Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations: A Beginner’s Guide

Get started with our favorite marketing for nonprofit organizations strategy: direct mail.

Most nonprofits either overlook or lack the time and/or resources to put significant effort into their marketing strategies. Marketing for nonprofit organizations, however, is actually one of the most impactful things these groups can do to expand the scope of their cause.

That’s why we’ve put together this handy nonprofit marketing guide! In this resource, we’ll cover the following:

Many charities seem to hyper-focus on work related to their cause, and for good reason. The mission that each nonprofit serves is the most important thing at the end of the day. Marketing for your nonprofit shouldn’t take away from your cause, but should make it easier for you to accomplish what you do.

Let’s get started!

Here are some frequently asked questions concerning marketing for nonprofit organizations.

Marketing for Nonprofits: Frequently Asked Questions

Marketing your nonprofit should be viewed just like marketing in the for-profit space. More people knowing and caring about your “brand” gives your organization the opportunity to better serve your cause, either through an increase in volunteers, more donations, or greater community awareness.

Marketing shouldn’t be seen as a completely separate function within your organization, but rather as a piece of the greater whole working together to maximize your impact. Let’s jump in with our answers to these most-asked questions concerning marketing for nonprofit organizations:

What is marketing for nonprofit organizations?

Simply put, nonprofit marketing is all of the activities used to promote an organization, cause, or idea. Sometimes marketing becomes an afterthought because of the focus on serving the cause, but marketing for nonprofits is a key function in making all parts of your organization successful.

Why is marketing important for nonprofit organizations?

Marketing is so important for nonprofits because it determines how broadly your organization can serve your cause. Your nonprofit marketing strategies impact your volunteer base, your budget, and ultimately your ability to accomplish your organization’s mission.

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

It’s clear that marketing is important for nonprofits, but how do you come up with a plan?

First, start with a budget. This shouldn’t just be what’s left over after you delegate funds to other needs. Marketing spend is the only thing that can actually increase your budget (this year and in the future). To develop a marketing strategy, you’ll want to consider:

  • Existing donors and growth goals
  • Comfort with risk
  • Which channels to use (direct mail, email, social media, etc.)
  • Time constraints (ambition is good, but make sure you can actually accomplish the plan)
  • Much more!

There’s a near limitless list of considerations when creating a marketing strategy, but the general idea is to understand three things: how much money you’re going to spend, how much of an ROI you’re expecting, and how much impact does your spend this year have on future budgets.

There’s no way to predict the future, but planning it out can give you an idea of how much to invest in your marketing budget.

What is direct vs. mass marketing for nonprofit organizations?

Direct marketing is just a way of saying marketing to the individual. Think of an email or direct mail piece to a specific address. Mass marketing is targeting an audience. Think social media posts, television ads, etc. If you’re reaching a specific person – it’s direct marketing. If you’re putting out content for any number of people to see – its mass marketing.

Mass marketing tactics tend to cost less per capita, although direct marketing typically results in a significantly higher ROI. At GivingMail, we suggest you determine a healthy balance between the two overarching strategies.

These are our favorite marketing channels for nonprofit organizations.

Top Marketing Channels for Nonprofit Organizations

Most nonprofit marketing plans will incorporate a mixture of multiple marketing channels to ensure greatest results. Let’s dive into some of the most popular channels for nonprofit organizations:

Direct Mail

Direct mail is the largest and most effective channel for nonprofits; it accounts for over 90% of direct response revenue to charities. Donors enjoy having a physical piece of mail in their hands and are most responsive to appeals through this channel. In fact, direct mail response rates are up to 10x higher than email or social media marketing.

Think of direct mail as the workhorse of the fundraising strategy. Through it’s high visibility and impact on the reader’s memory, direct mail drives the most donations to your cause. It also increases brand recognition and donor connection to your cause—meaning that the recipient is not only most likely to give through this channel, but also more likely to give through other channels when seeing direct mail pieces, too.

Here are two types of direct mail marketing for nonprofit organizations.

The success of direct mail comes from how well it connects the reader to the cause. For more information, check out our guide to Direct Mail for Nonprofits for more information on why direct mail is so successful as a major part of any nonprofit’s fundraising strategy.

Here at GivingMail, we offer fundraising and direct mail support to nonprofits and serve as an affordable and effective solution to your nonprofits direct mail needs. If you’re looking for a fundraising partner or a direct mail provider, check out our unique and impactful direct mail marketing products.


