Navigating a crowded media landscape on a tight budget can make it difficult for nonprofit leaders to communicate their message and gain support.
Even with these challenges in mind, several avoidable mistakes can hinder your marketing efforts. So what are the key issues to look out for, and how can they be resolved?
Let’s explore six nonprofit marketing mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Lack of a Clearly Articulated Vision
Storytelling expert Ty Spells encourages social impact leaders to reflect on their mission and vision by asking a critical question: What would the world look like if what you do works—and you put yourself out of business?
“If you can’t tell me what your vision of the world looks like that means you’re not articulating it, so how do I know what I’m signing up for to join in on?” says Spells.
To connect with supporters in your storytelling and online presence, paint a clear vision of what the world could look like and what you’re working towards, so supporters can ask themselves, ‘Is that a world I would like to see?’
2. Lack of a Clear Niche
Spreading your organization too thin risks creating a vague perception of its purpose.
To stand out from similar organizations in your issue area, focus on carving out a specific niche that highlights your nonprofit’s unique strengths, approach, and perspective. Clarifying your unique position in the issue ecosystem helps identify what’s worthwhile and what tangential efforts to set aside.
“Until your core model, theory of change, and approach to creating a positive social impact are defined and distinct from other players in the space, you will always struggle to stand out, attract support, and make a meaningful difference,” says Eric Ressler, founder of the social impact creative agency, Cosmic By Design.
3. Inconsistent Branding
Inconsistent branding is a common mistake that can hinder your nonprofit’s marketing efforts. A lack of uniformity in your brand voice and visuals can make it harder to engage your audience and cultivate them into supporters.
Create a brand guide to ensure consistency across all platforms and communication channels. Include standards for brand voice, style, color and logo usage, typography, and other visual assets. All your brand materials should use the same typeface and a consistent set of 3-5 colors. Ensure all team members understand and adhere to these guidelines, and designate a content lead to periodically review your messages for alignment.
By crafting a cohesive and emotionally-resonant brand, you’ll be able to build trust, loyalty, and credibility with your audience, and ultimately boost your nonprofit’s impact.
4. Organization-Centered Story
In his book, Storybrand, Donald Miller notes that one of the most common mistakes brands/companies make in their marketing and messaging is making themselves the hero of the story.
Similarly, nonprofits often focus too much on their organization’s role in their work, whether on their website or other forms of digital communication. Your beneficiaries are the true heroes of the story, and your messaging should focus on how donors can help make a tangible difference in their lives.
5. Thinking You Have to be Present on Every Social Media Platform
With so many popular platforms, nonprofits sometimes think they have to be active on all of them. Instead of trying to be everywhere, identify the top two platforms most frequented by your target audience.
Where are your supporters hanging out? Chances are, if your organization has been on social media for some time, you’ve noticed which platforms generate the most audience engagement and interaction. However, you can also identify the best social media platforms to reach your audience by:
- Researching usage statistics
- Analyzing the strategies of similar organizations in your issue area
- Gathering insights from existing supporters through surveys or interviews
Most platforms offer built-in analytics tools to track performance and engagement, and third-party platforms like Hubspot and Sprout Social can also help you to make data-driven decisions about where to focus your marketing efforts.
By understanding where your donors and supporters are most active, you can prioritize and allocate resources effectively—and save tons of time!
For social platforms that aren’t as popular among your target audience, simply design a clean, well-branded profile page that directs your supporters to the platforms you’re most active on.
6. Under-investing in Documentation & Proof of Impact
Effectively documenting your impact is crucial in showcasing the value of your nonprofit organization.
Compelling and measurable proof of your impact demonstrates the return on investment of your work to supporters.
Combining high-quality visuals, good old-fashioned data, and emotional storytelling enables nonprofits to effectively showcase their impact. While statistics help provide a foundation of credibility for your organization, human-centered stories that leverage both visual and written elements are what truly bring your work to life.
When using visuals, having a dedicated videographer or photographer is essential for capturing your nonprofit’s efforts in action. These visuals provide a powerful way to demonstrate the impact you’re making and reinforce the importance of your work.
Nonprofits need someone, whether they be a staff member, a freelancer, or a volunteer, taking pictures and videos at events, documenting the positive work being done.
If donors can see proof their money was well spent, they’re more likely to connect emotionally with your work and want to contribute to your cause. Donors want to know how their money is used – show them!
Does your nonprofit need advice on creating a sustainable, effective marketing plan? Find a skilled volunteer on Taproot Plus.
Written by Brandon Marcus, content writer and advocate for progressive causes.