Throughout the course of this year, I’m sure you got your fill of digital marketing hacks, tactics, and “must-dos” that, taken together against the backdrop of a global pandemic have probably left you overwhelmed. Today, I want to cut through the noise and share with you 5 focus areas for nonprofit marketing success in 2021; in other words, where you should be placing your emphasis in the coming year to actually drive results.
Whether you’re looking to court more donors, attract grant submissions or simply raise your organization’s profile, tend to these 5 areas and you’ll be setting yourself up for stronger results.
The competition for donations and attention online is fierce, and if people don’t understand exactly what it is that you do, you’re already at a disadvantage. This may sound a bit “well, duh,” but it was disheartening this year to come across so many worthy causes that could have achieved greater success had they only communicated their positioning better.
Every major touchpoint in your digital marketing should quickly and clearly reflect why you do what you do:
Which of these sites has clearer positioning?
Online attention spans are incredibly short; a visitor who has to search your website and piece together the good that you do is not going to stick around. Make 2021 the year when you communicate your positioning clearly across all of your marketing channels.
In the coming year, dedicate effort to answering the following question: Who is most likely to support our cause? Your findings will shape everything from messaging to marketing spend to where you implement your programs.
You probably already have an anecdotal or traditional understanding of who your audience is. For 2021, go deeper and incorporate data and higher-level qualitative research to identify those who are most likely to donate to, or advocate on behalf of your cause.
Here are some easily accessible sources of data that will help develop a picture of your current audience member profile:
Gathering and cross-referencing this data on a regular basis will begin to reveal a picture of who your audience is, where they reside and how to best reach them. You can then combine those findings with observable audience research that can include:
Understanding your audience, their needs, motivations, and behaviors is crucial to formulating how you’re going to meet them online, which is the next critical focus area for 2021.
As you’re refining who your audience is, focus also in the coming year on how you’re greeting those audience members online. With your positioning serving as your foundational message, audit the quality of how you’re communicating with your audiences every day. Pull back and look at:
Staying on Message
Do your communications, both visual and written, support your positioning (i.e., why you do what you do) and provide value to your communities?
Are you dedicating resources to producing high-quality design, graphics, video and imagery? Are your written communications compelling, and does each message serve a purpose?
Is your messaging and visual brand consistent across all of your channels, from website, to social platforms, to email to video? (If you’d like an example of consistency in digital communications, check out our post on building a student recruitment landing page).
Are you thinking through (by paying close attention to your marketing channels) when to publish content and messaging for best results?
Getting the most out of your messaging will take time, observation and iteration, but the payoffs in terms of greater awareness of your mission can be significant.
Because it’s so easy to add a new piece of software to our toolsets and then simply put it on auto-pilot, we don’t pause to review whether or not that product is actually pulling its weight. But reviewing and refining your tools will not only help keep a lid on costs, it can help ensure that what you’re using is helping your organization move closer to its goals.
On a regular basis, (say, once a quarter) you should be looking at your:
Marketing Tools that allow you to share and amplify your message, such as:
Data Collection Tools that allow you to accept donations and data and report on what you’ve gathered; these include your:
Since each of these products serves a different purpose, you’ll need to assess each relative to its intended use. But, the overall consideration will be to ask “is our investment of time and money in this platform worth what we’re getting out of it?”
The last of the 5 focus areas for nonprofit marketing success in 2021 is to make the collection and interpretation of data part of your organization’s DNA.
Of course you should be focused on delivering on your mission, and yes, personal relationships can still form the crux of your fundraising and programmatic outreach. But considering data in your decision-making processes can help you steer your marketing in the right direction, help you double down on what’s working (and quickly eliminate what’s not) and most importantly, reveal areas of growth that may not yet have been identified.
In the coming year, make reviewing your online activities’ data a regular part of your planning. Obviously, if you’re running specific campaigns, you should be looking at those results to course correct and build on successes.
But more than that, once a month, gather information from your website’s Google Analytics platform, Facebook’s Insights report, and your donor management and CRM tools. See what the numbers are telling you. Over time, trends will emerge and you’ll get good at seeing how or if the data matches what you’re seeing offline, and where to best place your marketing resources
If you need guidance to get started, we can help. But the most important part is to do just that – start. In 2021, being data-driven will help you run a more efficient, effective organization.
As you can see here, I’ve offered no shortcuts. Delivering marketing that brings results is hard work, but if you focus on the 5 areas above consistently, you’ll be laying the foundation for great things in the coming year and beyond.
As part of your end-of-year planning and reflection, take some time to think through how you might apply these principles into your organization’s workflow. I look forward to your success in 2021, and I wish you happy holidays and a safe, healthy and prosperous new year.
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