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7 Simple Steps to an Efficient Nonprofit Marketing Plan


A nonprofit marketing plan is an important part of any nonprofit organization’s success. Because nonprofit communication may come in various shapes and sizes, understanding your audience and the best way to reach them is a key element of your marketing plan. Not only will your plan enable you to translate your mission, it will ideally help you to increase your members and volunteers as well. More members equate to increased donations and the ability to grow your organization. 


What is a Nonprofit Marketing Plan?

A nonprofit marketing plan is a step-by-step breakdown of the actions you need to take in order to reach your specific goals. Typically, the goals focused on in a marketing plan are generating leads within the organization’s target markets. For example, the target market could be donors, volunteers, or supporters. 

Sadly, marketing plans often get deprioritized in the early stages of nonprofit development as they require time and resources new organizations may not have. Rather than thinking of marketing plans as an expensive proposition, consider them a way to ensure that any funds you do spend on marketing are utilized as effectively as possible. 

Marketing plans, and the form they take, will vary from organization to organization. That said, common components include:

  • Content calendars - utilize a content calendar to help keep your nonprofit on track. This is a schedule of what you plan to publish (blog articles, white papers, status updates, partnership announcements, content updates, or social media posts), when you plan to post, and in what forum the content will be distributed. 

  • Roadmap of campaigns - your roadmap should outline high-level milestones and the necessary tasks to accomplish each for your campaign(s). Not only will this provide a line of sight into all of the specific tasks that need to happen and in what timeframe, but it will also allow you to plan the allocation of your limited resources.

  • Budgets - outlining a budget upfront and then managing it through each campaign’s duration should be a priority for your organization. Once the campaign ends, ensure you do a "look back" at the cost of the campaign compared to what you were able to accomplish for the organization. This will allow you to focus future efforts on areas where you will get the most bang for your buck.

You might think that nonprofits do not necessarily need a marketing plan because they do not sell a product or service. However, your cause can be the product that you are marketing.  Common nonprofit marketing goals may focus on increasing memberships or donations or widening volunteer bases. 

Having a clear nonprofit marketing plan will ensure that your organization will have structure that will help it grow. Additionally, you save time and money by following a plan that you made in advance. 


Simple Is Best

As a nonprofit owner, you are aware that nonprofits have to be agile and cost-effective. Because of this, your nonprofit marketing strategy does not have to be complicated. Simple and efficient planning will help you reach your organization's goals.

steps-efficient-nonprofit-marketing-plan-simple-is-bestDavid is on board with the 'simple is best' philosophy!

Having even a simple marketing strategy can allow you to:

Align Your Organization 

Having an agreed-upon strategy ensures that everyone is working towards the same goals, regardless of who is chosen to implement it. This emphasizes the importance of delegation on the nonprofit owner’s part to ensure that your end goals will be met. 

Keep Communication Consistent

With a marketing plan, you control the different communication channels and make sure that you are communicating in a harmonious way across all platforms.

Simplify Your Marketing Process 

When it comes to your nonprofit marketing plan, simplicity is key. Keeping it simple will allow you to spend fewer dollars on marketing, and who doesn’t love that? If you devise your plan ahead of time, and with careful thought, you can reuse more of your existing resources rather than paying for additional tools or people. 

Understand and Organize Your Different Target Audiences

As a nonprofit organization, you have different audiences that you have to cater to. You have donors, volunteers, and community members that are all listening to you. Unfortunately, a one size fits all approach rarely works in marketing!

Having a solid strategy will let you cater dedicated communications to each audience. While your plan should definitely include various ways to communicate with all of your varying audiences, your internal branding should remain consistent. For example, a food bank that is looking for new volunteers for an upcoming food drive may utilize social outreach. If that same organization is looking for new donors, they may reach out to local businesses and set up lunch and learn seminars. The approach may vary by audience; however, the organization’s mission and brand would be consistent over both outreach efforts.  


1. Introduce the Context and Your Nonprofit’s Mission

When creating your nonprofit marketing plan, it is important to take a deep dive, in the beginning, to really understand your organization’s vision and mission. As it is the core of everything you do, we believe creating this strong foundation is a logical, and critical, first step. 

Your organization’s mission and vision are important things because they can help transform your objectives into actionable and concrete goals. Before moving on, ensure you have developed the following:

  • Mission statement

  • Vision statement

  • Business plan

  • Annual objectives 


2. Define Your Nonprofit’s Marketing Goals

Now that you have identified your nonprofit’s mission and vision, the next one will be to pinpoint your goals. As a nonprofit, it is important to differentiate and identify your short-term and long-term goals. 

You might have an ultimate goal for your nonprofit which is the end-all reason why you are doing this but creating short-term goals, or milestones, are important. Breaking down your long-term goals into shorter ones will help you take steps to reach your end goal.

For example, a long-term goal may be to increase member satisfaction for your organization by 15%. To achieve that goal, you may need to create a number of shorter-term goals aimed at various aspects of the member’s experience. A milestone goal could target your self-service website. More specifically, fixing broken links and rearranging aspects of the site could improve overall usability and help drive you toward creating a better overall experience for members.

steps-efficient-nonprofit-marketing-plan-defineCorinne is putting pen to paper on her marketing goals.

