How to Create a Winning Nonprofit Marketing Plan

It’s January, which means it’s time to develop your annual nonprofit marketing plan. Meh…

I know. I’ve been in your shoes. You’re juggling 100 balls with one arm tied behind your back and your head is spinning. Between thanking donors, drafting your annual report, updating social media, and writing your monthly newsletter, the last thing you have time for is developing a marketing plan for your nonprofit.

Creating a marketing plan requires more time and effort than you can give right now. But it’s a valuable process that, when done right, can significantly impact your nonprofit’s bottom line and overall success.

It’s the roadmap that keeps you and your organization on track.

More importantly, it’s your guide to successfully promoting and growing your organization.

And if that doesn’t inspire you, then hopefully your intrinsic desire to make the world a better place will. Because let’s face it, the welfare of your clients is directly impacted by your ability to market your organization well.

When it comes to the people and causes we’re championing, let’s not fly by the seat of our pants. 

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Photo by Ian Schneider

So, clear your schedule and the whiteboard, roll up your sleeves, grab a latte and start working on your marketing plan today.

7 Steps for Creating a Winning Nonprofit Marketing Plan

  1. Start with an audit and evaluation of last year’s communications, fundraising and outreach efforts. Assess all data you have on social media, email, direct mail, web traffic, campaigns, and events. This may seem like a tedious task, but by understanding what worked, what didn’t work, which channels were most effective, etc., you’ll be able to develop practical, data-driven strategies for 2019.
  2. Establish your SMART goals. Whether it’s the number of dollars raised, volunteer hours committed, new donors acquired, or donor retention rates, be sure your goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. (“Increasing new donor-retention rates by 17 percent by August 3, 2019,” is a SMART Goal. “Increasing awareness through more aggressive social media outreach is not.”)
  3. Align your marketing plan with your organization’s vision for 2019 and fundraising goals. Successful non-profit marketing plans are closely tied to an organization’s goals and fundraising goals. So work with your executive team to ensure organizational and fundraising goals inform and drive your marketing strategies. What’s that? You don’t have a development team? You are the development team? I’ve been there. The struggle is real. Get with your finance team/person and executive director to establish your fundraising goals before you craft your marketing plan.
  4. Identify your target audiences and make sure your messages are still relevant to them. Tweak them if necessary. Define who your target audiences are, how you plan to reach them, what you want them to do, and what messages will drive them to do it. Need some help developing key messages? We’ve got a guide to help.
  5. Carve out strategies that map directly back to your objectives and SMART goals. This is where the rubber meets the road. Most likely you’ll need to identify several strategies to help you fully achieve each objective. Once you’ve outlined those strategies, you’ll want to list the specific tactics you’ll use to implement those strategies. (For example, if you have a goal of increasing website traffic by 15% in Q1, you may want to implement an online content marketing strategy. Tactics to implement that strategy may include publishing more blogs, newsletters, videos, etc.A solid strategy is driven by smart tactics. You won’t achieve your goals without both. Be sure to identify key performance indicators (KPI’s) and other milestones to help you measure the effectiveness of your strategies throughout the year.
  6. Create a timeline that includes important days, events and planned outreach efforts. Highlight days that newsletters, blogs and appeal letters will be published. Include fundraising campaigns, special events, holidays, and special dates, like your organization’s anniversary, internationally/nationally recognized days relevant to your cause. (Check out this 2019 Cause Awareness & Giving Day Calendar or the UN’s international version here.) Be sure everyone in your organization is aware of what’s happening and don’t forget to indicate a) who’s responsible for each activity, b) when you need to begin planning or preparing for each event, and c) deadlines.
  7. Chart the course for your multi-channel editorial calendar. You may not be able to craft specific content or messages for your social media posts, blogs and newsletters today, but if you can create a calendar that indicates what messages you’ll be promoting, when, and through which channels, you’ll definitely be ahead of the game. And you’ll thank yourself later.

Catapult your organization into 2019 with a solid nonprofit marketing plan

We’re really just scratching the surface here, but these tips should help get you off on the right foot for crafting your marketing roadmap for 2019. Go ahead and get started. You’ll sleep better tonight, I promise.

Did you find this blog helpful? Make my day and tweet about it!

Do you have any additional advice or suggestions for developing a nonprofit marketing plan? Please share them in the comments below.

Don’t have the bandwidth to develop your organization’s marketing plan? We can help. Click here to learn about our Marketing & Communications Power Plan offer.

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