7 Steps for Creating a Nonprofit Marketing Strategy that Reflects Your Goals & Values

Digital Marketing with Purpose: Aligning Values and Strategy

Digital marketing isn’t an “Are you in or out?” scenario. To make your mission heard, nonprofits need to leverage the power of a focused online marketing strategy to reach your goals. From reaching donors to engaging volunteers, developing a nonprofit digital marketing strategy is imperative.

But what does a successful nonprofit marketing strategy look like? That depends on your goals and values.

An impactful strategy should balance goals and alignment with your organization’s values. This powerful combination elevates your strategy beyond basic marketing tactics. It places the heart and soul of your nonprofit at the center of every marketing decision you make. From social media posts to emails to blog posts, your mission will be central to all you do in the digital sphere.

Aligning marketing with nonprofit values is both a strategic move and a statement of integrity and purpose. It distinguishes your cause, resonates with your audience on a deeper level, and nurtures a community driven by shared convictions and aspirations. So, how do you craft a marketing strategy that marries the powerful entities of goals and values?

This article explores the “why” and “how” of aligning your digital marketing efforts with what truly matters to your nonprofit. Read on to learn how you can ensure that every digital footprint you leave echoes the essence of your mission and vision.

Step 1: Fully Understand Your Nonprofit’s Core Values & Goals

A profound understanding of your nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values is at the heart of any impactful marketing strategy. This knowledge should shine through every message, campaign, and digital interaction. Before you draft your first tweet, send out a mass email, or plan your content calendar, diving into what truly drives your organization is essential. You can’t merely know about your goals. You must live them and ensure they are clearly communicated and shared among everyone involved in your nonprofit. Here are two ways you can foster a deeper understanding of your values and goals:

1. Engage Stakeholders in Articulating Values & Goals

Articulating your nonprofit’s values and goals is not a task to be done in isolation. It requires the active involvement of all stakeholders—staff, volunteers, beneficiaries, and even your board members. Each group offers unique insights that can enrich the understanding and expression of your nonprofit’s core values. Here are a few strategies to involve them effectively:

  • Workshops and Retreats: Organize sessions to explore and define your nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values.
  • Surveys and Feedback Loops: Use surveys to gather input from a broader range of stakeholders, including beneficiaries of your nonprofit’s work. Feedback loops can help refine your values and goals based on community needs and perceptions.
  • Regular Check-ins: Implement a routine of regular check-ins with different stakeholder groups to ensure that your values and goals remain relevant and are communicated effectively.

2. Leverage Frameworks for Clarity & Communication

Frameworks such as the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) and System and Soul can be instrumental in defining your nonprofit’s values and goals and making them operational. These frameworks offer structured processes and tools to help you facilitate understanding and alignment within your teams and boards. Here is a quick overview of the highlights of each of these frameworks:

  • EOS Vision/Traction Organizer: This tool can help clarify and communicate your nonprofit’s focus, 10-year target, marketing strategy, and more. EOS is especially useful for making abstract values tangible and actionable.
  • System and Soul’s Alignment: This approach emphasizes aligning the operational system with the organization’s soul—its purpose and values. It encourages consistent communication and the integration of values into every operational aspect. We at Big Storm personally love this framework because it frames everything in your organization according to your core values.

Step 2: Align Your Goals with Your Nonprofit Marketing Strategy

Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals is indispensable if you want your nonprofit’s digital presence to reflect your mission. These goals guide your digital marketing efforts, ensuring they not only reach but resonate with your intended audience.

How to Craft SMART Goals

  • Specific: Your goals should be clear and specific. Avoid any ambiguity about what you aim to achieve. For instance, rather than setting a goal to “increase awareness,” specify “increase awareness of our community health programs.”
  • Measurable: Attach metrics to each goal to track progress effectively. If your aim is to enhance engagement on social media, define what success looks like in numbers.
  • Achievable: While ambition is valuable, your goals should be within reach and consider your resources, budget, and time constraints. Assess your current digital marketing capabilities and set goals that challenge you without leading to burnout or frustration.
  • Relevant: Ensure every goal aligns with your nonprofit’s broader objectives. If one of your core aims is to drive volunteer sign-ups, focus your digital marketing goals around creating content and campaigns that highlight volunteer stories and their work’s impact.
  • Time-bound: Setting deadlines creates urgency and helps prioritize tasks. A goal to “grow our email subscriber list by 30%” should have a clear timeframe, such as “within the next six months.”

