B2B Articles - March 31, 2017

How to Create a Successful Nonprofit Marketing Plan (In 8 Steps)

The pandemic radically changed how most nonprofits operate. In-person events haven’t picked up to their pre-pandemic levels, and digital marketing has become a more important channel for generating donations and support. A nonprofit marketing plan includes many moving pieces, and digital campaigns today require a very different approach. In fact, 49% percent of nonprofit marketers say that their digital engagement strategy has changed completely since the onset of the pandemic, and 48% say their marketing channel mix has completely changed.1

49% percent of nonprofit marketers say that their digital engagement strategy has changed completely since the onset of the pandemic.


This article will cover the eight steps you need to create a nonprofit digital marketing plan for 2022. 

More donations and stronger advocacy: Download "Digital Opportunities for Nonprofit Marketers" [Free eBook PDF]

Team building a rocketship together nonprofit marketing plan

1. Audit your online marketing and set goals

Looking at where you are and setting goals is the first step to creating a successful digital nonprofit marketing plant. Starting with an audit of the current state of your digital marketing will give you a clear picture of what you have to work with and help you set realistic goals for your new marketing plan.

Specifically, find out how many donors you currently have in your database, both recurring and on-time, who most of your donations are coming from, and what untapped sources of support and donations you may be underutilizing.

You should also review all of your current digital marketing efforts and what results they’ve delivered you so far. Knowing which marketing channels your biggest supporters are on and where they engage with your content meaningfully is indispensable when developing your marketing plan.

Once you’ve completed your audit, set some specific, outcome-driven goals for your digital marketing campaigns. Your goals should be tied directly to nonprofit growth objectives, and avoid vanity metrics that don’t indicate growth.

Some examples you might consider are "Reconvert 50 low-level, one-time donors into monthly donors" or "Convert 25 new one-time donors per month." The best goals are specific, measurable, and create measurable growth for your nonprofit.

Related Reading: Nonprofit Marketing KPIs — Metrics That Matter

2. Understand your key audience segments

Once you’ve identified your most engaged supporters, consider who you should target with your campaigns. Many nonprofits have different segments of donors and supporters, and understanding who your segments are is crucial. For example, nonprofits often have:

  • First-time donors
  • People likely to donate
  • Corporate donors
  • Previous high-level donors
  • Influencers (like celebrities)

You can further segment by factors like reasons for giving, gift size, which campaign they donated to, etc.

You’re encouraging different actions from these donor segments, so they should all receive personalized messaging. Segmenting your donors allows you to target different donors with messaging that is more likely to resonate with them and encourage interaction. Sixty-four percent of nonprofits use personalization in their emails, and personalized CTAs perform 202% better than generic CTAs.2 3

Related Reading: B2B Audience Segmentation: How to Get Started and Evaluate Your Strategy's Success

3. Create content for the donor lifecycle

Now that you have growth-driven goals and defined audience segments, you’re ready to start mapping content that will help you meet your goals for each segment and its donor lifecycle. To develop successful content, you need first to identify which questions, hesitations, and motivations engage that target segment and produce engaging content around them.

You need to understand what will mobilize your audience at each stage of their donor lifecycle. Generally, content should cover these three stages:

  • Awareness: Content should educate each segment on your nonprofit's overall mission, the cause you support, and its importance. This content is typically geared toward attracting new donors. For example, an infographic outlining the problem your nonprofit is seeking to address in statistics and figures.
  • Consideration: Content should introduce the nonprofit and its mission, members, and impact. For example, case studies demonstrating how the nonprofit has impacted your community.
  • Decision: Content that helps an individual decide where, when, and how much to donate. For example, a chart that shows the impact of various donation amounts.

The examples above should give you some idea of the detail and depth of information you should provide at each stage, but keep in mind that the audience for your nonprofit is unique. When planning content for each stage, start with data and dig into what has been successful in the past to make informed content decisions.

4. Use paid search to start generating traffic

Once you’ve developed content for each stage, paid search campaigns can help you start generating traffic and donors. While they are a more expensive option than generating organic traffic, they generate leads and data much faster than an organic campaign. 

Paid campaigns are also a great way to test keywords, ad copy, and audience segmentation to ensure that you target the right audience with the right messaging. This will help you develop a successful organic campaign that will continue generating leads down the line at a lower cost.

With paid search, you should start slowly — you don’t want to spend all of your budget on keywords that haven’t been tested and proven. Some nonprofits qualify for a $10,000 Google AdWords grant, so research if that applies to your company. 

