The 13 Requirements for Nonprofit Marketing Greatness

by Cameron Ripley  |   |  Strategy  |  0 comments

8 min to read ✭ In this post, you'll learn about our CEO's top 13 requirements for great nonprofit marketing in 2021.

These 13 requirements of nonprofit marketing greatness are both inspired and sourced by working closely with tremendous marketing teams, as well as teams that are still figuring out the full way that they can operate and how they can improve. These 13 requirements are what separates good marketing teams from great ones. The framework used to create these was inspired by Tim Grover, personal trainer of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and owner of the 13 Principles of Winning. In his principles, he noted there are 13 because winning isn’t luck.


So today, as we dive into these 13 requirements of nonprofit marketing greatness, it’s important to note that there are 13 because marketing isn’t luck either. Marketing is hard work. It’s a commitment, it’s a mindset. It takes grit. We’ve witnessed these 13 requirements time and time again and they’re all ranked number one because they’re all of equal importance. They’re all critical. So without further ado, let’s get into the 13 requirements of Nonprofit Marketing Greatness.


Marketing Greatness Requires…


1. A True Passion for Marketing and Obsession with Studying User Behavior

Marketing greatness requires a true passion for marketing and an obsession with studying user behavior. Listen, this sounds really obvious, right? But you’d be surprised in practice what happens to a lot of organizations. One of the top things you can do to improve your organization’s marketing is to make sure whoever’s leading marketing has a genuine excitement and passion for marketing. It needs to not feel like work. They need to ultimately be excited and obsess on questions like “Where’s your target audience spending their time” and “how do we win their attention?”


2. Mastering How to Learn on Your Own

Our world is by far digital-first, right? According to Blackbaud, overall giving grew 2% in 2020 and online giving grew 21% in 2020. The speed of technology and digital marketing is ever accelerating, and marketing greatness requires being able to learn and teach yourself on your own. If you or your team can’t master how to learn on your own, you are a liability. And that is an issue.


3. Taking Risks and Being Bold

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that taking risks and being bold in your marketing can generate huge wins. Most of us really do get this principle, but if we’re being true to ourselves, do we actually really consistently live into this and take consistent bold risks? For a lot of us, it took a big event like a pandemic to make some big bets like launching a virtual fundraiser or having a hybrid event. We’ve had so many partners that did that and generated more revenue and more supporters from a wider audience than they ever had. So we need to take risks, we need to be bold and we have to continue to push the envelope on creativity. As marketers, we have to have true conviction with our ideas.


4. Creating a Clear Strategy & Digital Marketing Plan

Now, this one sounds so simple, right? According to Tech Soups Nonprofit Digital Marketing Benchmark Report, over 64% of nonprofits reported that they don’t have a formal digital marketing plan. That’s crazy to me because, without a clear strategy and a vision, there’s no direction. Why are you marketing? What are you marketing? Who is your target audience? What are your objectives? How are you measuring your goals? What’s your strategy to attract, convert and retain supporters digitally? You have to be able to lay it out for the team, and we have to be able to understand it. We need our whole organization to be able to articulate it because great marketing takes focus and great consistency, and we need direction.


5. Building a Fast-Moving Agile Team, Which Ultimately Requires Trust

While having a plan is critical, being agile is equally important in 2021. Paralysis by analysis is the death of most marketing teams today. You have to prioritize speed and volume over perfection in today’s digital world. No one truly remembers what you posted yesterday, I promise. So your team needs to be agile, adaptable, and super fast. Building an agile team is way easier said than done because ultimately it requires trust between not just your marketing team, but between marketing and leadership. If you’re on a board or you are part of a leadership team in an organization, I highly encourage you to not micromanage your marketing team and to build trust with them.


6. Becoming a Fantastic Storyteller

As nonprofit marketers we must, as Jay Acunza says so well- Create those things where human protagonists relate to us, where the stakes in conflict grip us, and where the emotions move us. Practice simple things, glorious things, things that are often forgotten, but are so desperately needed. There’s no hidden or corporate meaning behind the word story. We know what they are, and we need to start telling them. And that’s just so true as nonprofit marketers. Great nonprofit marketing requires telling stories that touch, move, and inspire people. Our stories must have the three T’s- They have to be tangible, they need to be transparent, and they have to encourage people to take action. Video is king in today’s nonprofit marketing world, and it’s such a critical part of storytelling. According to a Google survey, 57% of people who watch a video for a nonprofit, go on to make a donation. Without great stories, we have nothing to market, and we have to be fantastic storytellers.


