Digital Marketing for Nonprofits: Definitive Guide [2023]


In this guide to digital marketing for nonprofits and charities, we will cover some basics that should help you jump-start your digital marketing and help you build a digital marketing plan for your charity. 

This guide covers: 

What is digital marketing?

Firstly let’s define what we mean when we say digital marketing. 

Digital marketing is any marketing activity that takes place in the digital realm. This could include marketing on a website, social media, search engines, or online videos. In 2022 most marketing will have some sort of digital touchpoint. 

Now let’s look at some key concepts that will help you get started with digital marketing for your nonprofit. 

Defining your nonprofit digital marketing goals

It’s important to define your marketing goals; what are you hoping to achieve through digital marketing? 

Your goals will depend on your organisation. For many nonprofits, goals may be tied to fundraising targets. But you may also have others, such as having volunteers sign up, making sales of products or getting more clients. 

Whatever your organisation’s goals are, you should define them as SMART goals. 

A SMART goal is a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goal.

Here are some examples of SMART goals that may be relevant to a nonprofit organisation:

  • Increase the number of donors by 10% within the next year. 
  • Secure 50 new corporate sponsors within the next year.
  • Have 5 skilled volunteers sign up within the next 6 months.

Make sure you write down your goals so you can use them later to measure your success.

Finding your nonprofits target audience

Now that your goals are defined, you can think about who you need to target with your digital marketing to reach these goals.

A useful exercise to get inside your audience’s head is to create a set of personas.

What is a persona? 

Creating personas is a marketing exercise where you describe your ideal donor, supporter or client. Creating personas can help you better understand your target audiences and figure out how to market to them more effectively.

Personas are given specific details, including names, ages, where they live, and interests.

Here are some examples:

Sue, 65 y.o. Female. She lives in Melbourne’s inner North. 

Motivation: She has a strong personal connection to the charity’s mission and is motivated by the prospect of making a difference in the lives of others.

She is likely to be generous with her time and money and may be actively involved in fundraising or volunteering for the organisation.

Joel, 28 y.o. Male. University educated. Lives in Hobart. 

Motivation: To learn more about environmental issues and how he can help make a difference. To find an environmental charity that he can trust and support

Once you have created personas for your ideal audiences, you can keep them in mind when thinking about the best digital channels to reach them and the messages they might respond to.

You should create a persona for any group of people who are essential to meeting your marketing goals.

Understand the marketing funnel for nonprofits

Another important concept to get your head around is the marketing funnel.

For businesses, a marketing funnel is a journey that potential customers take as they move from awareness of a product or service to purchase. It’s called a “funnel” because of the decreasing number of people who make it to each stage of the journey.

The concept is the same when undertaking digital marketing for your nonprofits or charity. Potential donors, supporters or clients take a journey from when they become aware of your nonprofit to when they donate, become a volunteer, or otherwise engage with your nonprofit in a way that meets your goals.

At its most simple, a marketing funnel has 3 sections:

Top of funnel (TOFU)

The top of the funnel is where your audience is first exposed to your brand. It’s at the top of the funnel because it’s the earliest stage in their journey, and it’s where you need to generate interest in your organisation.  

Top-of-funnel activities could include content marketing, social media marketing, or optimising your website for generic searches related to the area your charity works in. These activities are designed to reach new audiences and introduce them to your organisation.

Middle of funnel (MOFU)

The middle of the funnel is the stage where your audience is starting to engage with your organisation. They may have become aware of your organisation through top-of-funnel activities, and now they’re interested in learning more about how they could get involved or become clients or customers. 

Middle-of-funnel activities include lead generation, collecting people’s contact details, and sending them a series of welcome emails. These activities are designed to build relationships and trust between you are your audience. 

Bottom of funnel (BOFU)

The bottom of the funnel (BOFU) is when your audience is finally ready to donate, volunteer or pay for your services. They’ve progressed through your marketing funnel, and they now know who you are and understand the impact of your work.

Some bottom-of-funnel activities include email marketing campaigns with donations asks or Facebook ads signing people up to fundraise. 

Your bottom-of-funnel activities should be the final step to achieving the goals that you have defined for your marketing.

Choosing effective digital channels and activities

Now that you have your SMART goals defined, the target audience in mind (your personas) and an understanding of the marketing funnel, it is time to think about what channel and activities you will use for your marketing. 

It might be tempting to focus all your efforts on bottom-of-funnel activities. And if this is the first time you focus on your marketing, there may be some quick ways to achieve results.

However, you should undertake activities for each stage of the funnel; otherwise, you may start as your audience will stop moving down the funnel, and you won’t have new people to deliver your MoFu and BoFu marketing to.  

Start by brainstorming a bunch of ideas of digital marketing ideas. Keep your audience personas in front of mind. Where do they hang out online? How do they find information online? 

At this point, there are no bad ideas just think of all the ways you might be able to reach your target audience at each stage of the funnel. 

Then it is time to assess your ideas and decide which activities to undertake. Be sure to consider the financial cost, the time it will take to deliver them, and the expected results. 

There is no reason you need to reinvent the wheel; if your audience spends time on Facebook and uses Google to find information focusing on those channels is probably a great idea.

Create a measurement plan for your nonprofit.

You should measure the success of any digital marketing activities you undertake for your nonprofit. One of the significant strengths of digital marketing is its measurability. 

Create a measurement plan to outline how you will measure your results. It may sound scary, but a measurement plan is just a document that outlines how your organisation will track and measure the success of its marketing campaigns; it can be simple. 

The plan should include your goals and metrics that indicate people might be heading towards completing those goals.

You may want to include metrics for each phase of the funnel 

Here are some examples of metrics you could track for each stage of the funnel:

  • ToFu metrics: social reach, organic traffic from generic terms
  • MoFu metrics: returned website visitors, leads generated, social engagement
  • BoFu metrics: number of donations, the average value of gifts, application submissions 

Still need help?

As you have probably figured out, digital marketing for nonprofits is a big topic, and this blog post couldn’t possibly cover it all. But hopefully, it has pointed you in the right direction to start your marketing journey. 

Sometimes making the most of your limited time and resource means outsourcing some of your marketing to skilled professionals like us. Get in touch if this is something you’d like to find out more about. 

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