As you think through your marketing goals, note that there are a few characteristics of the goals themselves that will make them more meaningful in the long run. As you are defining what marketing goals you want to focus on, remember to make them SMART:

  • Specific 

It is easy to make goals but creating specific ones can be tricky. To create a specific goal, you should be able to choose an objective with one key result. For example, a generic goal might be wanting to increase web traffic whereas a specific goal might be to increase the number of member signups on the web by 15%.

  • Measurable

Now that you have created specific goals, let’s make sure they can be measured. By creating or utilizing tools in measuring your goals, you can pinpoint whether you are on track, behind, or achieving a specific goal. An example of a goal that can be measured is the email open rate.

  • Attainable

Although we want you to reach for the sky, remember that goals should be achievable. Having attainable goals does not mean that you have to set the bar low, you can also be ambitious in your goals but make sure that you are being realistic on what you can achieve versus what you cannot. 

For example, I might want to set a goal that every person within a 5-mile radius of my organization’s address will sign up for a membership. You may applaud my ambition but that is not a realistic goal. However, defining my target audience, understanding how many people fall within that target, and setting my member acquisition number based on a specific target is something that would be achievable.

  • Relevant

In setting goals, it is important to analyze each one to ensure that when achieved, it will be helpful to increase the success of the organization. The goals should change as the organization grows as well. That may mean that goals should be assessed, and potentially updated, yearly or quarterly as well. Having relevant goals will help keep the nonprofit on track to fulfill its mission and, at the same time, decrease the distractions that might hinder you from unlocking your full potential. 

For example, if your organization went through a mission overhaul as a result of the pandemic, your goals should change to reflect that. Let’s say you operate a food bank and had a goal to have 50 volunteers at every single-shift food drive, that goal would be less relevant during a time when there were restrictions in place. Instead, you may have had to shift that goal to something more relevant like ensuring three partially staffed shifts to account for covid gathering restrictions.

  • Timely

Parkinson’s law states that work will expand to fill the time that is available. It is easy to hit goals, eventually, when you do not have a specific time frame in doing so. Keep everyone on the same timeline by making each goal time-bound. This ensures proper planning behind hitting this goal and setting it up as a milestone to hit harder and bigger goals.


3. Get to Know Your Nonprofit’s Target Audience

As previously mentioned, nonprofit marketing has a number of audiences. In creating your nonprofit marketing plan, you have to have a clear understanding of who your audience is and who you are trying to reach. To help us get to know our audiences better, marketers create customer personas or pictures of your target audience who will most likely align with your organization. 

Personas are fictional characters that marketing people think about as people who will respond positively to their branding message. Having a target audience will help you reach your nonprofit goals, by creating a message and brand that will invoke and engage these individuals. 

Pro Tip: Rather than attempting to speak to various and somewhat vague data points you can think about your personas and ask yourself, "Would Lamar and Cheryl (your personas) be moved by this?" Considering your personas specific traits helps you create and deliver targeted marketing to entice them to join your organization. 

If you are wondering how to create your personas, a good place to start is with your core supporters. What do they have in common? What is important to them? Are you able to pick out a few key differences in the main groups of your supporters? For example, perhaps a nonprofit organization surveys and interviews existing supporters to find out their age, their family life, what drives their support, and asks other relevant questions to understand their motivation and what drives them to give back. As you review the results, you will not find that all your supporters are exactly alike; however, you may find some common themes. Use these to create 3 - 5 distinct personas.

You can have a picture in your head of different personas who will react positively to your message. Actually writing down their characteristics, values, and pain points and then going a step further to include a picture and print the bio out for the whole office to see, will help drive the point home. 


4. Prepare Your Key Messages

Having a key message is important because this is what you want to pass along to your different audiences. You want them to hear your words, remember them, and pass them along to others to broaden your reach. For example, the key message we at Springly want people to remember is "You change the world. Springly takes care of the rest."

steps-efficient-nonprofit-marketing-plan-prepare-key-messagesAnthony is formulating his key messages for his audience.

Key messages are not only an important way to communicate to your audiences, but they also help to align the people within your organization. Defining and utilizing your key message internally will ensure that members of your organization understand the common cause they are working towards.

Pro Tip: All of your members must be able to pitch your organization because they are your best advocates. Do not underestimate the power of word-of-mouth! Add this important item to your onboarding. Pitches are typically quick to prepare, fun to organize, and very useful!


5. Pick the Best Channels to Reach Your Nonprofit’s Targets

Now that you have curated your key messages, finding the best channel to funnel these messages and your marketing efforts are the next decisions that you will make. There are numerous marketing channels that you can use:

Social Media

Nowadays, social media is king when it comes to getting information. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all important social media platforms where people can connect. Posting on Social Media is an efficient way to have your message reach numerous followers at the same time. 

Pro Tip: Social media may seem straightforward. However, creating an impactful social media strategy is a huge job and should be given the same amount of consideration as other channels.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a way that you can optimize the contents of your website so that it will show up on top of specific keyword searches. If your organization focuses on helping abandoned animals in the Portland area, when someone searches for "Portland animal shelters," SEO helps ensure that your organization shows up in the search results. Important material, as well as infographics, should be on your website to increase traffic and views.


