6 budget-friendly ways to expand your online marketing efforts
Passion and purpose drive every successful nonprofit. A third factor – funding – is every bit as important but always in short supply.
If your limited budget is restricting your marketing efforts, a do-it-yourself approach may help. Today's digital marketing tools provide cost-effective ways for nonprofits to raise awareness, recruit support and generate significant income, without a significant financial investment.
Theresa Varos, executive director of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America chapter in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has first-hand experience in DIY digital marketing.
"BBBS struggles to survive operationally due to a lack of funding and contributions, so digital marketing is an economically effective way to promote awareness of our organization," says Varos.
Try these six budget-friendly strategies to grow your digital marketing presence.
1. Become a social butterfly. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter can be powerful marketing tools.
Facebook & Instagram - A Facebook Business Page is free to create and a cost-effective way to gain exposure for your brand while driving traffic to your website. You can post ads, videos and promotions spotlighting your business, as well as customize the audience you want to target and the duration of your digital campaigns. Customer comments posted to your page can double as testimonials or provide an opportunity to address FAQs and common customer issues.
Varos counts Facebook as an important part of her nonprofit's marketing mix. "We make several posts to our page every week, and that's just one way we utilize the site," she says.
While the site is free, for a fee, Facebook and Instagram will boost a post to a higher position on your audience's News Feeds, increasing the number of eyes on your marketing messages. The fee is based on how many people you want your post to reach.
- Snapchat - With attention spans shrinking, most digital marketing messages are short and snappy. Snapchat is a free app that lets you publish photos – or "snaps" – to "My Story," where your Snapchat friends can view them within a 24-hour window.
Snapchat stories are ideal for real-time social marketing efforts, such as promoting live events, product launches, trade shows and limited-time promotions. You can also offer your most loyal followers an inside look into your business by teasing your latest products and sharing exclusive, behind-the-scenes happenings at your nonprofit. Get started on Snapchat with this how-to guide from Nonprofit Tech for Good.
For help measuring your social media marketing success, check out the post "3 Performance Indicators for Social Media Savvy Nonprofits" from Selfish Giving, an advice blog for nonprofits.
2. Encourage digital donations. There's no clearer call to action than "Donate Now." Varos uses the "Donate Now" button on her Facebook Business Page to help generate funding. "Our staff also sets up individual fundraising pages for all of our major campaigns, and each page is linked to our BBBS account," she says.
Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter are all set up to accept donations digitally, says Heather Mansfield, founder of Nonprofit Tech for Good. Snapcash – Snapchat's version – also lets people send digital payments to their Snapchat friends.
3. Use video to show - and tell. Words engage, but videos mesmerize. Sharing your nonprofit's mission through images and sounds can be both moving and motivating. Emotions are natural motivators, and this medium has the power to awaken them in potential donors.
Don't let a lack of video expertise or a modest budget deter you. Varos' talented video production team works for free. "Students at local colleges have been essential in producing video clips for recruiting and agency training," she says. Engaging YouTube videos are a fixture on the BBBS home page.
4. Explore email marketing. Email marketing campaigns are easy to create, segment, share and track. A compelling subject line, concise copy, powerful images and/or video, and a clear-cut call to action will greatly increase your email's chances for success, says Margot da Cunha, customer success manager at Wistia, which provides video hosting for businesses.
Consider these popular email marketing platforms for your next email campaign.
To expand your email list, also check out "Five Steps for Growing Nonprofit Email Lists" from digital marketing agency Ironpaper.
5. Explore pay-per-click advertising. Sharing your cause with a large audience doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. Google’s Ad Grants program helps nonprofits advertise on the world's largest search engine for free or at a low cost-per-click. To start the application process, sign up for a Google AdWords account and a Google nonprofit account here.
Keep people coming back with content marketing. You are the expert on your organization, its mission and its impact, so why not use that expertise to develop and post content for your audience?
Through content marketing, companies can build higher search engine visibility, more social – and referral – traffic and a stronger brand image, says Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom. Share your content for free on your blog, website and social media accounts. The only cost to your organization is time.
Key Tips and Takeaways
- Engage with your customers on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to share your mission and improve donor outreach.
- Spend less to create videos and digital graphics by enlisting the help of video production students from local colleges or universities. Many will work for free if they believe in your cause.
- Apply for Google's Ad Grants program to reach your audience through paid advertising. Qualifying organizations can advertise for free or at a low cost-per-click.
- Post original content on your organization's website, blog and social media accounts to build awareness for your organization – including its mission and impact – at no cost.