use volunteer data to help you chart a course towards better volunteer engagement.

Learn more about volunteer engagement strategies and how to amplify your organization’s mission with our free ebook.

Fundraising is often the primary focus of a nonprofit organization, and for good reason. Donors empower your mission and enable volunteers to do meaningful work. And the secret sauce to keeping those financial gifts coming is not only to recruit new donors but also to incentivize donor retention. This is why drafting a thank you letter to donors that makes them feel appreciated can become a cornerstone of your nonprofit organization’s fundraising strategy.

Why it’s important to write a thank you letter to donors

While you may have your hands full managing a nonprofit marketing strategy or a social media campaign blitz, it’s critical not to overlook the simple things. Small gestures of gratitude for your existing donors do more than create connections and foster a sense of community. The best donor thank you letters allow your nonprofit organization to demonstrate  proof of your impact and serve as a springboard for recruiting new donors.

How to write a donor thank you letter

Donor thank you letters may sound intuitive, but there’s an art to producing and sending these missives of gratitude. Research has shown that senders of thank you letters often underestimate the positivity their gratitude generates, so investing a little time to get these notes right pays dividends. Here are a few tips for writing a thank you letter to donors that’ll impress.

1. Practice genuine gratitude

This may sound obvious, but saying thank you without an ulterior motive is paramount. Don’t try to tack on another ask or use the opportunity to amplify your current fundraising campaign. Find a way to express your gratitude with language that is heartfelt but avoid producing formulaic messages that feel trite. Crafting a tone that feels professional but not perfunctory takes time, so sketch out a few drafts until you get it right.

2. Demonstrate impact

The simplest way to frame nonprofit fundraising is that donations are investments donors make in your mission. Demonstrating the value those donations provide gives proof their money is being invested wisely. When demonstrating impact in a thank you letter to a donor, it’s best to be specific and connect the donation to real-world examples. Flashing stats that reflect progress towards a goal is great, but putting a face on the work being done also helps humanize your organization’s efforts.

3. Be personal

Keeping the language vague might allow mass production of donor thank you letters, but you’ll lose the ability to connect on a personal level. Instead, include names whenever possible and make sure your donor thank letter is signed by a real person within your organization. If it’s feasible, handwritten thank you notes are an especially nice touch. 

4. Timeliness matters

Sending a thank you letter to a donor months after the initial gift guarantees your gratitude will get lost in the noise of daily life. Aim for sending your thanks within 1-2 days of the actual donation, especially if you’re sending a note via snail mail. If you plan to send a thank you email, take steps to craft the subject line to ensure it doesn’t get caught in a spam filter.

5. Recognize both repeat and first-time donors

Taking the time to shout out a first-time donor or recognize a loyal, consistent supporter helps your thank you letter to a donor feel both relevant and personal. Just a few flourishes that reflect upon the excitement of getting involved with something meaningful or a track record of generous gifts shows the kind of attention to detail that is a credit to your nonprofit organization.

6. Keep it short and simple

Once you’ve incorporated the above advice into your donor thank you letters, take a moment to edit your work for grammar, punctuation, and brevity. You want to strike the right balance of thoughtfulness without veering into a rambling thank you letter that encourages skimming. It may help to stick to a template like the ones available from Lucidpress to keep your formatting and length consistent.

Examples of the best donor thank you letters

Tips are tremendously helpful, but there’s nothing like seeing guidance in action. Gathered below are examples of the best donor thank you letters that exemplify both authentic gratitude and effective nonprofit fundraising at work.

Get specific about the impact of the donor’s gift

If you want to see the gold standard of effective nonprofit marketing, Charity: water is it. Its mission to provide safe, clean drinking water to every person on the planet is funded by millions of donor dollars that power water projects around the world. Below you’ll see a thank you letter to donors filled with details about the current project in Rwanda, including specifics about what is being funded, how many donors it took to reach the goal, and the number of people directly impacted by the project.

Charity: water thank-you example

Focus on donor retention by sending a personalized packet

The best donor thank you letters are also opportunities to inform and connect people with your work. This example of a thank you packet from Great Rivers Environmental Law Center includes their current newsletter, a typed letter with details about how the donation will be used, a receipt for tax purposes, and a handwritten thank you note. You’ll notice the letter specifically calls out that this donation was a first-time gift and comes straight from the desk of the president of the nonprofit organization.

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center thank you package

Sending a donor thank you video puts a face to fundraising efforts

If letters and emails seem a little old school for your tastes, try making a video thank you letter to donors. All it takes to produce passable video content these days is a decent quality smartphone camera and a steady hand. Susan G. Komen, one of the premier breast cancer fundraising organizations in the world, did exactly that by asking one of the leaders in their organization to put a face to a personalized video message. If you’re not comfortable with video, try to at least incorporate visuals into your thank you letters to donors that speak to the work you do or the people it benefits.

Susan G. Komen thank-you video

Social media donor spotlights demonstrate the value of your nonprofit organization’s mission

Donor shoutouts on social media require careful planning, but they can pay off by helping you reach new audiences. Spotlights like the example below from Kramden Institute can live on either your social media timeline or website and serve as a way to highlight the contributions of donors. Of course, you’ll need donor consent to produce this content and the ability to create professional photos to showcase on your social channels. But the payoff of putting a face to your community of support is that it can encourage others to become part of the work you do.

Kramden Institute donor quote and photo

Take these examples to heart and produce a thank you letter to donors that compliments your fundraising approach and cultivates a mindset of gratitude. You’ll discover that your nonprofit organization will reap the benefits with increased donor retention and a culture of positivity that gives back to both your organization and the community.

Learn more about the best donor thank you letters and how to amplify your mission with our free nonprofit messaging guide.