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Most of the principles that apply to for-profit marketing should be employed by nonprofit leaders to promote their organization, raise awareness and boost fundraising.

Online marketing is more important now than ever before because most Americans use the internet daily to interact with friends and family, shop, surf the web and check the news. In fact, the Pew Research Center estimated that in 2016, 88% of adults in the US used the internet on a regular basis. And that’s not to mention teens, many of whom are important influencers on social media and will become the next generation of donors. Obviously, this is a HUGE segment you NEED to reach.

Here are 6 benefits of internet marketing from Chron.com that we’ve applied to the nonprofit sector:

  1. Convenience – Reach existing and potential donors anytime, anywhere.
  2. Reach – Share your message with donors and influencers beyond your local audience.
  3. Cost – Internet-based marketing is usually less expensive than traditional ads and other methods.
  4. Personalization – Fine tune your message or brand image to suit your target audiences. You can reach millennials and baby boomers in different ways, which means you can stop wasting ad dollars on marketing campaigns that only appeal to small groups. (Talk about ROI potential!)
  5. Relationships – It costs less money to retain an existing donor than it does to find a new one. With online marketing, you can build strong relationships with current donors while also interacting with new ones.
  6. Social – Internet marketing and social media go hand-in-hand. Online marketing gives you an opportunity to reach social media influencers that will promote your cause and help you fundraise.

Earlier this year, the Public Interest Registry released a very interesting report that shows why it’s so important to communicate with donors through digital. The report said that 43% of millennials prefer to be contacted via social media, followed by 21% who prefer email communication. Both Baby boomers and Gen Xers favor email contact over social media PIR estimates that 95% of nonprofits have a Facebook page, 92% have a website and 75% of nonprofits worldwide accept donations online.

If you’re late to the party, don’t worry! The internet isn’t in its infancy anymore, but it still has a lot of room to grow. TrackMaven estimates the by 2018, 33% -- or 2.44 billion – of the world’s population will use social media. That’s up from 14% in 2010! The Network for Good, M+R and Blackbaud all project online giving to steadily grow in the coming years. The best way for your organization to tap into this resource is to develop a strong online marketing strategy.

How to effectively market your nonprofit online

  1. Have a fully functional website that is mobile and SEO optimized. Don’t forget that donation button!
  2. Storytelling, storytelling, storytelling – everywhere and all the time! On social media, on your website, in emails, mailers, etc. Your donors want to know how you’re using they’re contributions, and transparency is increasingly important, especially to younger generations.
  3. Have a strong social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc.) and update it regularly. Let the world know what your organization is doing. The Best Social Platforms for Nonprofits
  4. Keep your email lists up to date and make the sign-up section very accessible to visitors.
  5. Use your email lists! And for more than soliciting donations, of course. Send out meaningful updates and thank you’s – and never combine thank you notes with solicitations.
  6. Use Facebook ads to promote events and drive traffic to your website. We also suggest using the Facebook Fundraisers tool to expand your reach, hone in on new audiences and encourage donations. 
  7. Keep up with the media. This means keeping track of your nonprofit and the entire sector. We suggest using Google Alerts for regular updates and Twitter to discover and track conversations pertaining to your organization, peers and industry.
  8. Participate in “giving days” or hold your own. #GivingTuesday is a worldwide day of giving that generated a record-breaking $168 million over a 24-hour period last year. It’s held annually the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. You can participate in this global event, or start your own. United Way, Give Local America and Silicon Valley Give are just a few of the organizations that have begun hosting their own 24-hour giving days. Why not your organization? Take it to the next level by asking your followers to change their profile pictures to something that represents your organization. Instant marketing!
  9. Text-message marketing – SMS marketing campaigns are still underutilized. The New York Times says that marketing text messages have a very high open rate (97%!), with 83% of those opens taking place within the first hour

One very important part of any marketing campaign, but especially internet-based ones, is your brand image. Do your brand image and voice accurately represent your organization? Will it appeal to the audiences you’re trying to reach? This is one very important aspect of online marketing that is often overlooked. As you develop your online marketing strategy, take some time to define your brand and identify your audience. Remember, your brand is the basis of your online presence and a pivotal part of any online marketing effort. Do it right, do it skillfully, and your audience will adore you.