The Ultimate Nonprofit Marketing Guide of 2021

In 2016, there were over 1.5 million registered non-profit organizations in the world.

Additionally, around 63 million volunteers work tirelessly every year to help the vision of nonprofits come to life.

When you think about it, that’s a lot of good humanity is doing in the world!

However, not every nonprofit gets the attention it deserves. This is where branding and marketing play a critical role in the success of your nonprofit!

Table of Contents:

When your organization is smaller, your marketing efforts are constantly challenged to do more with as small a budget as possible – especially in the nonprofit sector.

We have put our years of experience in helping organizations like yours into this ultimate nonprofit marketing guide.

This guide is packed with resources and the important information you should know to effectively market your organization.

While your particular organization may not operate for profit, you can still benefit from increasing donations and raising awareness.

Did you know that organizations with aligned sales and marketing initiatives enjoy a 36% higher customer retention rate?

Many nonprofits do not realize they must run their organizations similarly to for-profits. Bringing in new donors and initiating more repeat donations is more important than ever.

Save and bookmark this guide for later.

The Ultimate Nonprofit Marketing Guide

How Nonprofits Can Benefit From Marketing

The most difficult part of running a successful nonprofit is wearing so many hats.

Your organization most likely takes up most of your time.

Yet, with millions of nonprofits in the United States alone, having a passion does not always equate to making money.

The reality is this – to stand out, you must build awareness and help potential donors sift through the crowd of nonprofits.

Branding is all about creating meaningful and impactful experiences that can have an extraordinarily positive impact on your business and those you serve.

Marketing is a powerful tool that can be yielded to help grow your brand to help more people and better serve your community.

Not only does branding and marketing help you attract and bring in new supporters, but it can also assist in better connecting with donors and engaging with your community on a daily basis.

The Ultimate Nonprofit Marketing Guide 2021

Below are a few more reasons why nonprofit marketing is worth the investment.

Marketing Increases Awareness

Many nonprofit founders don’t like to view their mission as a business.

Interestingly, however, the most success nonprofits look at themselves as a brand; a symbol of the vision they hope for the world.

As a brand, in order to reach a new audience or expand your audience, you must raise awareness.

Marketing efforts assist in this process of reaching a broader audience and spreading the word about your cause and your organization’s efforts.

Marketing Raises Funds

With greater awareness, comes more funding!

The more people you reach the more donations will come in.

Marketing and fundraising go side-by-side. The broader the audience, the more funding can be brought in.

Marketing Drives Donors, Repeat Donations, And Volunteer Support

At the end of the day, you need people to be lifetime supporters, not single instance donors.

You want them to get involved and stay that way. Marketing can help you not only reach the right people but keep them involved.

This can be through a variety of ways, either through in-person events and fundraisers or virtually through blogs and social media.

If people care about your mission, they are more likely to stay and keep donating their money and time.

For example, many nonprofits offer monthly giving programs such as this notable one from Charity: Water.

Boy holds water given by Charity: Water.

Nonprofit Marketing Promotes Your Mission And Services

Finally, nonprofit marketing helps to promote you and your services.

Donations, awareness, and volunteers are all part of a thriving nonprofit. However, marketing can help get the word out about those you are actually helping!

The bigger the audience that knows about your organization, the more people that will help.

These are just a few reasons why your nonprofit should consider implementing a nonprofit marketing strategy today.

The Ultimate Nonprofit Marketing Guide

Nonprofit Definitions

Whether you have been in the nonprofit industry for years, or are just starting out, it’s important to know your definitions! We have compiled a list of the most important terms you should know about the nonprofit sector.


A business or organization is a nonprofit if its main purpose isn’t to make money for its owners. Nonprofits usually raise money for charities.


This term refers to a portion of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code and a specific tax category for nonprofit organizations. If nonprofits meet the requirements, then they are legally exempt from federal income tax.

Board Member

The Board of Directors is the governing body of a nonprofit. Individuals who sit on the board are responsible for overseeing the organization’s activities, and regularly discuss the management and operations of the organization.

Executive Director

The director oversees all firing, hiring, compliance, and other administrative duties within a nonprofit. They are also responsible for managing all financial practices such as fundraising.


A donor is an individual or organization that provides financial support to the nonprofit.


This is the money given by the donor to be used only by the nonprofit.

Form 990

While nonprofit organizations do not have to pay taxes, they must file a form with the IRS – a Form 990. This 990 ensures that the nonprofit conducts its business in a responsible manner.


Foundations are organizations that did not qualify as public charities. They are very similar to nonprofits, except money for a foundation usually comes from a family or a corporate entity, whereas nonprofit money often comes from their revenues.


Fundraising or fund-raising is the process of seeking and gathering voluntary financial contributions by engaging individuals, businesses, charitable foundations, or governmental agencies.