7. Accurate Conversion Measurement & Effective Goal Setting

Peter Druckerly famously said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” and I love this quote. It’s incredibly applicable when it comes to great nonprofit marketing. That’s what’s so beautiful about digital marketing, right? We can have so much valuable data right at our fingertips that allows us to improve our campaigns efforts. We can only improve our efforts if, and only if, we set up proper analytics conversion tracking. Doing so is often what a lot of organizations might miss the mark on, but if we set clear conversion goals and we really learn how to understand the analytics, it will allow us to optimize our campaigns. Again, this is critical for nonprofit marketing greatness today.


8. A Seamless User Experience Which Requires Great Tech

The demand from internet users today is like never before. We want our web pages to load instantly, our forms have to be easy, and everything has to be built mobile-first. You can run the best marketing campaign ever, but if it has a poor user experience, it’s never going to convert, and it’s not going to have a positive ROI. Nonprofit marketing greatness in 2021 isn’t possible without investing in some great technology that improves the user experience. The good news is there are a ton of great affordable solutions and platforms that can both save your team time and make the donor experience that much better. Having the lowest payment fees and using a poor platform is not the solution, right? Your finance team shouldn’t be dictating the user experience. It should be your marketing team.


9. Personalized Experiences

With great technology as nonprofit marketers, we can fully personalize the digital experience for our supporters like never before. Personalization is not about using a first name merge tag in our emails, it’s about thinking about our different audience segments and creating a true workflow of how we want to communicate and personalize the experience. It allows us to take our stewardship to the next level and it definitely increases conversion rates. It’s becoming something that users are demanding and it can make you really stand out from other organizations.


10. Hiring Diverse Teams That Represent The Community You Are Looking to Engage

The organizations that invest in building teams that are diverse and represent the communities they’re looking to support and engage with will without a doubt outperform the organizations that don’t. This is because great marketing is authentic, and great marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. It takes being connected tightly to culture to do great marketing. Marketing greatness takes being self-aware and knowing how your organization can source a team that reflects the community you’re looking to engage.


11. Building Community by Providing Value

Building an online community for most nonprofits used to be a “nice” to do, and it’s quickly becoming a “must” to do. The world of performance ad channels and creative targeting optimizations to acquire supporters are shifting very rapidly as privacy concerns increase and we have different tracking issues. You could make the argument that a strong community that’s engaged could be the greatest tool your organization has when it comes to the online front. Whether the community is on Discord, Facebook groups, or Slack, a community with quality social content, that is working with creators, crushing email, and executing well on organic social and SEO could be your future secret weapon. Marketing greatness requires building community, which only happens if we’re providing true value and we’re sparking actual conversation. And that’s critical. Right?


12. Marketing Where Your Audience’s Attention is Actually At

Great marketers realize that attention is the currency. It’s not about impressions, it’s about actual engagement and marketing where their attention is actually at. Where does your audience spend the most time? That’s where we need to be. The smartphone has become the remote control of our lives. We check it right when we wake up, when we’re going to the bathroom, on a commercial break, and even during the whole show. We are constantly curating content and sending it to our friends and family, all day long. 20% of smartphone users spend more than four and a half hours per weekday on their phones. Most people are checking their phones over 60 times a day now. When people are on their mobile device, they’re often on Google, social media like Facebook and Instagram, checking their email, or watching YouTube. We have to market in these channels! Think about where your specific audience is spending their time? That’s where we need to invest our marketing efforts. For example, say you’re trying to target gen Z,  a younger generation. Well, Tik Tok has been downloaded 2 billion times and it’s where Gen Z spends their time. Knowing this, we need to really think about how we’re actually going to be relevant in those specific channels.


13. Inspiring Hope

Great nonprofit marketing has to touch, move and inspire our supporters. Hope is what today’s supporters desire at scale. Hope drives followership. Hope shows resilience in our mission. Hope builds social connections. And nonprofit marketing greatness requires inspiring hope.

Cameron Ripley

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