7 Common Nonprofit Marketing Hurdles That You Can Avoid

Avoid these 7 nonprofit marketing hurdles for success.

September 12, 2022

Marketing your mission can be a challenge, especially when you have a lot on your plate. It’s easy to push your marketing efforts to the wayside in order to focus on other, more pressing matters.

However, learning to properly market online and offline is an important opportunity for organizations. With the right strategy, you can engage with your supporters, raise brand awareness, and make a lasting impact. But keep in mind that there is a right and wrong way to do marketing.

Check out these common marketing hurdles to make sure you’re doing it effectively:

  1. Operating without a clear marketing strategy
  2. Targeting the wrong audience
  3. Overlooking important trends
  4. Producing irrelevant content
  5. Neglecting site design
  6. Not integrating your software
  7. Failing to clean up your data

By recognizing and learning from the marketing mistakes that hold nonprofits back, you’ll have everything you need to drive success.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each one!

1. Operating without a clear marketing strategy

A marketing strategy is essentially your game plan for reaching prospective donors and turning them into lifelong supporters. It’s about strategically planning how you’re going to get your nonprofit in front of the people who will best connect with your mission.

There are multiple facets to this process, which involves analysis, preparation, and research. That’s why far too many organizations operate without a clear marketing strategy: making a good one is time-consuming.

However, if you don’t take time to plan, you’ll reduce the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. As the first step to developing a strategy, set clear, measurable goals. Nonprofits that set goals are more likely to accomplish them.

Here are some common nonprofit marketing goals to get you started:

  • Increase donations
  • Acquire new donors
  • Deepen support
  • Raise awareness
  • Become a thought leader in the industry

Once you have a goal to guide your team, you’ll then need to find out who your target audience is and how best to reach them.

2. Targeting the wrong audience

One of the main reasons that nonprofits create a marketing strategy is to connect with the right people.

However, most nonprofits have a tendency to target more audiences than necessary. Not only does this drain valuable funds, but it can create a negative experience for your supporters. If you don’t know exactly who you’re trying to reach, the chances of success are slim.

Targeting the right audience starts with prospect research. According to Double the Donation’s list of prospect research software, this process uses tools like your donor database to identify potential donors who have the financial ability and personal interest to support your nonprofit.

After you’ve conducted research and feel confident about who is most likely to donate to your cause, you can segment those donors into groups based on their common characteristics. This will help you create personalized communications, which supporters prefer over generic messages.

Common segments include:

  • Location
  • Demographics
  • Giving history
  • Average donation amount
  • Channel preference (social media vs. email)

With this information at your disposal, you can get strategic about how to target each donor segment. For instance, you would send in-person event invitations only to donors within the area, rather than everyone across the country. This small touch of personalization builds rapport and loyalty to your organization, increasing engagement and the likelihood of conversion.

3. Overlooking important trends

Now that you know who your target audience is, consider where they spend the most time. The research speaks for itself: 82% of Americans use social media and this number is steadily growing.

According to AccuData’s guide to digital advertising, social media is not only a popular platform for your supporters, but it is the new frontier of nonprofit marketing.

If you’re not using social media to meet supporters where they are, then you’re missing out on an opportunity to build meaningful relationships and drive support for your mission.

Start by doing social media research to find the right platform for your organization and consider those most trending among other nonprofits, including:

  • Facebook: With live streaming and story capabilities, Facebook is ideal for spreading the word about your upcoming fundraisers and events. You can even post a video that takes your supporters behind-the-scenes of your organization.
  • Instagram: Instagram is all about visual media. Nonprofits post photos, videos, IGTVs, reels, and stories to show the impact of their mission and advocate for support.
  • TikTok: TikTok is popular among younger generations. Here, you can post short video clips or a series of videos highlighting the different aspects of your organization.

Across all of these platforms, video stands out as the most powerful feature. TikTok has always been about video, but platforms like Instagram and Facebook are now also prioritizing this interactive content—because it works!

Nonprofit videos evoke strong emotions, which encourage viewers to like, share, and engage with your mission. The better the content, the more interaction it will receive. That’s why many organizations are starting to use nonprofit production companies. An experienced team of videographers can help bring value to your marketing strategy and support your other content so that it stands out from the competition.

4. Producing irrelevant content

Nonprofit marketing content comes in many forms, from videos and emails to flyers and website pages. Unfortunately, nonprofits with limited time and staff tend to throw random pieces of content together, which doesn’t help them achieve their larger marketing goals.

As seen with the importance of creating a marketing strategy, mapping out a content strategy allows you to identify what’s working and what needs further attention down the road.