Examples of SMART Goals Across Digital Channels

  • Social Media: “Increase our Facebook page followers by 25% in the next four months by posting weekly impact stories and bi-weekly live Q&A sessions with our team.”
  • Email Marketing: “Improve our email open rate from 20% to 30% within three months by segmenting our list based on interests and sending more targeted content.”
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): “Increase organic traffic to our donation page by 40% over the next year by optimizing content for keywords related to nonprofit donations and enhancing site speed.”
  • Content Marketing: “Publish two volunteer story blog posts per month for the next six months to highlight the impact of our programs and increase blog traffic by 20%.”

Step 3: Don’t Forget Who You Are Talking To

One of the pillars of a successful nonprofit marketing strategy is identifying and engaging your target audience. This step goes beyond looking at demographics. You must understand the motivations, challenges, and aspirations of those you aim to reach. That way, you can tailor your messaging to meet those needs.

Effective messaging is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Creating content that resonates, engages, and inspires action requires a nuanced understanding of your audience. Here are several recommendations for better addressing and sparking engagement from your target audience.

1. Craft Audience Personas

Creating detailed audience personas is a powerful technique to visualize and understand the diverse segments within your audience. These personas represent the ideal individuals you aim to reach based on real data and insights. Here’s how to craft them:

  • Gather Data: Utilize surveys, interviews, and analytics to gather data on your current audience. Look for patterns in demographics, behavior, and feedback.
  • Segment Your Audience: Identify distinct groups within your audience based on their interests, needs, and how they interact with your organization.
  • Create Detailed Personas: For each segment, create a persona that includes demographic details, interests, challenges, and motivations. Give them a name to make them more relatable.

2. Tailor Content for Engagement

Once you have your personas, tailor your content to their needs and interests. This means creating content that addresses their questions, offers solutions to their problems, and aligns with their values. Personalization is key. Use language and storytelling that resonates with each persona, making your content feel like a one-on-one conversation.

3. Foster a Community Through Engagement

Engagement goes beyond just attracting attention. At its core, engagement is about building relationships and fostering a community that shares your nonprofit’s values and supports your goals. Engage with your audience through interactive content, social media conversations, and community events. Listen to their feedback and involve them in the narrative of your nonprofit. This builds trust, loyalty, and a sense of belonging among your audience.

How We Did It: Ohio Children’s Alliance

Our work with the Ohio Children’s Alliance (OCA)—an advocacy organization based in Columbus, OH— showcases the importance of targeting the right audience with the right message. OCA wanted to increase awareness of Ohio’s need for more foster caregivers. To connect with potential foster caregivers, we crafted a narrative that spoke directly to potential caregivers’ experiences, challenges, and motivations. We aligned our messaging with each “stage” a potential foster caregiver encounters as they decide whether to become a caregiver or not. This approach allowed us to connect personally with the target audience, ensuring our messaging was timely, relevant, and impactful. Learn more about our strategy and its impact in our case study, “How the Ohio Children’s Alliance Increased Foster Caregiver Applications.”

Step 4: Create Content that Encourages Connection

In nonprofit marketing strategy, content is the bridge that connects your organization’s values with the hearts and minds of your audience. Authentic, value-driven content has the power to illuminate your nonprofit’s mission, spark meaningful conversations, and galvanize community participation. Crafting stories, messages, and visuals that resonate deeply reflects the essence of your cause and the impact of your work.

The authenticity of your content is pivotal in establishing trust and credibility with your audience. In a world inundated with information, genuine stories and messages stand out. Authentic content is relatable, transparent, and, most importantly, reflective of your nonprofit’s values and goals. Here are several guidelines for creating content that encourages connection with your target audience:

  • Reflect Your Values: Ensure every piece of content—whether a blog post, social media update, or newsletter—embodies the core values of your nonprofit. This alignment fosters a consistent and recognizable brand voice.
  • Tell Real Stories: Share stories of the individuals, communities, and environments impacted by your work. Real stories of challenge and transformation engage emotions and inspire action.
  • Encourage Participation: Create content that invites your audience to be part of the narrative. Whether through comments, shares, or contributions, make it easy and compelling for them to engage with you.
  • Educate and Inform: Use your content to educate your audience about the issues you tackle. Well-informed supporters are more likely to stay engaged and contribute meaningfully to your cause.