5. Build landing pages for lead capture

Landing pages are a critical piece of any digital marketing strategy. Once you’ve begun generating traffic to your website, you need a conversion point to encourage website visitors to become donors. Instead of sending donors to your homepage or a more generic page, each campaign should direct donors to a landing page tailored to their segment and progress in the funnel. Landing pages also capture information that you can use to keep in touch with visitors who aren’t ready to donate yet or who might become recurring donors. 

It’s important to tailor forms to the donor’s place in the funnel and only ask for the information you need to collect. Asking for too much information or information that seems unnecessary to donors can keep them from completing and submitting the form. Forms should also always be mobile-friendly to ensure that donors can convert whether they’re on a computer, tablet, or cell phone.

Related Reading: How To Build a Landing Page Form That Actually Converts

6. Begin building an organic traffic strategy

Next, you'll want to set up an organic search presence. Organic traffic is a longer-term strategy that requires a sustained effort over a long period of time.

The most common way to earn steady organic traffic is by blogging regularly. Nonprofits can write blog posts about their work, the issues they’re tackling, the community they serve, and their accomplishments. Build your blogging strategy on the keywords you’ve found to be most effective through your paid search campaigns.

Most importantly, every blog post should include calls-to-action (CTAs). CTAs can be images, buttons, or text links and should link directly to your content landing pages or newsletter subscriptions. Using CTAs and directing visitors to conversion points helps you transform your blog into a lead generation tool.

Finally, regular blogging can be a great way to generate posts for social media. Post links to your blog content and develop engaging graphics, images, or videos to go along with them on social media. Social media is an excellent channel for nonprofits to connect with their donor base and interact with community members to drive traffic.

Related Reading: Is Blogging Good for Your Organization?

7. Begin an email marketing drip campaign

Once you've begun converting visitors into leads, you should use those leads to their full potential by encouraging them to become donors or repeat donors. Email marketing is a solid strategy for keeping new or one-time donors engaged and encouraging them to continue supporting your organization.

Sixty-nine percent of nonprofits worldwide regularly publish an email newsletter, but you’ll struggle to engage donors meaningfully without a data-driven strategy.2 One approach is to create drip campaigns that you send to each of your segments. For example, you could set up a 3-part email campaign for first-time donors, encouraging them to become recurring donors with welcome emails, heartwarming stories, and valuable CTAs.

69% of nonprofits worldwide regularly publish an email newsletter.

-Nonprofit Tech for Good

With segmented drip campaigns, you gain more data than from sending one-off, random emails. Moreover, you can analyze open rates, clicks, and CTA conversions over time with a bigger sample size. Then, you can iterate and improve your campaigns.

8. Analyze and scale

The final pieces of a successful digital marketing campaign are analysis, improvement, and scaling. Digital marketing is such a great tool for nonprofits because it allows them to analyze their efforts, focus their limited resources on the best channels for generating donors, and scale their efforts across those successful channels. Refocusing your time and budget on channels with the best conversion rates will help you improve marketing ROI and generate the most donors and support for your nonprofit.

Monitoring your campaigns also allows you to improve them over time. When you understand which channels convert the most donors and what messaging works for each of those channels, you can continually test improvements to your strategy and messaging to improve conversion rates over time.

Data-driven marketing makes continual improvement possible and allows nonprofits to truly understand how they can use the best marketing for their organization and connect with the people who want to support them.

Related Reading: Marketing Math for Beginners: How to Calculate and Improve Key Marketing Metrics

Nonprofit marketing plan: In conclusion

This 8-step nonprofit marketing plan covers the bare bones of a digital strategy. Once you have the critical parts of your strategy in place, you can start implementing strategies like search engine optimization, paid social media, and marketing automation with confidence and an understanding of how to ensure you’re using these channels to their full potential (and when to scale back if they’re not performing).

This nonprofit marketing plan will set you up with a framework to attract, engage, and reconvert donors. As you continue segmenting your audience, sending more relevant content, and tracking the data, you can scale up that framework for success.


1Salesforce, State of Nonprofit Marketing Report, 2021

2Nonprofit Tech for Good, [DATA] 11 Must-Know Stats About How Nonprofits Use Email for Digital Marketing and Fundraising, June 1, 2021

3HubSpot, Personalized Calls to Action Perform 202% Better Than Basic CTAs [New Data], May 6, 2022

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