Follow these steps for creating a polished content strategy that you can adjust as you see fit:

  • Conduct a content audit. Gather past content from a specified time period and channel. Then, assess relevant metrics to see which types of content receive the most engagement. Did retargeted ads see more conversions than direct mail solicitors? Integrate those findings into your content moving forward.
  • Create a content calendar. A content calendar provides an in-depth look at your upcoming content, including when and where you will push it live. Plan content and assets needed for that post (graphics, quotes, links) in advance and place them on a calendar, so that your entire team is on the same page.
  • Define your key performance indicators (KPIs). A KPI measures how effective your marketing efforts have been. Some common metrics to track are website page views, email click-through rates, and social media engagement.
  • Identify your distribution channels. Not all marketing channels will be right for your organization. Leverage your previous target audience research to decide whether to post content on the web, social media, or email.

These steps will help you stay focused on producing the most engaging content and optimizing your channels for the most effective outcome.

5. Neglecting site design

Most nonprofits have a website that they use for uploading blogs, driving donations, and hosting virtual events.

But are you paying attention to your site’s design?

Having a website that is user-friendly and well-designed should be a top priority. That’s because your site is a direct reflection of your brand. An organized, visually pleasing site proves your professionalism and credibility, while a cluttered site design can make your organization seem outdated and irrelevant.

To help your nonprofit brainstorm ways to improve site design, follow these tips:

  • Design with visual hierarchy. Rank design elements by importance, with the most important information at the top of the page and in the largest text. This will help catch the eye of users quickly scrolling through your site.
  • Follow accessibility guidelines. Keep inclusivity in mind when designing your site. High contrast, alternative text, and closed captions ensure that there are no barriers for people with disabilities.
  • Ensure your site is easy to navigate. If users can’t find your donation page or blog post in a matter of seconds, they are likely to leave your site without taking action. Link your logo to your homepage and make your navigation menu stand out. This will aid with user experience.
  • Make your site mobile optimized. Your supporters are increasingly accessing websites from their smartphones and tablets, meaning it’s important to optimize your site for those platforms. Make sure your pages and images automatically resize to a smaller screen.

Great web design will make a lasting impression on your prospective donors and encourage them to keep coming back. Plus, when your website is organized, it will support your organization's other marketing efforts such as fundraising and event planning.

6. Not integrating your software

Chances are your nonprofit uses a variety of software solutions to manage your day-to-day operations. Integrating these solutions will streamline your team’s time, store your data all in one place, and eliminate the need for manual data input.

For instance, with integrated software, you can draft subject lines, automate an email marketing campaign, and track conversions with a few clicks.

Your nonprofit’s CRM is the key to unlocking other integrations. Most CRMs already include information about donors, volunteers, and industry contacts. But when combined with other apps, tools, and websites, your CRM will be your nonprofit’s most powerful resource.

Consider integrating the following tools and solutions:

  • Social media extensions
  • Payment facilitators
  • Match donations
  • Email marketing tools
  • Prospect research database
  • Donation tools

Integrated marketing will align your outreach efforts and deliver a consistent, donor-centric experience across every channel. Just keep in mind that for these software integrations to work you need clean and complete data.

7. Failing to keep your data clean

Accurate data reveals the bigger picture of how your organization's social media, web presence, and software work together. It’s the key to understanding your supporters and building better marketing strategies.

Marketing analytics uses accurate data to improve and optimize campaigns, ultimately driving a higher return on investment (ROI). But what data should you collect?

There are many options — everything from the health of your email list to the growth of your social media accounts.

Start with these common marketing data points:

  • Website traffic
  • Website conversions (donations, volunteers, event registrations, etc.)
  • Social media engagement
  • Email open rates, click-through rates, and conversions
  • SEO success

Based on this data, your team can determine what is working well and what needs improvement.

Most nonprofits have a set process for data collection and analysis, but where they fall short is data hygiene. “Dirty” data can lead to many marketing pitfalls, including ineffective lead tracking and inaccurate personalized outreach materials.

To make the most of your marketing data, you need to have clean metrics. Check that your donor profiles have up-to-date information and remove any irrelevant information (i.e. duplicate or outdated records) from your database.

When your nonprofit’s data is correct, you can leverage it more effectively and conquer any marketing hurdle that comes your way.

This collaboration was arranged through a listing on Nexus Marketing’s HAPO (Help a Partner Out) page. HAPO is a free service that connects members of the social good sector for cross-marketing and educational opportunities, such as webinars, podcasts, and conferences. For more information on HAPO or Nexus Marketing’s other offerings check out their website, nexusmarketing.com.


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