How to Develop a Marketing Plan for a Non-profit Organization

Hello and welcome! This guide will provide you with a template for discovering answers to some important questions about your target audience and the marketing plan. You will also learn why non-profit organizations rely on donations and how to go about getting those donations and continuing to receive them on a regular basis. We are excited to partner with you to produce an exceptional marketing plan!

Here is an informative marketing plan template that non-profit organizations can use to start marketing. We have created this to help people who are just getting started with creating marketing plans or creating marketing plans for non-profit organization.

What is a Nonprofit Marketing Plan?

A nonprofit marketing plan is simply a document that outlines the activities needed to execute any type of campaign. 

This document should be made available to everyone in the organization, so they can refer to the main goals of the campaign in case they need to adjust activities.

Most nonprofits begin outlining their marketing plans and assigning roles with their Board (if Board involvement is needed or required) at the beginning of the new fiscal year, but they can also be developed on a project-by-project basis throughout the year. 

Steps to Create a Nonprofit Marketing Plan

Figure Out What’s Working – And What’s Not 

Before developing your new marketing plan, it’s always a good idea to take a look back at what’s worked, or not worked, for your organization in the past. 

Take some time to review your past marketing activities and campaigns, whether or not they were guided by a formal plan. Ask yourself questions like: 

  • What were we hoping to achieve with this strategy or campaign? 
  • Did we achieve our goals and objectives? 
  • What was most successful about this strategy or campaign? 
  • What didn’t work as well as we’d hoped or expected? 
  • What can we learn from the outcomes of this strategy or campaign? 
  • What should we do differently next time or what can we test to see if a different approach would be more effective?
  • Can any of the assets (photography, written content, video content) be reused for future strategies or campaigns? 

Once you have a clear sense of where you’ve gone right or wrong, you’ll be able to use that knowledge to inform your next strategy. 

Pick the Best Goal for Your Organization

One small foundation I worked with was marketing their organization everywhere (Facebook, email, events, etc.), but getting little return for their efforts.

As I quickly discovered, the problem was that they were trying to accomplish multiple goals — increase donations, boost community engagement, raise awareness, etc. — all at once.

With such a small team, they were spreading themselves thin and bombarding their target audience with every type of ask.

From my experience, the nonprofit teams that focus on one primary goal at a time see the most success. As soon as I helped the foundation focus on one goal with their marketing campaigns (increasing donations), they started seeing better results.

If you need help deciding on a primary goal, here are the four most common nonprofit marketing goals I’ve seen:

  • Acquire new donors or members
  • Deepen community engagement 
  • Raise awareness
  • Become a thought leader and go-to resource on an issue

Make sure your nonprofit marketing goal is tied directly to your organizational growth objectives. We all want to raise awareness of our organization and the work that we do, but what will this “raised awareness” get our organization at the end of the day? What do we hope to accomplish? 

Small nonprofits typically see the best results when they select one priority goal per quarter. Larger organizations with a marketing department of more than one person may be able to focus on two goals. 

Since nonprofit organizational priorities are always changing and shifting, I recommend reviewing your nonprofit marketing plan every quarter (three months). This may not mean creating a new one from scratch, but rather examining the plan to see where it can be tweaked and analyzing your progress.   

SMART Objectives: The Best Way to Achieve Amazing Results 

Two years ago a friend of mine decided to participate in a charity run.

She showed up in a jogging outfit and dragged her way to the finish line. She came in dead last.

Last year she signed up again, but this time she was determined to come in first place. She began practicing four months before the event. She tracked her times, began eating better, and even hired a trainer. 

On the day of the race, she pushed herself harder than before and finished in the top 10% of all runners — something she never thought she could do.

The only thing that drove my friend to reach such an amazing result was refining her objective: simply participating in the race vs. aspiring to come in first.

In the same way, nonprofits who refine their marketing plan objectives are able to accomplish their goals to a greater degree. 

The best way I’ve seen nonprofits refine their objectives is by using something called the SMART objective framework. SMART stands for:

  • Specific: Choose an objective with one key result.
  • Measurable: Ensure you have the tools available to measure your progress along the way.
  • Achievable (but Ambitious): Given your current reality (time, money, expertise, help, etc.), choose something you know you can set out to do, but will also push you to learn more.
  • Relevant: Good objectives increase the success of the organization. Increasing donations may be more tied to your organization’s overall objectives, while simply increasing Twitter followers may not.
  • Time-based: Create a realistic deadline you want to achieve this by.

For example, if your primary marketing goal is “raising awareness,” then some sample SMART objectives could be:

  • 50% increase in blog traffic by March.
  • 25% increase in social media shares by July.  
  • 10% increase in Facebook post reach by October. 
  • 3,000 video views on YouTube by January. 

Once you’ve refined your SMART objectives, they will drive you to do the activities that will lead to their success.

All nonprofits are different and will have different SMART objectives to match their primary goals. To find the numbers that are right for your nonprofit, you will need to look at the marketing benchmarks that already exist, or estimate to the best of your ability. 

Set Measurable Goals

You won’t know whether your nonprofit marketing is effective unless you know what you’re trying to achieve. Having measurable goals gives you a way to evaluate what is working and what needs to change.

The goals you set should make sense for your organization and mission and may include:

  • Donations or revenue
  • Email list sign-ups
  • Donor/member retention
  • New donors/members
  • Yearly initiatives you want to achieve
  • The number of people you can help, events you can hold, or any other service your nonprofit provides

Once you set your goals, strategize with your team to determine how you’ll measure progress toward reaching them.

 Create Marketing Materials

Do you mail brochures or postcards? Send thank-you notes to donors? Are you likely to make appearances or have an information table at events? Do your staff members use business cards?

Any time you interact with the public, your nonprofit needs marketing materials. These materials should be branded for your organization and include information that showcases the accomplishments, services, and values of your organization, along with information about how to get involved or where to donate.

Larger nonprofits may have an in-house art department to put these marketing materials together. If your organization is smaller, look for a local graphic design shop. For nonprofits on a tight budget, you may get a better price from a freelancer who doesn’t have the same overhead and staffing costs of a design firm.

Define Your Channels


Which communication channels do you use and how often?
 Organizational website
 Social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on)
 Paid advertising (Google AdWords, print or online banner ads)
 Unpaid placements (PSAs)
 Communications (newsletter, e-newsletter, direct mail)
 Special events
 Brochures
 Annual report

Conclusion

A marketing plan, otherwise referred to as a strategic marketing plan, provides your nonprofit organization with goals, objectives that are practical and attainable, an outline of proposed strategies to achieve the goals and the budget necessary to achieve them.

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