6 Reasons Why Nonprofit Organizations Struggle with Marketing

Nonprofit organizations do incredible work and it’s important to be able to share that work! As digital marketers we see examples of all sorts of businesses, but we have a special place in our hearts for the passionate and driven folks who work in nonprofits.

Over the past few years we’ve identified some trends we’ve seen that can unfortunately cause nonprofits to struggle with their marketing efforts and thus struggle to secure the necessary funds to operate their business. This puts the organization into a very tough spot and can even lead the organization to close entirely.

We want our audience to be able to identify these struggles and recognize when it may be time to change things up in order to get better results for their business!

What Causes Nonprofit Marketing Trouble?

While there’s no singular reason nonprofit marketing may fail, there are many factors that lead to sub par results. Issues with internal operations, lack of a clear goal and plan, and no real strategy or understanding of audience bases are likely culprits we see frequently.

So here are the main trends we’ve identified that may lead to struggling nonprofit marketing:

1. Some nonprofit organizations underestimate what marketing takes

Marketing is a skill! It of course can be learned overtime, but it’s a specialty. It might seem like “oh I can do that, it’ just clicking a few buttons.” But in reality there is a TON of technical skills involved.

You can DIY everything if you wanted, of course! But we often see this land folks in a mess later. You could get stuck with that tech which is piecemealed together, could easily get outdated, and that could (and likely will) hinder your ability to grow down the line.

2. Organizations lack a consistent marketing staff

Nonprofits often rely on volunteers or temporary staff for many of their positions. This lack of a consistent team member working in marketing means there may not be any standard operating procedures, leading to disjointed and ineffective marketing efforts.

We’ve seen examples of organizations that had yearly intern staff, and each year there would be trouble surrounding accesses and the transition of important data. This unfortunately led the business to lose access to important platforms and programs necessary for their business operations. This scramble put a huge amount of unnecessary stress on the organization’s leadership.

Another issue with inconsistent staffing is inconsistent marketing materials. Cohesion and consistency build trust with your audience, and changing your business’ voice or visuals frequently does not give off a strong message. This can leave your audience feeling confused and really paints your organization in a bad light, looking disorganized and like you don’t have a strong identity.

3. Nonprofit leaders approach marketing without a long term strategy

Too many businesses approach marketing without a long term strategy and choose to take on their marketing on-the-fly. Though this may be able to get you some quick wins, it won’t bode well for the long term goals you may have!

Marketing without a strategy is like traveling without a map. Nonprofits have a lot of stakes in their fundraisers and campaigns and in order for those to be truly robust and effective they need to be planned several months in advance.

4. Nonprofits try to speak to too broad of an audience

It’s tough to convert an audience that isn’t directly impacted by the work your organization does. But in order to grow a nonprofit you need to pull in supporters from all walks of life.

In order to truly connect with those potential supporters you must take a deep dive into your audience types and work to understand their interests and how you can connect with them. Your organization should be working to build a brand voice that encompasses all your audiences, and have clear messaging that attracts each audience type.

Check out this article with some tips for creating audience profiles!

5. Organizations do not use content marketing to their advantage

Content is the best way to communicate about your business and your values without feeling sales-y or pushy for donations. Content gives you the opportunity to share about your work, your goals, and your values in a variety of ways. By creating content consistently around the same topics you will strengthen your overall brand identity, making it even easier for new potential fans to find you and connect!

Sharing the content you create not only will help broaden your audience through SEO on your website and social media through new hashtags, but it also gives you the opportunity to bring value to your audience without any monetary ask. If you ask too much of your audience it’s easy for them to lose interest. Bringing them value is key for a long term connection that’s built on a foundation of trust.

Here are some great tips for coming up with a ton fo relevant and interesting content ideas!

6. Nonprofits focus too much on fundraising and monetary requests in their marketing

One of the biggest missteps an organization can make is only showing up when they need funding.

Marketing campaigns, emails, or website pages with no direct Call to Action other than “Send us money” are not effective! Of course, these can be utilized sometimes, but the timing needs to be very well planned and executed in a respectful way.

If you only show up to ask for funds or push products and sales – folks will lose interest quickly. We want you to create a community that’s built on trust, and that takes time!

Give folks other ways to engage with your business through freebies, classes, webinars, trainings, meet-ups or other exciting events. Then over time, with email marketing you can share more about your organization and the work you do. Then, and only then should you start really asking for donations and financial support. You don’t want to lose the trust of engaged audience members by asking them for money too quickly or too frequently.

The Solution to Nonprofit Marketing Struggles

If you resonate with any of the above, then it is likely time to bring in some additional help. Hiring an affordable marketing team that truly understands your values and your mission will be crucial for you to be able to get all marketing operations off your hands and into the hands of folks you can trust!

Agencies bring in multiple skillsets, are less risk up front than hiring a staff member, and in many cases are more affordable for the price of 1 staff member! There truly is no down side! We encourage you to find an agency who truly understands the work you do, can build a strong brand voice, will dive deep into your audiences to foster connection, and who is well versed in content, email, SEO and social media marketing.

We’d love to be that agency for you. Here’s a link to our calendar, let’s find a time to chat!

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