Bring Your Community into Your Marketing

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Nick Cholakis
Nick Cholakis




These days, the competition for audience attention is fierce, and nonprofits often don’t have the resources or time available to compete with 7 to 8 figure big-brand marketing budgets. Marketing teams at budget-conscious organizations have another asset that they can rely on— their creativity.

Instead of aiming to reach potential members or donors through expensive advertising, why not aim to partner with them and build an online community instead? After all, word of mouth is one of the most powerful, genuine, and authentic marketing channels. It’s also dramatically cost-effective: when audiences share your content and talk about your organization’s work, you’re getting free exposure.

But strong ‘word of mouth’ marketing campaigns don’t happen by accident. You need a careful strategy in place to ensure that you’re reaching the right audiences. Turn “I” to “you” in your marketing—Here are a few important steps to take:

Optimize Your SEO Around Causes

When audiences search for content around your cause, they’re typically seeking out information. But are they searching for your organization, specifically? Likely not. The reason?

The Internet has eradicated international borders. Somebody could stumble across your website from a completely different part of the world. Depending on your organization, you may be able to expand your member and donor base.

That’s why you’ll want to position your organization as an educator and authority with rich information to share. When they look up information related to causes, they’ll find your organization.

When you bring this audience to your website, make your community presence known--even if the ‘ask’ is as simple as mentioning that you’re on Twitter and that you have a Facebook page, you should take advantage of the opportunity: it’s important to establish a touchpoint, even a light one, with your target audience.

Build Trust with Bundled Content Offers

Money isn’t your target member’s most valuable asset: it’s time. And when audiences venture out to research causes and nonprofit organizations, they are really looking for a way to spend some of their time.

That’s why you need to put your full identity forward. But storytelling is hard, and videos are hard to produce. What should you do instead?

  • Start a blog that tells your brand’s story. Make part of that blog accessible via free membership (perhaps, any content after the fifth most recent article)
  • Create a few ebooks, maybe even out of that blog content that you created
  • Find out what topics to cover by researching the needs and pain points of your target audience

With bundled content, you can start to build nurturing campaigns as your research-oriented audience warms up to whether or not they want to spend their time with your organization. 

You can even remind your audience to share these bundled offers with their colleagues and friends. Your audiences will feel great because they are sharing valuable information. You’ll be happier because you’ve increased your audience base by +2 for every +1 that you reach.

Create Incentive-Worthy Emails

Having trouble generating sign-ups to your email list?

If so, you’re not alone. Most businesses in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors struggle with this pain point. That’s because an email list isn’t value proposition enough to generate sign-ups. Online audiences want more than just content in their inboxes. They’re looking for a strong enough value proposition.

One way that you can generate more sign-ups is to provide an incentive like free template, ebook, guide, or case study. Explain why that asset is valuable, and continue to engage your audience with interesting content through an email nurturing campaigns.

You’ll create a marketing engine that continues to build on itself, especially as your audience starts sharing and talking about these opportunities within their own communities.

Provide Reminders of Your Value

Continue to remind your members why they should be spending their time with you. Offer strong members-only benefits such as events, premium content, and even webinars. In your marketing copy, provide reminders of the value that you provide by encouraging members to participate in exclusive opportunities.

This messaging is especially important around renewal season. It’s important that the language and energy around your organization remain highly positive and upbeat.

Create a community worth joining. 

Getting Started

Not sure where to get started in terms of building your community and generating engagement? Put yourself in your members’ shoes, and start conducting some field research. Talk to them about their unmet needs and perception of your organization. Use that information to start developing content that addresses your members. Provide credit where it is due, and make it public that you rely on feedback from your community during your organization’s ideation processes.

Keep talking to your members to understand what’s important to them. Keep developing information to meet their unmet needs. Make it possible to engage in a dialogue within your community and between other members of your website. Your organization’s community will emerge naturally.

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