Content Strategy Tips for Different Platforms

Each digital platform serves a unique purpose in your content strategy, and understanding how to leverage each is key to engaging your audience effectively.

  • Social Media: Use these platforms for storytelling, community building, and real-time engagement. Tailor your content to each platform’s format and audience, from Instagram stories to Facebook posts to YouTube shorts.
  • Email Marketing: Deliver personalized content directly to your supporters’ inboxes. Segment your email list to tailor messages and updates to different audience segments’ interests and engagement levels.
  • Blogs and Articles: Use your website’s blog to dive deeper into issues, share success stories, and offer insights into your nonprofit’s work and impact. Long-form content helps establish your authority and expertise on the topics you care about.
  • Website: Aligning the design with your content strategy amplifies your message and enhances user engagement on your nonprofit’s website. A well-designed website guides visitors through a journey, from understanding your mission to taking action. Check out our resource, “5 Tips for Your Next Nonprofit Website Redesign.”

Step 5: Use Technology to Amplify Your Message

The strategic use of technology can significantly amplify your nonprofit’s message, making your digital marketing efforts more efficient and impactful. The right tools and platforms can help you reach a wider audience, engage supporters more deeply, and streamline your marketing processes. However, navigating the plethora of available options can be daunting. Choosing tools that enhance your marketing capabilities and align with your organization’s operational capacity and budget is crucial.

How to Select the Right Marketing Tools

When evaluating technology solutions for your nonprofit, consider the following tips to ensure you select tools that truly support your needs:

  • Assess Your Needs: Identify the gaps in your current marketing strategy. Do you need to improve social media management, email marketing efficiency, or content creation? Understanding your specific needs will guide your tool selection.
  • Consider Budget Constraints: Many tools offer nonprofit discounts or even free plans for basic features. Prioritize tools that offer the functionalities you need within your budget constraints.
  • Ease of Use: Opt for tools with user-friendly interfaces and good customer support. The quicker your team can adopt and use the tool, the better.
  • Scalability: Choose tools that can grow with your nonprofit. Consider whether a tool can handle increasing demands as your organization and digital marketing efforts expand.
  • Integration Capabilities: Ensure the selected tools can integrate with your existing systems (like CRM software, donation platforms, etc.) for a seamless workflow.

Suggested Nonprofit Tools

  • Social Media Management: Tools like Sprout Social or Buffer are invaluable for scheduling posts, monitoring social media engagement, and analyzing performance across multiple platforms.
  • Email Marketing: Platforms such as Mailchimp or Hubspot offer robust features for email list management, segmentation, and automated campaign workflows.
  • Content Creation: Canva offers a user-friendly interface for designing high-quality visual content, from social media graphics to brochures, without needing advanced graphic design skills. Adobe Spark is another great option for creating videos and web pages with ease.
  • Analytics and SEO: Google Analytics and Google Search Console are essential, free tools for understanding website traffic and search performance. For more in-depth SEO analysis, tools like SparkToro or Semrush can provide valuable insights to optimize your content and increase visibility.
  • Donation and Fundraising Platforms: Platforms like Classy, GoFundMe Charity, or GiveWP (for WordPress sites) can simplify the donation process, making it easier for supporters to contribute to your cause.

Additional Help: Check out our resource, “5 Tips for Your Next Nonprofit Website Redesign.”

Step 6: Measure Your Success & Adjust As Needed

The ability to measure success and adapt strategies accordingly is both beneficial and essential. Analytics play a crucial role in understanding the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, providing insights that can guide strategic decisions and optimizations. Resources can often be limited for nonprofits, so it’s vital to have every effort contribute to your mission and goals. Leveraging data helps achieve this efficiency and ensures your strategies align with your nonprofit’s values.