Email is another popular marketing channel for nonprofits. While email marketing isn’t often a standalone fundraising strategy, it is a cost-effective way to improve your multi-channel approach and build more touch points with your donors and volunteers. The low cost of email makes it an appealing channel to add in your marketing efforts.

Although the potential for email to drive donations is limited because of a low response rate, email campaigns paired with direct mail and other channels improves your brand recognition and response rate overall.

Social Media

An optimized social media strategy can also play an important role in your marketing efforts and can be used to share information with volunteers, donors, and supporters.

Whether you’re using your own social media pages or incorporating paid social media advertisements, your organization will want to leverage interactions with followers. That way, you can understand how your supporters act and what they want to know from you.

Most donors and volunteers have social media and would be happy to follow and support your organization’s active pages, which is a great (and free) way to have your brand constantly on their minds.

PPC (Pay Per Click) & SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Paid search advertising and search engine optimization are less used, but incredibly effective marketing channels for any nonprofit. This is especially true for smaller, local nonprofits that can target keywords related to their geographic location.

The best part of paid search marketing for nonprofits is that it can still be free through Google Grants. Google offers nonprofits a set budget (of up to $10,000/month) to use their tools just to help nonprofits market themselves to supporters. Thus, these lesser-used strategies offer huge potential upsides with the right effort put into PPC and SEO.

Here are some best practices concerning marketing for nonprofit organizations.

Nonprofit Marketing Best Practices

Using the right mix of channels can make or break your fundraising and marketing efforts, but it isn’t the only impactful variable. Even with the best choice of where to put your marketing budget, your organization will miss out on key opportunities if you aren’t applying these best practices:

Create high-quality and engaging content.

The most obvious piece of advice on best practices is to make sure that whatever content you create is high-quality and thus, likely to drive engagement with the audience. Whether it’s a blog post, fundraising letter, or social media page, it’s important to put out content that donors and volunteers will want to see and interact with.

The more that your donors are seeing your organization, the more likely and often they’ll give. Regular social media posts, blogs, emails, direct mail campaigns, and any other touchpoint all drive your donor and volunteer connections.

Leverage data-driven marketing strategies.

Your data is as good as gold. Understanding what’s working well, who and where donors are giving, how much those donations are for, etc. all allow you to make better, more informed decisions in the future. Becoming a data-driven organization can help you learn where you should be spending more and less, ultimately increasing your marketing efficiency and bringing more and more money to your organization.

To get started, you’ll want to make sure that you have a CRM platform designed for nonprofits (such as GivingMail CRM) to capture and manage all of the relevant information. Specifically, GivingMail CRM was built and designed for smaller nonprofits to best manage and utilize their data. Whether you choose to implement our top software solution or opt for an alternative, letting valuable data go to waste is essentially turning down the opportunity for more money flowing into your organization.

Embrace A/B testing in your appeals.

Testing and statistics can seem difficult, but A/B testing is a tried and true method to improve your marketing results over time. Any time you’re running an ad or campaign, you have an opportunity to be testing and comparing the results.

In this case, your testing can compare ad formats within a channel, design, copy, audience, and more. The options for testing are unlimited, but it’s a good idea to test areas that you feel will have the most impact, and remember to stay optimistic even when your testing doesn’t always lead to huge improvements. Learning what doesn’t work is valuable, too.

Here's an example of A/B testing your marketing for nonprofit organizations.

Incorporate a multi-channel marketing strategy.

The more channels that you incorporate into your fundraising strategy, the better off your organization’s marketing will be. Every chance you interact with your donor or volunteer is an opportunity for them to take an action to support your organization, so it’s a good idea to integrate touchpoints across multiple marketing and fundraising channels.

This multi-channel strategy doesn’t have to get very complex to be successful, but you’ll want to keep branding (such as colors, designs, logos, etc.) consistent across all channels. If your branding and overarching message is drastically different from one channel to the next, it could confuse your supporters and deter them from donating or volunteering.

Hopefully this guide has provided you with some much-needed insights into the world of marketing for nonprofit organizations. By considering each of our suggested marketing channels and implementing our tried-and-true best practices, you’re sure to increase awareness (and funding) for your organization in no time.

For more information, check out our other educational fundraising and nonprofit resources:

Get started with our favorite marketing for nonprofit organizations strategy: direct mail.

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