Marketing Tips for Nonprofits on a Tight Budget

Trying to find people to support your vision and become involved with your nonprofit organization can be a challenge. Unlike other types of businesses, many nonprofits don’t have a huge marketing budget to spend. Most nonprofit businesses only have one marketing director and can’t afford an entire public relations team. However, that doesn’t mean that nonprofit companies can’t take advantage of marketing to reach a larger audience.

Branding

Every company should have consistent branding and nonprofits are no exception. Invest in a strong, recognizable logo. If you can’t afford to hire an ad agency, there are several websites like elance.com and odesk.com where you can find freelance graphic designers who work for a reasonable fee. If you go this route, make sure that the freelancer can supply the logo in a variety of formats for print and web, including vector art.

If the designer has no idea what vector art is, find another graphic designer. Many companies make the mistake of going to $50 logo companies on the Internet only to find out that when they go to have letterhead or other items printed, the logo isn’t print-ready and they have to pay to have it re-created by a printing company. Make sure that your logo not only looks great, but that it is print-ready for materials such as letterhead, envelopes, business cards, event signs, etc.

Social Media

The influence of social media on business is growing every year. Best of all, social media is a free! If you have someone on staff who can help manage your social media presence for you, that’s great! If not, you may be able to work with a local college and hire an intern with social media experience. Here are four of the largest social media networks and a quick explanation of how they can help your business.

  1. Facebook – Arguably the biggest social media site out there, Facebook is great for building relationships. If you really want to connect with people and get them to support your organization’s mission, then Facebook is a great place to post pictures, talk to people, and rally others to support your cause.
  2. Twitter – 140 characters may not sound like much, but you can reach a wide audience with enough well-phrased tweets. Twitter is great for sharing links and it pays to learn about hashtags because they will get your tweets out in front of a larger audience. You can also build relationships with other people, such as top bloggers, in your niche market.
  3. Pinterest – Although Pinterest is relatively new compared to other social media giants, it is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. Pinterest is all about eye-candy, so it’s a great place to post event photos and other photos related to your organization. For example, many animal rescue organizations post cute pet photos on Pinterest.
  4. LinkedIn – LinkedIn is similar to Facebook, but with a more professional slant. Many nonprofits have recently started to realize the power of LinkedIn and are creating company pages that represent their brand and help them engage with other likeminded professionals who can help them achieve their goals.

The key thing to remember about social media marketing is to keep it social. Be engaging, converse with people, and above all else, don’t spend all your time promoting your nonprofit or asking for donations. Many people consider that approach to be “spammy” and will quickly lose interest in your organization. Even just having someone who can dedicate a few hours each day to social media can really help you garner a lot of support and make valuable contacts.

Don’t Spend More Than You Can Afford

According to debtconsolidation.com, the typical credit card purchase is 112% higher than paying with cash. If you start taking your company’s credit lines and paying for things like advertising, radio commercials and printed materials, then you’re literally throwing money out the window. While you do have to spend money to raise money, that doesn’t mean you should go overboard. Set a fixed amount to spend on marketing that works with your cash-flow situation.

If you’re having trouble with cash-flow then try to reduce your operating expenses so you can funnel more money into promoting the company. While this isn’t always easy for nonprofits that are operating on a shoe-string budget to begin with, sometimes it is a necessary evil. If you can’t decrease expenses, then try to increase revenue with creative crowdfunding. Blend crowdfunding with your social media campaigns and you may be able to raise more money for marketing.

Give Stuff Away

People like contests, freebies and rewards for their donations. Pay attention to local events and see where you can reasonably afford to set-up a table. Host a raffle, or give away products with your brand on them to everyone who signs up for your mailing list. There is a lot to be said for actually getting out there and talking to people. Creating an attractive display booth that draws people in is a great way to start a conversation about your organization’s goals.

Many promotional products companies sell things like pens, key rings or other novelty items that are relatively low-priced as long as you buy in volume. The more unique items you can find the better! Keep consistent with your brand and don’t put up outrageous signage that draws attention, but be clever and come up with something consistent with your mission statement that will get people’s attention. And, above all else, be friendly when people approach.

Marketing is part of business, and sometimes it may seem like a chore, but there should be some aspect of fun involved as well. Even though you’re serious about your nonprofit’s cause, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little fun while you’re marketing your agency. If you want people to help, then you have to make a real connection with them and be creative. Think about what appeals to people and try to connect with them in a way that leaves a good impression.

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Dona Collins is a personal finance specialist and writer. Her passion is to help others create a strong financial plan for a bright future.

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