Nonprofit Marketing Strategies for Inbound Marketing Can’t be Optional

Perhaps the biggest challenge in nonprofit marketing today is also the biggest opportunity.

Nonprofit organizations have access to countless digital choices for reaching key audiences.

These many options have fostered the need for exploration and experimentation, which is why it’s common to hear about for-profit companies running 5 or 6 figure marketing tests that could eventually be grown to 7 figure marketing campaigns.

But nonprofits don’t have the luxury of open-ended testing and growth budgets.

How can charities strike the right balance with their
nonprofit marketing budgets when experimenting with new initiatives?

As never before the contemporary market forces nonprofit marketers to adapt or fade.

The key is to focus on a
foundational set of marketing tactics that prioritize impact and long-term donor audience relationships over quick wins.

That’s where inbound marketing comes in.

HubSpot developed this methodology in 2006, as a most effective marketing method for doing business online.

Inbound focuses on creating quality content that attracts people to your nonprofit.

By aligning the content that you publish with your communitys interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic to your website that you can then convert, close and delight over time.

Next to execution, the most important component of an inbound engagement is strategy.

Would you bake a cake without a recipe? Would you build a house without a blueprint?

The same holds true for inbound.

Without solid marketing strategies, your putting your nonprofit at risk of seeing low results, wasted time, wasted money and high levels of frustration.

Instead, take the time to create a solid inbound strategy that includes the following elements.

Donor Personas

Defining the people you want your marketing to attract is important. It’s the easiest aspect to understand and perform. Create your personas using both
demographic and psychographic information. Develop profiles and build them out to include information like online behavior, LinkedIn groups, blog interests, email subscriptions and more. Doing this will help you with your content publication.

Marketing Messages

What sort of pains or new opportunities are your donor prospects dealing with? What questions do they have? How does your organization solve those pains? Are you telling the right stories to the right people at the right time to get them to take action? If not, you’re not going to generate donor leads.

Your Organization’s Why

An often overlooked and critical component to solid marketing is knowing why your organization is in business. There must be a compelling and emotional “why” at the core of your marketing. For example, our “why” is that we help nonprofits attract and retain donors.

What Makes You Special

Traditional marketing people refer to this as “differentiation strategy.” I prefer to say, “what makes you remarkable?” Regardless of what you call it, if you don’t know what separates you from the competition you’re looking at an uphill climb. Worse yet, if you’re not remarkable, your nonprofit is probably invisible. Almost every nonprofit has remarkable elements hidden in their organization. We know this because we help clients uncover theirs, polish them up and then we feature them in marketing messages, stories and tactical executions.

Your Stories

People don’t remember details and they may not care about you. If you don’t have a collection of stories that get people inspired and emotionally connected to your nonprofit, you’re not going to get the donor leads you want. People remember stories and love sharing them. The right stories motivate volunteers to work with you or talk about your organization with their friends and others. Nonprofit marketing is about creating a buzz for your organization and stories are the fuel that power that marketing machine.

Tactical Plan

Most of the nonprofit organizations who do inbound are clear on the tactics. But are those tactics well thought out, integrated and designed to support each other? For example, search engine optimization and content creation need to be 100% aligned. If you fail to see this, you’ll end up with limited traffic improvements and probably low conversion rates.


Since we rarely know what will work in marketing in advance, plans change often, especially inbound plans. Using an incremental approach simply implements a large idea, or project over a series of smaller steps. Look to see whether all the right tactics are included, the deployment makes sense and the results are connected to the deployment.


What good is a plan without a budget? It’s easy to budget for inbound programs, as most of the months require the same tactics and the same level of work. But, there are extra expenses that come up such as software subscriptions, pay per click, photo rights and video production. If properly planned, the budget provides insight for expenses for the entire campaign.

Lead Goal Projections

Marketing and inbound have a common goal, to generate leads. A solid
fundraising strategy should have lead goal projections based on a solid program and experience with understanding what works and what doesn’t. Projections are not promises but they should give you something to shoot for, track against and adjust over time as the program rolls out.

A list of technical details for your website, a persona only strategy or a list of inbound marketing tactics is not a marketing strategy that’s going to generate donor leads.

Make sure your plans have all the elements outlined in this article to ensure your cake comes out amazingly tasty.

If you’d like to learn more about inbound marketing for your nonprofit, you can download our eGuide entitled

How to Use Inbound Marketing to Attract New Donors.

You can download it here.