In 2018, Prosper Strategies, a nonprofit consulting firm in the USA, carved a new definition of nonprofit marketing that, in their words, “took the sector by storm”. As unconventional as this definition is, it is an excellent starting point to create a nonprofit marketing plan template.

“Nonprofit marketing comprises the activities, touchpoints, and messages that motivate stakeholders to take actions that advance a nonprofit’s mission and create sustainable social change.”Prosper Strategies.

When it comes to nonprofit marketing, the common motives are to raise awareness or raise funds. However, the above definition steers away from narrow goals and aims at a broader action by your stakeholders to contribute to your organization’s mission.

Successful nonprofit campaigns require a solid marketing plan that covers 

  • An introspective study of your firm: Your market plan should build on your current strengths and chafe away your weak points. 
  • A strategy to understand motivations of supporters: What drives your supporters to contribute to your cause? Your nonprofit marketing strategy must utilize those motivations to further your campaign.
  • A marketing campaign that fits your overarching mission: Remember, this marketing cycle is but a piece in your nonprofit’s jigsaw. It should stand firm by itself but must play a role in the bigger picture too.

In this post, we have a look at how you can devise that plan and have a rewarding marketing cycle.

How do you create a marketing plan for a nonprofit organization?

As a staffer on an actively campaigning nonprofit, you may already have too much on your plate. Devising a nonprofit marketing plan then looks like an additional burden. 

This may be an additional task. But I promise that it is worth your time and energy since it will ease your next marketing cycle by

  • Keeping tasks organized with a clear timeline
  • Specifying the goals for your campaign and individual teams
  • Tracking progress.

Here’s a 9-step nonprofit marketing plan template for your next quarter or campaign:

  1. Undertake self-assessment and audits
  2. Set your nonprofit’s marketing goals
  3. Study market trends
  4. Understand your target audience
  5. Finalize the message you want to communicate
  6. Create a nonprofit marketing strategy
  7. Allocate budgets
  8. Plan your communication channels
  9. Create an event calendar and bring it all together

Let’s have a look at each individually.

1. Undertake self-assessment and audits

A nonprofit that conducts regular self-assessments can easily identify the gaps in their skill-set, fundraising efforts, and previous marketing strategies. Once identified, you can create an intelligent marketing plan outlining:

  • What has worked in the past
  • What can work with certain alterations
  • What you need to dump

When studying your previous marketing campaigns, include assessments for:

  • Donors: List the number of existing donors, the donation brackets they fall in (small/medium/major), and how many can be contacted for future fundraisers.
  • Finances- Jot down your marketing budget and expectations from nonprofit grants
  • Human resources- Specify the roles that your staffers and volunteers can undertake. How many from the teams are trained? How many need to undergo training, and for what jobs?
  • Technical resources- List existing computers, phones, software subscriptions, and online tools that can be used for the next marketing cycle.
  • Strategies- Detail previously used strategies that were successful, mildly successful, those that failed. Each holds value for what you can replicate and what should not be done. 

Here is a marketing plan template for your nonprofit that staffers can fill out as part of your self-assessment. Mark each field with appropriate details.

The first column is filled for you as an example.

nonprofit-marketing-plan-template-donor-assessment

2. Set your nonprofit’s marketing goals

Julia Campbell, a nonprofit digital marketer, mentions how a small organization she worked with advertised their goals but still failed to achieve them.

“As I quickly discovered, the problem was that they were trying to accomplish multiple goals — increase donations, boost community engagement, raise awareness, etc. — all at once,” she writes for Wild Apricot. 

This is a crucial lesson in defining your goals for a marketing cycle. Be ambitious but do not aim for the impossible.

Pick from the common marketing goals for a nonprofit like:

  1. Raising funds (Eg: Increasing donations by 20% compared to last year)
  2. Increasing donor base (Eg: Building a base of 1000 new small donors) 
  3. Raising awareness (Eg: Increasing social media engagement by 30%)
  4. Recruiting volunteers for the new internship program (Eg: Getting 50 individuals to sign up)

Of course, if you have a bigger team and more resources at your disposal, you can choose multiple goals. But make sure you utilize the lessons from your self-assessment before finalizing these objectives.

The following sample template looks at a fundraising goal for a nonprofit. Staffers can use it or replicate it to suit other goals set for the upcoming cycle.

Nonprofit marketing plan template for goals and objectives:
Funds to be Raised
Deadline
Person(s) in charge
Major donors to contact
Start & End Date
Methods of communication
No. of new leads to contact
Start & End Date
Methods of communication
Major Sponsorships
Total amount to secure
Person(s) in charge

Here are some marketing statistics for nonprofits to ponder over:

20182019
Online revenue for nonprofits grew by 1%Online revenue grew by 10%
Email fundraising response rates fell by 13%Email fundraising response rates grew by 1%
Mobile lists (people who gave consent to nonprofits for texts) grew by 14%Text messaging audience for nonprofits grew by 26%
Digital ad budgets grew by an astonishing 144%!Nonprofits increased their digital ad budgets by a further 17% this year.

