Effective online marketing for a nonprofit requires an appealing website that can easily be found by people searching on the Internet; a way to collect email addresses of those who visit so you can follow up; and a way for people to donate online. Here is Part 2 of our Online Marketing Guide for nonprofits.
Collect visitors' email addresses on your website for phase 2 of your online marketing.
Offer something specific in return for that email address. Invite visitors to sign up for an email newsletter, a special report, an emailed list of tips. Don't just say something generic such as "Sign up here for more information." Say, "Sign up here for our monthly newsletter," or "Sign up here to receive a monthly update of our classes, or "Sign up here for our tips on how to lower your heating costs and create a greener earth."
Develop a program of online marketing communications.
Once you have a reasonable number of people on your email list, establish some way to reach them on a regular basis. The most common way to do this is through an email newsletter. Early in your online marketing efforts, your newsletter might be a simple text message bringing people up to date on the news about your organization, reminders of events coming up, an update on your fundraising, and a short profile about someone your nonprofit serves. These can all be short blurbs with a link back to the more extensive information posted on your website.
As you develop your online marketing communications strategy, you may want to produce an HTML newsletter with images, a donate now button, colors, a variety of fonts, and lots of links. For such a newsletter, you will likely want to use a newsletter service, such as Constant Contact or Network for Good's EMailNow. Such a service can maintain your growing email list, help you conform to CAN-SPAM regulations, and provide an easy way to set up, format, and send your newsletters.
Another choice for online marketing communications is to have your most recent blog posts delivered to your email list at certain intervals. Some nonprofits, with active blogs, do this plus have a formal newsletter that goes out less frequently. Services such as Google's FeedBurner can send out your blog posts.
If you still have a lot of supporters that cannot be reached through your online marketing efforts, be sure to send a printed version of your newsletter by mail and have copies of it at your office and wherever your supporters gather.
Turn your online marketing efforts into action by giving supporters a way to donate on your website.
Online marketing for nonprofits ultimately leads to one goal: turning interested people into donors. To do that, 1) make sure you have a way to accept credit card donations. 2) Put a big DONATE button throughout your website so that anyone can see it easily. 3) Provide an easy-to-understand explanation of how donations are used and for what. Many small nonprofits find it advantageous to work with a donation site such as NetworkforGood that can provide a turn-key solution to accepting credit card donations.
Integrate your online marketing with your offline communications.
Include your website's URL on every piece of printed material that you provide to supporters, donors, volunteers, and media. That means every brochure, business card, catalog, annual report, press release, fundraising letter, thank you letter, volunteer application, and event flyer. Use offline marketing to drive your online marketing.
Extend your online marketing with social media.
After you have all the basics of online marketing for your nonprofit up and thriving, start getting involved in social media. If your base of supporters is young, you are probably already doing this. But even if your audience is older, you will find that many of them are on the Internet, use email, and have Facebook profiles.
Social media is becoming more important as the search engines are now using "social signals" to determine your organization's search ranking. So social media can now be considered part of your SEO strategy. That makes it more urgent that you cover the basics: Facebook (set up a business page for your charity), Twitter, and Google+. The other basic piece of social media is a blog. That is because you need to be constantly creating content that you can promote via your social networks.
Dedicate a staff member to online marketing if that makes sense.
If you have someone who attends to fundraising and/or promotion, it is logical to place the responsibility for online marketing at his or her door. If you can hire an additional person for online marketing, do so. If you have a tech-savvy volunteer, by all means let him or her help with your social media, but do make sure that the volunteer will be around for the long haul and set up specific guidelines for maintaining your social media accounts.
However, if you are a small nonprofit, and just fulfilling your mission takes up all staff time, think about outsourcing your online marketing efforts. Pay a consultant to advise and implement your online marketing strategy and look for turnkey solutions instead of trying to patch things together a bit at a time. A consultant can provide a quick start, train your staff, and shorten the learning curve.
*Statistics for online fundraising are from the 2008 donorCentrics Internet Giving Benchmarking Analysis