Sending emails is a fast and less formal way of disseminating your information. Nonprofit campaigns that utilize mass emails are effective because you can reach several people in a short amount of time making it super-efficient. You can create and customize email templates depending on who you're sending the email to so that the message will be consistent. 


Once your organization is set up you can start spreading the word. Word-of-mouth is just what it sounds like, people are talking about your organization to others, which increases your visibility and public awareness. This age-old method of advertising is even more effective than ever with the advent of social media. 

You and your members and volunteers can work together to tell the world about your mission. Looking for new members? Well, member stories or "testimonials" are an important part of celebrating your members’ accomplishments while also building a humanized presentation to support the social good that your organization performs on a daily basis. 

Members are usually excited to share their experiences and honored to be selected as the focus of your initiatives. 

People are drawn to success stories, and when they hear an actual member describing how incredible your organization is, they will want to experience it for themselves. 

After all, word-of-mouth is one of the best selling techniques as it is a personal review from a satisfied user.

Public Relations (PR)

PR for nonprofits may not be your first thought when it comes to marketing channels. However, just because it is often overlooked does not mean it should be!

Bringing on a PR firm, or having someone in-house with this title, ensures that someone is actively working to maintain the image of the organization. PR allows information to be released in a way that helps achieve the desired image.

You should choose your marketing channels based on your target audience. Even if we live in a world ruled by the internet and social media, some people still prefer to receive their information through other channels. Additionally, depending on the message, social media may not be the most appropriate way to deliver a message.


Having in-person events is a great way to physically, or virtually, interact with other people and share your cause and passion. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of events transitioned to virtual events which are more cost-effective.


6. Write Your Marketing Plan Down and Share it With Your Staff

Now that you have created your nonprofit marketing plan, the next important step is to put pen to paper and share it with the rest of your staff to ensure all important alignment we discussed earlier. 

steps-efficient-nonprofit-marketing-plan-write-plan-downSam is typing out his marketing plan now!

This is a valuable step because this type of information needs to be easily accessible and be ready at your team’s disposal in case they have to pull it up to refer to. Everybody in your staff needs to be aware of your nonprofit marketing plan so they can align on common fundraising and marketing goals. 


7. Analyze and Adapt Your Marketing Strategy Over Time

If you go back to setting your marketing goals, one of the aspects of the SMART technique is that your goals have to be measurable. Having measurable goals means that you need to employ a system where you can monitor your goals and KPIs or key performance indicators.

KPIs are quantifiable metrics that help organizations determine whether they are effective in achieving goals. These are important factors especially in the nonprofit sector because they will help determine what factors are contributing to the success of the nonprofit. For example, if you are holding events to try to convert participants to members, tracking how many participants sign up after attending an event will allow you to understand how successful your events are at achieving your goals. 

In terms of frequency when monitoring your goals, you don’t have to do this daily. You can set up a specific frequency of monitoring goals and be consistent in doing this either monthly, quarterly, or annually. 

Monitoring your goals also means determining what worked, or didn’t work and identifying areas of improvement. All this information can help determine if your nonprofit marketing plan is going according to plan or if you need to make adjustments to it. Having a marketing plan doesn’t necessarily mean that it is an end-all even if it is successful. Over time, you need to improve and modify it to keep up with your organization’s changing goals. 

Pro Tip: Another example of measuring marketing plan effectiveness is through surveys for nonprofits. Utilizing surveys is a great way that you can obtain feedback from your staff and volunteers. This will let you have a check-in with them and at the same time, know how they’re relating to your nonprofit marketing plan. 


Taking Your Marketing Plan To The Next Level

All in all, having a plan is a great thing that can propel your organization to a different level but keep in mind that your organization’s needs will change over time so no one marketing guide can fit all. This means that you have to modify your marketing plan and align it with new needs or goals.

If you are looking to expand a plan that is already in place, here are some options to consider:

Focus on Member Journeys

Companies use "customer journeys" to map out a typical member path from the day they learned about your organization to the day they become a member. The goal is to learn about that journey and make it as clear, simple, and automated as possible. 

Most nonprofits can use the same concept but translate it into member journeys or stories. These enable you to flex with the preferences of your members and adjust your marketing plan as your members change over time. 


Where possible, take out human touchpoints. We all make mistakes and the fewer parts of a workflow we humans touch the fewer mistakes we can make! 

Not only can automation cut down on errors, but it can also save your team their most precious commodity, time. 

Think Outside the Box

Digital options are always changing and new platforms are introduced all the time. There are numerous ways to improve your marketing. Consider utilizing Google Maps for nonprofits, interesting and eye-catching infographics, website copywriting, and unique content creation enhance viewership. Regularly implementing changes in your nonprofit marketing plan to modify key messages to keep up with the changing times also keep them relevant as times change. 


Springly is trusted by over 20,000 nonprofits to help them run their organizations on a daily basis. Try it, test it, love it with a 14-day free trial!



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