Data for 2018: MR Benchmarks. Data for 2019: MR Benchmarks

It is evident that nonprofit marketing trends change periodically, and so it becomes crucial for any marketer to study relevant trends for every cycle.

You can be the best judge of what trends to look out for. Here is one marketing plan template for your nonprofit that you can base your studies on:

Giving Trends
Online GivingKey Insights
Channels – Facebook
Online Donation Tools
– YouTube
– Fundraising Page
Text MessagesKey Insights
ChannelsText to give
Peer-to-peer texting
Mass Texting
Email MarketingKey Insights


Event MarketingKey Insights
Events planned

4. Understand your target audience

A marketing persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal donor, volunteer, or supporter. These personas are based on your existing supporters and define their most appealing characteristics that suit your campaign.

Nonprofit marketing persona sample:

nonprofit-marketing-plan-template-donor-persona

When drawing such personas for your nonprofit marketing campaign, remember its two crucial elements:

  • Be inexhaustive: These personas or their characteristics should not be too detailed. Intricate details narrow your scope. They should be based on several of your supporters– drawing commonalities between them.
  • Define key segments of donors: Divide your audience into small, medium, and major donors or first time, repeat and lapsed donors. Draw various personas under each different segment to ensure your view is not limited to a singular characteristic. (For instance, your ideal donor may be a working professional, a businessperson, and others with charitable income. Drawing different personas for each can keep the list inclusive but not too vague).

Such personas will help you understand your supporters’ priorities and enable you to target the right audience.

Here is a template for your personas to market your nonprofit. 

Nonprofit marketing plan template for target personas.

nonprofit-marketing-plan-template-donor-persona-form

5. Finalize the message you want to communicate

  • How is your product, service, or appeal unique from the others? 
  • What is the message you want to communicate with donors? 

This is the crux of your marketing plan. All your telephone fundraising scripts, text message scripts, and social media posts will zero down on this message.

While this forms your marketing message base, the final product must be “me marketing” rather than “you marketing.” This table will help you understand the difference:

You MarketingMe Marketing
Talks only about the organizationSpeaks about your potential supporter’s role in your cause
The main brand is your nonprofitThe hero is your cause, and the message is how you and your supporters can contribute to it
Involves 
– your missions
– your awards
– your staff members
– your impact
May include details of the organization but more focus on 
– how a person can help
– the impact they will create
-the avenues they can adopt to support you
E.g., “We helped 100+ Arizona homeless families get shelter through winter last year. Our staff involves people from diverse backgrounds, and we believe in “all for one.” Come join us to create such a massive impact every year!”E.g., “Are you passionate about helping the disadvantaged? Our team is looking for enthusiastic volunteers like you to help homeless Arizonians this winter. Text JOIN to 33339 to be a part of our team.”

Remember the CRAM rule to adopt a “Me Marketing” strategy:

  • Connecting: Connect your cause to something your audience cares about.
  • Rewarding: Make the experience rewarding and satisfying.
  • Actionable: Your marketing message must have a good call to action.
  • Memorable: The experience with you must be sentimental or have tangible rewards to make it memorable.
A compelling nonprofit marketing message includes story-telling. It speaks about your impact and the contributions that supporters can do to further that impact. While crafting the perfect message, write stories that will wow your audience. Fill the following sample template with your stories to brand your desired message.
nonprofit-marketing-plan-template-message-sample

6. Create a nonprofit marketing strategy

Take a look at this research about nonprofit marketing strategies conducted in 2018. 

nonprofit-marketing-plan-template-strategy-research
Image Source: Smart Insights.

The nonprofits that responded engaged in several strategies that enabled them to see impact in various ways.

  • By spreading awareness via emails, the nonprofits increased their net email list (even with a 14% list churn)
  • An average of $36 was raised for every 1000 fundraising text messages.
  • Social media updates enabled a 23% follower growth on Facebook and 50% on Twitter.

With this success, the organizations could design goals for the following round of digital marketing.

A nonprofit marketing strategy is exactly that- to have a set of goals and devise ways to achieve them.

For instance, say you raised $1000 last time, and this time your goal is to raise $1500 only from old donors. Your marketing strategy can be to engage in telefundraising and text message fundraising and make donation appeals to existing supporters.

This is where your self-assessment holds the most importance. Once you understand what strategies have worked for you in the past you can:

  • Finalize online strategies that you will continue this year
  • Schedule events where you got satisfactory attendance
  • Go for paid social media promotions that have increased engagement rates
  • Utilize communication channels where you got satisfactory response rates
  • Learn from your past strengths and experiment with new marketing strategies.

