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Creating a Holistic Nonprofit Marketing Strategy: 4 Tips

What is a holistic nonprofit marketing strategy? It’s easiest to define by breaking it down into two parts.

First, if you consider the current nonprofit marketing landscape, there are now more channels than ever before to market fundraising, volunteer, and advocacy opportunities to supporters. And to remain competitive in the crowded nonprofit sector, nonprofits are often encouraged to use multiple channels at once to reach supporters through their preferred method and stand out from the crowd.

Second, “holistic” essentially refers to the process of examining systems and tools as parts of a greater system or strategy rather than as independent elements.

If we combine these two ideas, we arrive at a definition for holistic nonprofit marketing:

A marketing strategy in which various channels work together, building upon one another rather than creating an overwhelming echo chamber.

A holistic nonprofit marketing strategy allows your organization to make the most of the channels at your disposal while also creating a cohesive, trustworthy, and engaging experience for supporters. However, it requires careful advance planning to execute successfully.

This guide will cover the following four strategies to help your team create a holistic nonprofit marketing strategy:

DNL OmniMedia’s guide to creating a nonprofit digital strategy breaks down a seven-step process for creating your nonprofit’s digital marketing strategy. This article doesn’t cover all those steps but rather discusses a few tips to further elevate your efforts. With that in mind, let’s get started.

Carefully choose your marketing channels.

We’ve discussed how a wide variety of marketing channels are available to nonprofits, with each channel drawing a slightly different segment of an organization’s supporters. It may seem intuitive to use every marketing channel at your nonprofit’s disposal to reach the highest number of supporters possible. 

However, remember that every channel requires a unique strategy. Your organization should choose a handful of marketing channels that are the most popular with your particular audience and focus on perfecting your strategy for each accordingly.

Getting Attention’s nonprofit marketing guide includes a breakdown of the most popular marketing channels, their benefits, and how they can be used to help your team choose the channel(s) that best fit your strategy. This list includes:

  • Social media, such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter, can be effective at reaching new audiences on the platforms they are already using. Each social network has a slightly different post style (i.e., images and videos on Instagram, videos on TikTok, short text-based tweets on Twitter), requiring unique strategies for success across channels.
  • Direct mail can be an expensive strategy but is often worthwhile to reach older adult audiences.
  • Email can be helpful for sharing regular updates but requires strategic subject lines to cut through the noise of busy inboxes.
  • A nonprofit website should serve as the “hub” of an organization’s digital marketing strategy and can be used for both educational and fundraising purposes.
  • Purchased digital advertisements, such as Google Ads, are free to many nonprofits through the Google Ad Grant program.

When choosing the channels you will incorporate into your strategy, think about them from both the qualitative and quantitative perspectives.

Consider social media, for example. Imagine you’re choosing between TikTok and Instagram. From a qualitative perspective, you’re interested in TikTok because you think the quick videos will appeal to your audience of Gen Z supporters. But, from a quantitative standpoint, you realize that more of your supporters use Instagram over TikTok. In this instance, it would make more sense to use Instagram—where your supporters are and which also has a video feature—over TikTok.

Create a cohesive branding strategy.

Nonprofits need a clear, attention-grabbing, and authentic brand to carry throughout their marketing strategy. This ties your various marketing efforts together, as supporters will recognize your branded materials across channels and understand that each communication is part of a larger campaign run by your organization.

Nonprofit branding goes beyond your organization’s color scheme and logo, including elements such as:

  • Your brand positioning (mission statement, audience, key messaging, etc.)
  • Visual assets (color palette, logos, photography and videography philosophy, etc.)
  • Text assets (typography, naming conventions, grammar and style, etc.)
  • Platforms (which platforms you use, how your branding adjusts to match platforms, etc.)

When you create your nonprofit branding guidelines, share them across the various teams or individuals creating marketing materials for your organization. That way, they will have the information needed to ensure all communications are cohesive and align with your brand.

Author communications that complement rather than compete.

Simply creating one set of marketing communications and sharing them verbatim across multiple channels won’t impress your supporters. Instead, it will cause them to see the same message over and over again before eventually tuning it out.
Instead, create unique marketing content for each channel in your strategy. So, if a supporter encounters your content on multiple channels, it will feel like they’re seeing multiple aspects of your campaign’s story that all add up to a comprehensive narrative.

For example, imagine that you’re creating a marketing campaign with the goal of increasing volunteer sign-ups. Here’s how you could differentiate content across channels:

  • On social media, you could share a video interview in which you ask volunteers about their experiences.
  • On your website, you could share an in-depth explanation about the various volunteer opportunities you’re recruiting for and how supporters can sign up.
  • In email, you could share photos of volunteers at work with pull quotes from the interview shared on social media.

In each instance, you’re sharing content related to the overall topic—increasing volunteer sign-ups—but you’re adjusting the angle and type of content you share to align with the platform it is shown on. 

Use marketing data to elevate your strategy.

Last but certainly not least, collect data about the efficacy of your holistic marketing strategy and use that information to improve it further.

To collect this data, integrate your various marketing solutions (such as social networks, your website, email automation tool, and so on) with your constituent relationship management (CRM) solution. This will allow all marketing data to flow into your CRM, so it can then be examined in the greater context of your activity data and organization health overall.

Remember that your marketing strategy will accrue significant amounts of data, from contact information to open rates to response rates. Ensure that your team is practicing data hygiene best practices so this data remains useful rather than dissolving into a jumble of out-of-context details.

Once you’ve collected your marketing data, ask yourself a few questions about that information. For example, consider:

  • Which channels had the highest engagement rates?
  • Which channels led to the most conversions?
  • How did your audience differ across different channels?
  • Did the type of message you shared impact how supporters responded to a message?
  • Were there any channels that didn’t generate the amount of support you would have hoped?

Use the answers to these questions (and more, tailored to your unique marketing goals) to continue optimizing your marketing strategy. The goal should be to engage the right supporter at the right time and through the marketing channel they prefer to engage within. Data is key to helping you do so.

With so many marketing channels available to modern nonprofits, many organizations are embracing the world of multichannel marketing. However, to have a truly holistic approach, your organization must consider each channel as part of the overall strategy as opposed to individual outlets for connection.

By carefully choosing your channels, carrying a cohesive brand throughout, and authoring communications that complement one another, you’ll be well on your way to creating a holistic nonprofit marketing strategy. And, if you need help formulating that strategy or optimizing it using data, you can always work with a nonprofit consulting partner that has experience with nonprofit marketing, in particular. Good luck!


This blog is an original work of the attributed author and is shared with permission via Foundant Technologies' website for informative purposes only as part of our educational content in the philanthropic sector. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect Foundant's stance on this topic. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to our team.

About the Author

Carl Diesing co-founded DNL OmniMedia in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with ongoing web development projects. Together DNL OmniMedia has worked with over 100 organizations to assist them with accomplishing their online goals. As managing director of DNL OmniMedia, Carl works with nonprofits and their technology to foster fundraising, create awareness, cure disease, and solve social issues. Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their two children Charlie and Evelyn.

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