A grant is a financial donation that is given to an organization, typically by a foundation or corporation.

Press Release

A press release is an official statement given by members of the news media for the purpose of giving information or making a public announcement.

Planned Giving

Planned giving refers to the solicitation of major gifts for a nonprofit organization, usually through a will, bequest, or trust. For many donors, planned giving is an opportunity for them to give their life new meaning after their death.


A pledge is a verbal or written promise to donate a specific amount.

Target Population/ Target Demographic

The target audience or population is the entire market of potential customers your nonprofit identifies with.

Creating Your Own Ultimate Nonprofit Marketing Strategy in 7 Easy Steps

Now that you have an understanding of the terms associated with nonprofit marketing and you’re ready to get started, it’s time to start creating your strategy. Having a strategic approach to accomplishing your marketing goals can ensure the success of your campaign!

This can be accomplished in 7 easy steps.

1. Define Marketing Goals and Objectives

Before you start, the first and more important step is to define your goals and determine your objective. Then, focus your approach based on these definitions.

A great way to do this is to use the SMART framework. This is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Each part of this framework works together to help you craft a goal that is carefully planned and trackable.


The Ultimate Nonprofit Marketing Guide 2021

2. Do Your Research On Your Market/Audience

This is easily the most time-consuming part of developing a comprehensive marketing plan. However, it is extremely important for success. You must understand your audience in order to effectively appeal to them.

This is also where nonprofit marketing differs from for-profit marketing. Your audience is different from the typical audience because nonprofits are targeting more than one group – donors, volunteers, and customers.

Your marketing strategy will differ based on your understanding of each group, and who you are talking to.

How do you determine your target audience and build a buyer persona? Do your research! Start googling.

How to create a buyer persona:

  • Determine demographics: Age, gender, location, education, etc
  • Determine professional demographics: industry, job, etc.
  • Evaluate values: What type of people are likely to donate/volunteer for your cause? What is important to them? What is the driving force behind their purchasing decisions?
  • Check out preferences: Where do these types of people get their media? What are their hobbies?
  • Also, determine the negatives: What characteristics do you not want in an ideal customer/donor?

By answering these questions, you can stitch together a donor persona.

3. Define Audience and Target Niche/Donors

After you fully understand your audience, you can more easily craft compelling copy for your campaigns and know where and how to reach them. Now that all of your questions are answered, zero in on your ideal/client or donor.

If you’d like more information of how to find your target audience check out this blog post.

4. Craft Key Messaging

Key messages are information that you want your audience to hear and remember about your organization.

Just like you have determined your audience, mission, and goals, it is also important to write key messages before launching your campaign in order for you to stay consistent.

Write out a few key messages before you start your campaign. This will ensure that all your marketing messages are similar and encompass the same intentions, no matter who takes over your social media accounts or marketing work.

Let’s look at an example for clarity. Let’s say that you are an animal rescue nonprofit.

An example of a key message: We honor and protect dogs and cats in our community by offering adoption and foster care services and shelter for abandoned animals.

However, you work with volunteers, donors, and those looking to adopt.

Donors: You can assist us in protecting animals in the community by donating with our monthly giving plan.

Supporters: We protect abandoned animals in our community, by offering 24/7 care for lost dogs and cats.

Customers: You can help abandoned animals, by adopting or fostering.

Through these three examples, you can clearly see how the message, while adapted for the audience, stays the same and true to its original purpose.

5. Determine Marketing Strategies

You should have your audience, mission, goals, and key messaging down. Now, it’s time to move on to determining which channels to use to deploy your message.

This is a step many marketers jump right to launching an ad campaign, posting to social media, or sending off an eblast. But wait! Tactical planning is an integral part of your nonprofit marketing plan’s success or failure.

Marketing tactics and strategies refer to the specific channels that will be used throughout your campaigns such as email, social media, or etc. Regardless of which ones you choose, be certain you conduct careful planning before you execute it.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is managing our marketing campaign?
  • What is the budget?
  • Which social channels will we use?
  • What paid channels will we use?

There are so many different approaches to marketing effectively. If you aren’t sure which tactic to employ or which platform to use, that’s where we can help. We offer a free consultation where we can help you determine the best use of your resources! Contact us today and kick off your marketing goals.

6. Create content/plan

Finally, it is time to create some content! Whether you hire someone to help you curate and create the content, graphics, videos, blogs, etc, or you do it yourself, it’s time to get creative.

The hardest part of this process is to stay organized.

It’s important to delegate. Determine who will create the content necessary. You may need to hire someone or pay a freelancer for some work. Luckily there are some great sites out there for affordable freelancers such as Fiverr or Upwork.

If you are creating the content on your own, rather than hiring a professional, there’s plenty of free and affordable programs out there to make your life easier. A few apps we love for content creation are Canva, Google Suite, and Grammarly.

7. Analyze Success/Failure of Marketing Campaign

Success may take time as you fine-tune your message and strategies.

Don’t worry! Every few weeks, check on your metrics to see if your strategy is working. If you aren’t seeing the results you want, you may need to adjust your approach.

Key metrics to look for:

  • Email marketing: email opens
  • Events: ticket sales
  • Video marketing: video views and downloads
  • Website: conversions or engagement or page views
  • Social media: shares, comments, and followers
  • Content marketing: page views, conversion rate, engagement rate, etc

There are also software and systems you can use to help you evaluate your analytics such as Google Analytics (which is free) or you can pay for programs like those from SEMrush or HubSpot. Evaluating your analytics regularly will help you optimize your content.

the ultimate nonprofit marketing guide

Different Types of Marketing Strategies for Nonprofits

Great, so now you have created a solid non-profit marketing plan. Now, let’s talk about how you will execute this plan. There are many different marketing platforms that you can use to your benefit.

Usually doing more with less is the best option.

For example, in regards to social media, your nonprofit probably doesn’t need a Pinterest account.

Most likely for you, Instagram or TikTok is the most valuable platform, so it makes more sense to focus on that one over the others.

Ultimately, don’t hesitate to outsource your marketing efforts wherever needed.

If you are looking for some inspiration, check out these massively successful nonprofit marketing campaigns.

Here are a few different types of marketing you may want to consider utilizing:

  • Email Marketing
  • Event Marketing
  • Video Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing

Email Marketing

Email marketing can be highly effective for nonprofit organizations. 77 percent of marketers claim that email marketing is one of the top two most effective digital marketing channels, according to HubSpot.

Here are some ideas for using email marketing:

  • Send a weekly or bi-monthly newsletter to your donors and supporters with the latest update and announcements. This will help them stay engaged with your community.
  • Sends monthly emails with requests for help, and volunteer opportunities and engagements.
  • Send emails as thank-yous for donors and volunteers.

While email marketing can be tedious and time-consuming, there are plenty of systems out there that can help you automate these processes. MailChimp offers great email automation services.

Event Marketing

Event marketing can be extremely impactful and effective! A few examples of event marketing would be webinars, fundraising events (like sponsoring a 5k), and more. These are great ways to offer something of value and connect with your community while still raising awareness (and raising money) for your cause.

A nonprofit that has mastered the art of event marketing is TED. TED provides free and paid-for talks and conferences that align with their mission of “ideas worth spreading.” Odds are you have seen a TED Talk on YouTube!

While you may not have the draw of TED, you can employ event marketing for your benefit.

Video Marketing

Of all the digital marketing strategies you could employ, arguably the most important is video. 60 percent of businesses use video as a marketing tool, and an impressive 68 percent of marketers say video has a better return on investment than Google Ads!

These statistics speak for themselves, people prefer to see videos, over static imagery and other traditional methods. At the end of the day, videos are fun, enjoyable, and easy to watch. They keep people engaged!

Here are a few reasons why video marketing can be effective:

  • Video is visually entertaining. We actually process video content incredibly fast – over 60,000 times faster than standard text. Thus, visual stimuli are more interesting and will keep your attention longer.
  • Video can be personal and emotional. Showing is always better than telling. This can be clearly shown in video marketing. For example, if someone tells you that abandoned dogs are dying on the streets due to lack of water, this will probably make you sad.
  • But, seeing it? That inspires an entirely different set of emotions. We can all probably recall the heart-felt SPCA commercials, where actress Sarah McLachlan narrates over footage of sad and emaciated animals.
  • Video is easily shareable. Did you know that around 91 percent of consumers will share videos with others via mobile?

Social Media Marketing

Not only is social media becoming increasingly popular for businesses to utilize in their marketing strategies, but it is also free! Social media also provides an avenue for you to show off your brand’s personality and mission.

Here are a few ways your nonprofit can use social media:

  • Share about your mission, goals, and initiatives
  • Share updates and announcements
  • Fundraise
  • Help recruit volunteers and donors
  • Celebrate your wins publicly

Did you know, 71 percent of small-midsize businesses use social media to market their services?


The Ultimate Nonprofit Marketing Guide 2021

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a powerful marketing tactic. Similarly to social media, you could be increasing organic traffic to your website through a blog for free.

Yes, hiring a content writer may cost you, boosting your organic traffic and improving your SEO could put you in front of hundreds or thousands of more eyes.

Bolster Your Marketing, Ensure Success

We hope these marketing tips help you craft a successful nonprofit marketing strategy.

If you strategize and implement the system we’ve laid out, we are confident your organization will grow exponentially!

If you liked this article, and want to work with a team that can implement this proven system for you, click below and get started.

Schedule My Free Consultation

The Ultimate Nonprofit Marketing Guide

Please follow and like us: