Marketing for Nonprofit Organisations: a Fundraiser's Guide

December 2, 2020 Blackbaud Admin

It’s no secret.

As a nonprofit, digital marketing is an essential component in your strategy for recruiting new donors and supporters for your cause, getting them to come to your events, and encouraging them to spread your message; it’s all about communicating to your audience at the right time and place. But if you’re new to the realm of digital marketing, mastering the vast range of online nonprofit marketing tactics can feel overwhelming.

This ebook will be your ultimate guide to starting your nonprofit marketing plan and how to incorporate digital marketing, applied to the specificities of the nonprofit sector. With key insights on a range of topics including SEO marketing, social media, and email marketing, you will learn how to build stronger nonprofit marketing strategies for your nonprofit, improve supporter retention, and boost engagement for your cause.

Leveraging Google Tools

Marketing your nonprofit can be complex, so let’s start with the basics.

Search Engine Optimisation (otherwise known as SEO) refers to the processes through which you improve your website’s page ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). In other words, it’s how you make sure that, when people type in “Sydney virtual fundraising event” into Google, your event appears on the first few pages of search results and isn’t buried somewhere in the depths of page 39.

It’s an especially valuable exercise for a nonprofit or charity operating on a tight budget because optimising your website won’t cost you a cent. While there are specialist marketing agencies (even those dedicated to nonprofits) out there who will do it for you, improving your organic search rankings is something which can be done in-house, provided you’re willing to give up a little time and effort.

What’s the difference between SEO and SEM?

SEO is part of the broader practice of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which uses a combination of paid and unpaid methods to increase your brand’s visibility on the search engine results page and drive traffic to your site.

Even though SEM will typically generate more immediate results, SEO is more of a long-term investment in building the reputation of your site.

This is something every nonprofit should implement as part of an effective marketing strategy. It takes time and you won’t see results overnight, but if you’re consistent, the benefits will be a significant makeup of your nonprofit marketing plan.

There’s a little term you may have already heard of, called the “Google algorithm”.

This is the process through which Google indexes web pages on the internet and reports on the value of each page, so that people can view the most relevant results.

To improve your Google search ranking, you need to be able to demonstrate to the search engine algorithms that the content on your site is relevant, credible, and authoritative.

These are the first things you should look at when optimising your website:

High-quality content marketing

If you’re regularly publishing great content, your user engagement metrics should be high. This is a key indicator of ‘relevance’ for Google.


Are your visitors sharing your content elsewhere on the internet? If so, then that’s another tick in the box. Shared content indicates credibility and authority on a subject.

Content clustering

Publishing content that shares similar themes is also important. This is how you demonstrate your authority around a specific topic.

Technical onsite elements

A well-structured, well-maintained site is critical for good SEO. While the above are all good indicators that your site will provide users with a good experience, technical elements are also part of the equation.

If this is all starting to sound a little too technical for your skillset, talk to your web developers about it or sign up to Google’s free Search Console service. It’s designed to help you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results and is ideal for helping beginners wrap their heads around what is admittedly a pretty complicated topic.

Four fast tips to get your SEO on point

Now you’ve got to grips with how the world of SEO works, here are a few useful pointers to apply to your SEO strategy.

  • Original content is king. By now it should be pretty clear that great content is one of the fundamentals of SEO – but there’s a catch. Your content needs to be original. Don’t waste time republishing other people’s content (albeit with a few words tweaked here and there). The Google algorithm favours fresh, unique content over repurposed stuff every time.
  • Be consistent. There’s no point publishing a flurry of great content and then doing nothing for the next three months. Publishing consistently is essential to staying in the algorithm’s good graces. Make sure you keep your blog, news and events sections current.
  • Don’t stuff keywords into your content. If you think including the phrase “Australian children’s charity” as many times as possible on your page is the secret to improving your site’s search rankings, you couldn’t be more wrong. This practice actually damages your search ranking as it doesn’t provide a good experience for readers. Be subtle and strategic with your keyword usage – include them in your headers for example, and where they naturally fit.
  • Use internal links. When your content links to another page within your site, you’re showing search engines that your content has value. An added bonus is that it also encourages visitors to stay on your site by clicking through to other relevant pages. Inbound links (where an external site links to yours) are even more valuable: ask your partners, sponsors, supporters, volunteers, and the media to include links to your website wherever possible and relevant.

The basics of paid advertising

In the world of marketing, paid advertising is the catch-all term used to describe any ads placed in an online environment. Outside of paid social, digital advertising typically falls into two categories: search and display. Google offers products for both and, happily for charities, you don’t always need to have big advertising budgets, a large marketing team or a media buying agency to spread the word. You can plan a search or display advertising campaign of your own.

The difference between search and display. Search refers to ads that are served to users on a search engine results page. They appear as text ads alongside organic search results and are triggered when the user types in certain search queries which relate to the keywords you’re targeting as part of your advertising and nonprofit marketing strategy. Search ads are highly targeted and designed to deliver your message to the right person at the right time.

Display ads, on the other hand, are the image-led ads we see when we’re browsing other websites. Display ads are available in many formats, including video and GIFs, display ads and skyscrapers.

Through display, you can serve ads to people on sites related to keywords you select or serve them to people based on their interests. Where search is ideal for converting leads and putting your message in front of a primed audience, display is more effective at building brand awareness and reaching a much bigger pool of potential supporters.

One of the smartest uses of display advertising is a tactic known as remarketing, which allows you to create an audience from people who visit your website, then serve your ad to them when they visit other sites on Google’s display network.

Many advertisers choose to run a combination of content marketing, email, display and search to both keep their brand front-of-mind and ensure they feature prominently at the point of conversion.

The difference between cost-per-click and cost-per-impression

Digital marketers love a good acronym. Two you’ll hear a lot if you choose to delve into paid advertising are CPC (cost-per-click) and CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions). You can select how you prefer to pay, but most search ads are sold on a CPC basis. This means that you only pay when a potential donor or supporter clicks on your ad – which makes it ideal for nonprofits on tight budgets who need to keep a close watch on their spending.

Display ads are generally sold on either a CPC or a CPM pricing model, where the advertiser pays every time the ad is viewed. Which format you choose depends on your goals and your budget. If your ad is going to appear across a number of sites and rack up a lot of impressions, CPC means it can be seen by a large number of people without costing you too much. (The same logic can be applied to search). On the flipside, if you’re expecting a big click-through rate, it might make more sense to stick with CPM.

Setting up a paid advertising campaign

Once you’ve decided on the pricing model that suits you, it’s time to set up your campaign. Google Ads Help is a great place to start as it contains step-by-step walkthroughs to get you up and running. But first, here’s some more info you’ll need to have a handle on before you start.

  • Know your audience. It’s critical to have a good understanding of who your audience is, along with their online habits. What websites do they like to visit? What are their interests? Where in Australia do they live? What’s their age and gender? This is a perfect chance to share your stories with more people, but you need to make sure you're reaching the right ones.
  • Identify your keywords. What are the keywords your audience most commonly type into Google when they’re searching for an organisation or cause like yours? Are there any other specific keywords related to your organisation? What’s the search volume of these terms? How much is a click on average? You can use Google’s Keyword Planner for this, provided you have set up a Google Ads account.
  • Know how much you’re prepared to spend. When you come to set up your campaign, you’ll need to specify a maximum amount per click or impression. With Search in particular, the more you’re willing to spend, the greater visibility your ad will have on the search engine results page. (It’s worth remembering that ad position also depends on other factors, such as current advertiser competition for your keyword, so there’s still no guarantee that your ad will get top billing).

Google’s grant program

One of the best features of Google Ads is their special service dedicated to charities – Google Ad Grants. Through this program, eligible charities and nonprofits can access $10,000 (USD) in paid search advertising every month. If this fits within your business plan, here’s a quick summary of how to access it:

Check you’re eligible

To qualify for a nonprofit grant, you must hold current, valid charity status.

– in Australia, that means being registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). You’ll also need to have a live website that provides sufficient details about your nonprofit. Not all NFPs qualify, however: the grant doesn’t cover Government entities and organisations, hospitals and medical groups, childcare centres or educational institutions.

Familiarise yourself with the guidelines

Google sets a number of specific parameters around how to use their grants, which recipients must agree to and abide by. These include always linking back to your nonprofit’s approved URL, ensuring your ads promote your core mission and regularly maintaining your Google Ads account.

Set up your campaign

All Google does is provide the capital: you still need to do the work setting up your budgets and managing your campaign. This means staying within the limits approved for the grant. US$10,000 equates to just over US$300 a day and Google also sets a maximum cost-per-click of US$2. (Be sure to read more about this fantastic nonprofit program and how to apply for a Google Grant.

All About Analytics

The beauty of paid advertising is that, unlike traditional media buys, it’s a lot easier to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. A host of metrics exist which are especially handy for a nonprofit to track conversions and establish how many new leads are introduced to your charity as a result of your ad. Once your campaign is up and running in Google Ads you can track its performance and run reports at any time, then tweak elements as necessary.

There’s so much more to learn and discover about paid – much more than we could cover in a single blog post! But the important thing to remember is that it’s easy to get started. Begin experimenting with small campaigns, learn your way around the formats and keep a close watch on how your campaigns are tracking and you’ll be a paid advertising pro in no time.

Data is a digital marketer’s best friend. Without it, you’d have no way of knowing who is interacting with your nonprofit online, the path they take to get to your website or what actions they take once they are there. Good data analysis can help you solve problems, identify opportunities, improve online donation rates, increase event sign-ups, tailor messaging, enhance your site’s UX, and the list goes on. Long story short: whether you love crunching numbers or the sight of an excel spreadsheet brings you out in a cold sweat, wrapping your head around analytics is an integral part of your marketing strategy.

Once you’re up and running, you can then begin to track  and learn more about what we call the ‘nonprofit user journey.’ Among other things, GA can help you understand:

  • How visitors are reaching your site and which mediums are the best (and worst) referrals of traffic.
  • The demographic breakdown of your visitors.
  • Which content on your site is most engaging and which needs work.

Getting acquainted with Google Analytics

Google’s ubiquity means that pretty much everyone with a website has free access to Google Analytics (GA), which allows you to closely track and monitor the behaviour of visitors to your site.

Make your data digestible

One of the complaints most often made about data analysis is that it can be overwhelming. There’s simply too much to take in. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to make your data a little more easy to digest.

One way to make it easier to see at a glance how your marketing strategy is performing is by setting up your own goals in GA. These allow you to track specific actions that are relevant to your nonprofit and could be as simple as time spent on your website, the number of visitors who click through from email or the number of donations made via the website. Then, all you need to do is check your ‘reporting’ tag regularly in GA to see how you’re tracking against those particular goals.

Another handy tool is the Google Data Studio, which integrates with GA to help you visualise your metrics more easily, create your own dashboard and run reports for different campaigns.

Mastering Social Media Marketing

Conquering the Twitterverse

Despite being heralded as the next big thing when it first launched back in the mid-2000s, these days Twitter is seen as more of a supporting player on the global social media stage. It doesn’t have the sheer volume of users as Facebook, nor is it as stylish and youth-orientated as Instagram.

Nonetheless, Twitter has a lot to offer as a social networking platform for nonprofits – particularly for nonprofits looking to make an impact in an increasingly cluttered space. In this post, we lay out the argument for including Twitter in your social strategy, alongside our quickfire guide to conquering the Twitterverse.

Twitter is a great way to drive donations for your nonprofit, share your supporters’ efforts and encourage event signups – not to mention measure sentiment and identify potential influencers by listening in to what people are saying about your cause and related topics. But what makes Twitter a particularly powerful tool are the things that single it out from other platforms, namely:

It has a male skew

Unlike the majority of social media platforms, Twitter has a higher percentage of male users. In Australia, 35% of men use the platform, compared to 28% of women. If you’re looking to reach out to male supporters and donors, Twitter is your vehicle.

It appeals to an older demographic

Twitter scores higher than Snapchat and Instagram with Australians aged over 50 – a segment that’s traditionally more social media shy than the general population. Because older users tend to be more passive consumers of social media, it’s thought they may be more comfortable with the idea of retweeting the articles and comments of others as opposed to prolifically sharing their own personal pics or opinions.

Users check it multiple times daily

This is the clincher. Last year, it's was reported that Twitter maintained 4,700,000 Monthly Active Australian Users. 65% of Aussie Twitter users say they access it more than 20 times per week – that’s equivalent to almost three times a day. In fact, the average number of times per week users check Twitter is 39.6, making it the second most frequently-accessed social network after Snapchat and placing it well ahead of Facebook. That means the chances of your message being seen by the right people is far greater.

It's very easy to share posts from others

Using the platform's retweet function, users can share any post with one tap of their finger.

Twitter Do’s and Don’ts


  • Use the ‘pinned tweet’ function to link to a donation page on your own website. It allows you to keep that call-to-action permanently visible at the top of your Twitter feed.
  • Include an image. Studies have shown tweets with images receive 18% more clicks. However, you’ll need to make sure it’s the right size (525 x 262 pixels) – poorly cropped images are a fail with followers.
  • Remember to include links. Twitter allows you to link directly from your post to other URLs, making it the perfect tool for driving donations and event sign-ups. Even better, tweets that feature links enjoy 86% more retweets than link-free content. It’s a good idea to use a link-shortening service like tinyurl or Bitly to avoid using lengthy and visually-distracting URLs.
  • Take advantage of analytics. Make use of Twitter’s analytics dashboard to learn which tweets receive the most engagement, then use the insights to shape your tweeting strategy moving forward.



  • Only talk about yourself. Retweeting and sharing others’ tweets helps to build credibility, add variety to your feed and reduce the ratio of brand messages which can be off-putting. As a general rule aim to keep your feed at least 50% curated content from other users to keep things interesting for your followers.
  • Overdo it. Tweeting a few times daily is necessary to build momentum – but don’t go overboard. Spread your tweets throughout the day and keep your updates consistent.
  • Take the weekends off. There’s less competition on the weekends which means you’re more likely to get noticed. Use one of the many social programming platforms like Hootsuite or Buffer to tee up your tweets in advance.
  • Ignore direct tweets from other users. This is the height of bad Twitter etiquette and will lose you followers. Always make the effort to respond to people who have reached out to you and you’ll build a strong and engaged group of followers.

When it comes to your social media marketing efforts, charities tend to shy away from Instagram, preferring to focus their efforts on the tried and tested platforms of Facebook and Twitter to communicate with supporters. But we’ve got news for you folks: overlook Instagram at your peril.

Here's why your organisation should be on Instagram

It’s got the numbers

In the last few years, numbers on the channel have exploded. Instagram now has over 800 million active monthly users – double the size of Twitter’s user base. Of that, Australia has a staggering 9 million users on the platform.

Its users are more engaged

Instagram users are decidedly more active than those of other social media platforms. They check it more often and are more likely to like and comment on posts. What’s more, they use the platform not just as a means of following their favourite users or brands, but also as a discovery tool, searching for new accounts to follow through the use of hashtags.

It has a strong millennial skew

As many of you will know, a key challenge for charities is finding ways to recruit new, younger supporters to replace an ageing donor database. Given that the majority of Instagram users are aged between 18 and 29, the platform offers huge potential to reach millennials and put your cause on their radar.

How to crush it on Instagram

Instagram is first and foremost a visual channel, so it goes without saying that powerful images that tell a story are key. But that doesn’t mean you have to commission expensive professional photography to make an impact.

What is important is that you have a clear visual style and point of view. The most successful Instagram accounts don’t try to be all things to all people – they decide what they’re about and focus on doing that really well.

Don’t be afraid to use humour. While your message may be a serious one, using humour to deliver it is a great way to cut through the clutter. UK charity Dog’s Trust has created a highly engaged fanbase on Instagram thanks to its comical posts of dogs looking silly. Likewise, UK breast cancer charity Coppa Feel uses cheeky visuals and copy to communicate a more sombre message.

Lead by example. Showcase the efforts of your star supporters by posting images of them doing their thing. Don’t have great shots on file? Repost images from your supporters’ own accounts (with permission) to inspire others to do the same.

Use hashtags to reach a wider audience. One of the biggest benefits of using Instagram is the way users utilise hashtags to explore and discover new content. Creating your own hashtags is a great start, but don’t just use them in isolation. Combining your own tags with popular (like #givingback and #dogood) will get your post in front of more people.

Make good use of captions. Enhance your image with copy that elaborates on the story and provides extra context. Doctors Without Borders do this particularly well: they post powerful images of their doctors and nurses doing great work, then use the caption for storytelling. You have 2200 characters to play with – so make them count.

Inspire direct action. Instagram isn’t just a recruiting ground for new supporters: it can also provide a direct line of communication between you and the people you’re seeking to influence. