Using Engagement to Drive Donors to Smaller Nonprofits

Guest Post by Ian Adair

A marketing plan can mean a lot more to a small nonprofit than just creating awareness for their mission- it can be the mechanism that drives potential funders to your doors. Small nonprofits are struggling to create effective marketing and social media campaigns that encourage individual donors and corporate giving. Too many groups are recreating the same generic information in their electronic media that can be found inside organizational print materials. By making social media and electronic communication more personal you have a better chance of reaching your stakeholders and new donors on a more meaningful level.

Potential investors in nonprofit programs and services usually make their decision concerning giving using one of four ways (all are connected to marketing):

  1. Read reviews about what donors, clients, or volunteers are saying about the organization (examples: Charity Navigator, GuideStar, or Great Non-Profits)
  2. Visit the individual nonprofit’s website
  3. Talk with family and friends
  4. Visit the nonprofit in person (facility tour or participate in a volunteer activity)

Small nonprofits have a personal feel to them and need to capitalize on this quality to build relationships with key stakeholders. Effective marketing can position smaller organizations in a way that differentiates them from comparable groups providing similar services. Determining your organization’s key messages and getting them out to the public will eventually help you to determine your target audience (based on initial response and community engagement). For marketing and social media campaigns to be successful the components of the plan should take the following into consideration.

Four rules to guide your message:

  1. Give your organization a face. Consumers and donors need to see and become comfortable with and someone who they will know is accountable to the organization but for their money as well.
  2. Use short video clips to speak to your audience as a friend. Use casual language and speak with passion and excitement. Rally people around your vision, you need to remind them of your message and reinforce what you are trying to achieve.
  3. Build trust by being open and honest. Transparency is the key to winning people over. Be sure to create dialogue around your message so that people hear it and understand it.
  4. Put out a call to action. Ask for help in making your vision a reality. Be specific about what you want people to do and why.

An effective marketing and social media plan creates a dialogue with your customers and excites emotion in your donors, thus establishing your brand. Being a good fundraiser is about a willingness to work well with others and hear what it is they are trying to say about your organization. Creating a marketing plan should incorporate this feedback, while at the same time show a genuine concern for the people you are serving and not just a need to cultivate funding. People will always advocate for organizations they care about, this kind of relationship can only come from a community that has been effectively engaged.

Ian Adair is a non-profit professional and the Chief Engagement Officer of, where he helps non-profits become more effective and efficient in their marketing and social media efforts. You can also find him on Twitter at @IanMAdair

Photo Credit: JeanineAnderson