A good marketing plan accommodates multiple strategies to target a variety of audiences. You have studied current market trends and analyzed the best ones for you. Now is the time to utilize this research and your self-assessments to finalize strategies.

An essential part of nonprofit marketing is advertising it the right way. To know how to advertise your brand seamlessly, read: Everything You Need to Craft a Successful Nonprofit Advertising Strategy

7. Allocate Budgets

Nearly 20% of nonprofits have no fixed budgets for marketing! If you are among those, drop everything! This takes priority.

And even if you have a budget ready, make sure you reserve enough funds for marketing. 

It is advised that 5-15% of your operating budget should be reserved for marketing.

This provides a good starting point to determine how much funds you are holding for this marketing cycle. When you have that number, divide the budget and dedicate them for your marketing strategies. Here’s a template for you to follow (We have filled two columns as samples for marketing budget):

nonprofit-marketing-plan-template-budget
Marketing ActivityStrategyBudget
Social media paid adsVideo campaigns on FacebookPaid posts on TwitterPaid ads on Instagram$1000
Text messaging softwareP2P messaging for existing donorsMass texting for opt-ins$400
Call center software

Admin expenses, salaries, overheads

Volunteer allowances

Events- venue, food and beverages, decoration

Stationery

Creatives

Miscellaneous expenses

Total

8. Plan your communication channels

“Content is King but engagement is Queen, and the lady rules the house!” – Mari Smith

No marketing plan is complete without a comprehensive communication strategy. You have a unique message for your brand, a solid goal to reach and an effective communication plan is how you take the former to the latter.

Make sure to utilize popular communication channels for effective outreach.

Communication channelsBenefits
Peer-to-peer texting (P2P texting)– Texts have a 98% open rate and a 45% response rate.
P2P texting helps you maintain and grow relationships with your supporters with one-on-one communications.
– Personalized communication with existing supporters offers the opportunity to make big asks.
– E.g., “Hi Maurin, this is Tanvi from PlantOne. Your donation last year helped us reforest Lake Chin. This year, we plan to beautify Lake Sirius. Can I count you in for a $50-100 donation?”
Text Blasts75% of people are happy to receive promotional messages when they opt-in.
– Text blasts allow you to reach thousands of opted-in numbers in a single click.
– Use SMS for plain texts or MMS blasts to add images and videos.
– E.g., “Hey Asher, thank you for opting-in to our texting list. Reply 1, to join our volunteering team. Reply 2 to donate. Reply QUIT to stop.”
Phone calls– Calls offer a personal touch to your outreach, invitations, or fundraising efforts. They show you care and help maintain your relationship with supporters. 
– Enables you to explain your cause in detail. This opens the window to make specific asks or big asks. 
– Ideal for appeals to major donors, small donors, for thank you calls, event invites and donor recognition.
Automated dialers save time. They can make 3-5X more calls than manual dialers, thus helping you reach out to more people in a definite time.
Emails and Newsletters– Ideal for small and major donors who have signed up to your mailing lists.
– Emails can have lengthy text and enable you to send relevant fundraising, sign-up, and other links.
– They let you make big or specific asks.
– Spam rates for nonprofits are 0%, and unsubscribe rates are 0.17%
Social Media– Over 27% of people discover nonprofits through online research
– Initiate group conversation on Facebook pages, post videos on YouTube, and start online fundraisers for your nonprofit.
– Paid promotions enable you to target the right audience across geographies. 
Word of Mouth– “The best kind of marketing does not feel like marketing.” When your staffers, volunteers, and beneficiaries talk about your work in their social circle, they bring out personal stories and give you a unique edge. 
– This also includes increasing in-house social media presence and asking your staffers to promote your posts on their handles.
– Personal connections increase your chances of success since people trust their friends and family more than organizations.

9. Create an event calendar and bring it all together

The very last bit of your nonprofit marketing plan is to put everything in place. At this stage, you have your strategies and communication channels ready. Your team is also trained and prepared. This may feel like it’s all over the place, but we have one more step to go- bringing all your efforts together in a single place.

This includes creating a timeline for your marketing cycle and detailing 

  • The start and end dates of all events 
  • Communication campaigns
  • Teams, leaders, and their goals
  • Budget allocations
  • Volunteer and staff training
  • Regular meetings with the staff
  • Content calendar

Once you have all of this in place, communicate the details with your team, and that’s it! Your nonprofit marketing plan is done.

An organized blueprint for your nonprofit marketing can streamline efforts for small and large teams. It ensures that your efforts are not scattered stars but an elegant constellation. We hope our nonprofit marketing plan template further eases your efforts. 

Now it is only a matter of ready, set, go!

Feature image source: Estée Janssens/ Unsplash

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