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Six digital marketing investments nonprofits can make to improve reach

For many nonprofits, digital marketing consists of occasional mass emails, an infrequently updated website and posts on the organization’s social media feeds. But a haphazard approach to digital marketing no longer works, and there are important digital marketing investments your nonprofit can make to effectively reach its intended audiences.

There is no question that people are spending more time online. The pandemic pushed even some of the most technologically resistant people to the internet to look for nonprofit services, compile research and even make donations. This is a significant shift from just a few years ago when many of those same people used the internet only to research and purchase consumer goods or check social media feeds.

Investing your resources (time, money and talent) into digital marketing in a thoughtful and strategic way will pay off. Here are six areas where you should allocate those investments.

1. Make time for education 

We have found that many nonprofits do not invest in digital marketing because they don’t understand how it works and why it is important. If you are one of those people, don’t fret. You aren’t alone. In fact, there are many free resources to learn more about digital marketing and how it can work for you. Here are some of my favorites and some resources from our Dot Org team.

2. Develop solid personas

Your digital marketing will be most successful for your organization when you properly target your messaging and content to the right audiences. One way to do that is to create marketing personas for each of your constituencies to help you understand their communication preferences and habits.

A marketing persona is simply a fictional character you create that represents a particular group of constituents and their communication behaviors/preferences. (Think Donor Donna or Cleo the Client). Each persona will likely have different demographics, information needs and ways they like you to communicate with them. For instance, a donor will likely prefer receiving information on the impact of their giving whereas a patient, client, guest or patron will probably want to know about your offerings and the benefits of your organization.

You should have several personas (we suggest you have around five) and may even have subcategories within a particular persona category - Planned Giving Pat and Donor Donna are both fundraising personas that may get regular donor communications but may receive some different messages that are relevant to each of them throughout the year.

I personally like the HubSpot “Make My Persona” tool. It is fun and simple to use.


3. Monitor your data and analytics 

One of the biggest benefits to digital marketing is the amount of data that is available to help you understand the effectiveness of your digital marketing AND make decisions on future campaigns.

When set up properly, digital data will help you:

  • Determine campaign and platform effectiveness over specified periods of time.
  • Evaluate campaigns holistically across all digital channels.
  • Understand user/visitor behavior to drive future marketing decisions.
  • Track the effectiveness of online ads and specific messages.

There are a variety of tools you can use (free and paid) that will help you track your digital data. Regardless of the tools you use, take the time to set them up properly AND understand what the information means. As a HubSpot Solutions Partner, we’re partial to HubSpot for its ease of use and phenomenal training. (Contact us to learn more about HubSpot.) 

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Check out my blog, “Basic digital metrics nonprofits should know and understand,” to learn what different metrics mean what they mean for your nonprofit.


4. Engage in thorough planning 

No marketing campaign (digital or otherwise) is successful without a plan. The benefit to digital marketing is that planning can be much easier if you have been tracking your data and analytics over time. This information provides great guidance for your future campaigns.

Planning digital campaigns can be involved so planning is important. I suggest:

  • Plan your campaigns at least 90 days ahead of time.
  • Think about all your digital efforts in terms of campaigns and link ideas/thoughts/platforms together as much as  possible through social media, email, website and ads.
  • Set up campaigns in your analytics/monitoring tools.
  • Consider using themes for each campaign and build all your content around themes.
  • Repurpose content. Don’t be afraid to use content twice or recycle it from other campaigns if it's relevant. Attention spans are short and repurposing content helps ingrain your message.
  • Create a solid content calendar with links, social posts, photos, videos, etc.

5. Produce quality content

Whether you are writing a social media post, sending a mass email or working on your website presence, quality content is one of the most important investments you should make. Once you have a better understanding of your personas, how your users interact with your current content AND have a plan, you will be able to hone your messaging for greater impact.

Your website

Great design and website bells and whistles are great, but your website visitors are looking for more than just a nice-looking site with fancy features. They want quality content and if they can’t find it, they will leave.

  • Create consumer-focused content. Website content should speak to the visitor and “solve” their problem.
  • Include short explainer videos, e-book downloads, staff/board lists, event information and other content that is requested frequently.
  • Make it mobile-responsive. More than 60% of online searches are now done via mobile and mobile giving is increasing exponentially every year.


Email is still relevant when the content is good.

  • Make emails personal, simple and relevant.
  • Don’t over email your constituents but communicate regularly.
  • Target emails for specific audiences.
  • Always have calls-to-action.
  • Use emails to drive people to your website for more information.
  • Check your email analytics for bounce rates and non-deliverable emails. These can affect your delivery rates.

Social media

Be on the social platforms that matter based on your personas. Not everyone needs to be on TikTok or Instagram.

  • Look at your social media metrics – understand what metrics are important to measure. Likes may make you feel good, but if no one is interacting with or taking action on your posts, you need to make some changes.
  • Add calls-to-action to your posts. If people don’t know what to do with your post, they will pass it by.
  • Include eye-catching graphics.
  • Add short videos.
  • Post when your users are likely to interact.

Check out our blog, “Choosing the best social media platform for your nonprofit” to read a breakdown of each major social media platform to help you determine which platforms benefit your nonprofit.

Informational content

Some organizations have information that they could easily share online, but only have in a printed format. Informational brochures, e-books, ways to give/planned giving information and more can be included on your website and shared via other digital means. Don’t be afraid to share these assets online. These are often the things people are looking for from your organization.


6. Automate

Marketing automation is the process of using software to manage your marketing activities in one place. It requires an up-front investment to set up and generally a monthly fee but will have a long-term payoff for your organization in terms of time saved and improved constituent engagement.

  • Marketing automation helps you do a variety of things including:
  • Schedule emails and social posts ahead of time in an easy-to-use platform. 
  • Create automated emails that are triggered when someone fills out a form or responds to a “Contact us” button or other call-to-action.
  • Build workflows to automatically update information in your systems, notify key staff of online inquires and keep tasks on track.
  • Easily track the success of online campaigns in one place.
  • Create an easy-to-use content calendar.

While the thought of implementing digital marketing campaigns may seem overwhelming to you and your organization, investing some time and resources ultimately pays for itself in time saved and increased exposure for your nonprofit. People of all ages are spending more time online and the nonprofits who take digital marketing seriously will have a much better presence than those who are slower to adopt it.


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