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Fewer Than 50 Percent of Nonprofits Have a Digital Marketing Strategy

Small nonprofits might have the opportunity to be nimble and quick in their operations, but one wouldn’t know it by looking at their digital operations. According to a new study based largely on organizations with fewer than 100 employees, many are missing opportunities to spread their message online.

Fewer than half of responding nonprofit managers reported having a codified digital marketing strategy, according to data from digital marketing and technology agency Tapp Network in Wilmington, Del., and San Francisco-based civil society organization consultancy TechSoup. Most managers are conservative when it comes to advertising on the web: Only 23 percent use paid ads, and of those, four out of five spend less than $500 per month on paid advertising.

A good primer in digital advertising might demonstrate the value of online marketing for nonprofits. While most respondents claimed they don’t have the budget for paid advertising campaigns, a healthy chunk said they didn’t know how to generate online ads. A small sliver—6 percent—had tried online advertising but said their efforts had been unsuccessful.

Facebook reigns supreme among those nonprofits using paid online advertising, with 73 percent relying on that platform. Another 30 percent use Google Search Ads.

Given their limited budgets, nonprofits would be likely candidates to explore earned media—exposure based on the value of the content they provide. It’s a wonder, then, that more don’t blog: 68 percent report not hosting their own outlet. Another quarter blog, but only once or twice a month. Fewer than 2 percent blog more than five times a month.

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Social media platform use will vary from organization to organization. Those with a more professional bent might prefer to stick to LinkedIn, while those that are visually oriented will likely find the most welcome home in Instagram. Overall, most (97 percent) have at least some presence on Facebook, followed by Twitter (55 percent), Instagram (45 percent), and LinkedIn (37 percent).

Nonprofits are on Facebook, but are they using the platform to its fullest extent? Signs point to no. Only 41 percent are taking advantage of Facebook Fundraising—surprising, given that 57 percent of those using this feature rate it as either somewhat or extremely successful.

Seven of 10 respondents do not have a coherent email marketing strategy, one that involves systematic communication. Of those that do, many are not segmenting their outreach based on the content of their emails. More than four in 10 do not have the ability to parse out their emails based on relevance, and 8 percent don’t even understand the value of segmenting.

Both email marketing and social media platforms offer automation features, which can take a lot of the grunt work out of using these tools. More than seven in 10 do not use any email automation, and six in 10 do not automate their social media messaging.

There is one area in which nonprofits are examining their electronic marketing activities: A healthy chunk are taking a look at their websites, with 43 percent planning a website relaunch within the next year. The COVID-19 crisis may have forced their hand in this: the new or reformatted site may be necessary to reflect operational changes wrought by the pandemic.

Total relaunches aside, nonprofits refresh the content on their websites at different rates. More than one-third (34 percent) update their sites quarterly, with another 15 percent doing so monthly. Just fewer than one-quarter (24 percent) provide freshened content weekly, with 37 percent taking a passive approach, refreshing content only when informed it is out of date.

The quickest way to refresh a site is to update posted information through a content management system. Fortunately, 69 percent of respondents use a platform that incorporates such a system.

TechSoup and Tapp Network based their findings on a survey of 267 nonprofit responses collected between April 1 and July 1, 2020, and might not reflect the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

This article originally ran in The NonProfit Times. It is reprinted with permission.

The NonProfit Times

Our flagship publication, celebrating 31 years, reaches more than 36,000 executives of the nonprofit community in print and digital format, ranging from C-Suite executives to directors of fundraising, marketing, social media, and human resources departments to accounting and other financial management decision-makers. Nonprofit sector influencers on all levels turn to The NPT for news, information, and insight that consistently helps them achieve their professional goals.


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