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3 Ideas to Strengthen Your Nonprofit’s Online Presence

Does your nonprofit’s strategic plan include online outreach? Chances are highly likely that even if it doesn’t, your nonprofit still has at least some external online presence given that 99% of nonprofits report using social media.

Being online helps your nonprofit by attracting new supporters through organic web traffic, appearing trustworthy by posting on multiple platforms, and providing an avenue for potential supporters to learn more about your cause. However, the actual number of supporters participating in these activities is likely to be quite low if you haven’t invested in your online presence. 

To help refine and bolster your digital outreach, this guide will explore nonprofit marketing strategies for boosting online engagement. Let’s dive in. 

1. Apply for the Google Ad Grant. 

If your nonprofit has to invest heavily in its online presence, one of your first concerns may be budget. Will your social media accounts, website maintenance, and email campaigns pay for themselves or drain your resources?

Fortunately, there is one online channel nonprofits can market on for free that has the potential to reach thousands: Google Ads. The Google Ad Grant allows nonprofits to create search results ads for keywords relevant to their cause, such as in this example from Getting Attention’s guide to the Google Ad Grant:


Alt text: A screenshot of the Google search results for the keyword “animal shelter volunteering.”

In the above screenshot, the hypothetical supporter is interested in volunteering at an animal shelter but doesn’t have a particular shelter in mind. This is a supporter who is ready to convert and is just looking for a nonprofit that fits their needs. 

These ads are primarily helpful for attracting supporters in the first stages of the supporter lifecycle. For example, see this screenshot also from Getting Attention:

Alt text: A screenshot of a Google search results page for the keyword “breast cancer research.”

In this example, the user may be interested in supporting breast cancer research, but they may also be looking for information, such as the latest updates and scientific findings. They might follow an ad to a nonprofit’s blog to read a new research report. Then, if they find the information valuable, they might explore the rest of the nonprofit’s website and begin their donor journey. 

By using the Google Ad Grant, your nonprofit can target a diverse set of keywords to attract new audiences and get them interested in your cause. 

2. Host a peer-to-peer campaign. 

Expand your online presence by tapping into your supporters’ networks through a peer-to-peer campaign. In these campaigns, supporters fundraise for your nonprofit, often through social media. This means your nonprofit can appear in potential donors’ feeds and recommendations. 

To start a peer-to-peer campaign, you’ll need to:

    • Invest in peer-to-peer software. Peer-to-peer campaigns require a platform that can host this specific fundraiser. Some CRMs and event management tools come with peer-to-peer applications that allow your participants to set up unique donation pages. Participants can customize these pages and promote them to their friends, family, and followers. Then, when those people give, they’ll donate to the specific person they want to support rather than an organization they may be unfamiliar with.
    • Recruit participants. Some participants may sign up themselves, but your nonprofit can also reach out to recruit dedicated supporters. Use your donor data to identify long-term supporters, especially those who regularly engage with your campaigns on social media and have sizable followings. Provide these supporters with the training they need to use your peer-to-peer software and accurately present your cause to an external audience.
    • Provide regular support. Throughout your peer-to-peer campaign, check in with participants to answer questions, provide advice, and offer encouragement. These campaigns can operate indefinitely—as long as supporters are interested in participating—or have a specific end date. If your campaign is the latter, this can be used to encourage participants to continue pushing toward their fundraising goals.

Peer-to-peer campaigns are effective because they get around the issue of cold outreach. Most of us are used to scrolling past ads from organizations we don’t know, but when a post promoting a nonprofit comes from a trusted friend, family member, or social media connection, we’re more likely to stop and consider it.

3. Practice regular website maintenance. 

Your website is your nonprofit’s most important tool for building an online presence. After all, anyone interested in supporting you or learning more about your nonprofit will eventually make their way there. 

Ensure your website is built to help your nonprofit make a positive impression on online audiences. Evaluate and maintain your website by focusing on these elements from Kanopi’s website maintenance checklist:

  • Website Strategy. Do you have clear goals for your website and methods for tracking them? Use analytics tools like heatmaps and compare your website to similar organizations’ sites to identify places of improvement. 
  • User Experience. Consider who your website visitors are and how well your website helps them achieve their goals. Create personas for core user groups—such as supporters and beneficiaries—and ensure your website’s layout makes it easy for them to find and navigate to the top pages they need. 
  • Messaging. Your mission, case for support, and brand should all be clearly displayed on your website. Prominently display your logo, brand colors, and key visuals to promote brand recognition. Additionally, calls to action should be present in strategic locations to guide supporters’ next steps. 
  • Social and Events. To generate engagement and excitement, create an event calendar or integrate your social media into your website. Maintain a blog that provides regular updates about what’s going on in your field and at your nonprofit. 
  • Multimedia Content. Break up text with images and experiment with video, infographics, and interactive content. This invites greater engagement and more time spent on each page. 
  • User Journey. Envision a new user who is visiting your website for the first time. Is it clear to this individual where to go next to continue their supporter journey? Consider what landing pages you are promoting on external channels, such as through Google Ads, and how those pages can guide visitors’ next actions. 
  • Technical Elements. Ensure your website has fast load times, no broken links, correct formatting for forms and buttons, and is mobile-friendly. 

Remember that website maintenance is an ongoing process. Schedule routine reviews, such as once every quarter, to ensure your website is meeting expectations and make any necessary updates. If you need technical assistance beyond your team’s current capabilities, consider reaching out to a nonprofit web developer who can not only help with your current issues but also provide training to help your team resolve them internally moving forward.

Digital marketing requires investing time and resources but can pay off in the form of an expansive audience, new opportunities, and increased awareness of your cause. Set your nonprofit up for success by creating a strong website, reaching out to supporters for promotional support, and exploring free and low-cost advertising channels.

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About the Author

Jessica King is the business lead at Getting Attention, where she helps nonprofits get the Google Ad Grant and manage it effectively to get the most from it. Prior to her work at Getting Attention, Jessica worked at nonprofits and in higher ed, where she focused on communication and digital marketing. Most recently, she worked in search engine optimization in the mission-driven sector. Jessica holds a master's degree in communication from Virginia Tech. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking a new recipe, or hanging out with her cats, Benny and Olive.

Profile Photo of Jessica King