The Role of Analytics in Nonprofit Marketing Strategy

Analytics offer a window into the following categories: your audience’s behavior and preferences, the performance of your content across different channels, and the impact of your marketing on achieving your objectives. By analyzing this data, you can identify what resonates with your audience, which strategies drive engagement, and where there’s room for improvement. This ongoing measurement and adjustment process helps maximize the return on your marketing investments.

Tips for Using Data to Refine Tactics

  • Set Up Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Start by identifying the KPIs that align with your nonprofit’s goals. Your KPIs should reflect the outcomes you’re aiming to achieve, such as growing your email list.
  • Collect and Analyze Data: Use tools like Google Analytics for website performance, social media analytics for engagement and reach, and email marketing reports for open and click-through rates. Look for trends over time and any sudden spikes or dips in performance that could indicate the impact of specific campaigns or content.
  • Make Data-Driven or Data-Informed Decisions: Use the insights gained from your analytics to inform your digital marketing strategy. If certain types of content consistently perform well, consider how to produce more. If some channels are not yielding the expected results, reassess your approach or reallocate resources to more effective platforms.
  • Test and Optimize: Don’t be afraid to experiment. A/B testing can be particularly effective in refining your tactics. Testing different versions of your content, headlines, or calls to action allows you to determine what works best and continually refine your approach based on data.
  • Align with Your Nonprofit’s Values: Ensure that the adjustments you make aim at improving metrics and align with your organization’s values and mission. For example, if engagement is a key goal, look for ways to foster deeper connections with your audience through storytelling or community-building initiatives.
  • Report and Communicate: Regularly share insights and progress with your team and stakeholders. Transparent reporting keeps everyone aligned on the strategy and its adjustments.

Step 7: Encourage Active Participation & Feedback

The power of your nonprofit’s mission is amplified by those you serve and those who support you. Encouraging active participation and feedback from your audience improves your marketing efforts and keeps you aligned with your mission and the expectations of your community. Creating open channels for feedback ensures your strategies resonate, remain relevant, and foster a deeper sense of community and belonging. Here are several ways you can create channels for feedback:

  • Surveys and Feedback Forms: Whether through your website, email campaigns, or after events, surveys and feedback forms can provide quantitative and qualitative data about your supporters’ experiences, perceptions, and suggestions for improvement. Ensure that these surveys are concise, accessible, and designed to uncover actionable insights.
  • Social Media Interactions: Regularly monitor comments, messages, and mentions to gauge your audience’s reactions to your content and initiatives on social media. Polls and Q&A sessions on platforms like Instagram and X can also serve as informal yet effective means of getting feedback and fostering a dialogue with your audience.
  • Direct Conversations: Never underestimate the value of direct conversations. Whether through community forums, events, or one-on-one interactions, these conversations can provide deep insights into your audience’s needs, aspirations, and challenges.

Leveraging Feedback for Alignment and Growth

Feedback should be seen as a gift—a direct line to understanding how your nonprofit’s actions and communications are perceived and how they can be improved. Here’s how to make the most of feedback:

  • Listen and Respond: Show your audience their feedback is valued by actively listening and responding. Acknowledgement can be as simple as a “thank you” message, but let your audience know how their input will influence future decisions where possible.
  • Incorporate Feedback into Strategy: Use the insights to refine your nonprofit marketing strategies and content. If feedback highlights a gap between your messaging and your audience’s expectations or needs, consider how you can bridge that gap.
  • Close the Feedback Loop: After implementing changes based on feedback, close the loop by sharing how audience input has shaped new initiatives or adjustments. This transparency builds trust and reinforces the value of your community’s input. As the author Douglas Stone says in his book Thanks for the Feedback: the Science of Receiving Feedback Well, “The goal shouldn’t be to remove interpretation or judgment. It should be to make judgments thoughtfully and, once made, to make them transparent and discussable.”

Ready to Start Your Journey & Grow?
Crafting a digital nonprofit marketing strategy is not a one-time task but a continuous journey of reflection, adaptation, and growth. Embrace this process as an opportunity to strengthen your connection with your audience, amplify your message, and further your mission. You’ll be amazed by how far you go and the impact you’ll make when you commit to this process.

If you’re searching for a partner to join you on this journey and make your mission known in the digital world, we’re here to help. Contact us today to discuss how Big Storm can help you reach your nonprofit marketing goals.

Find out about Working at Big Storm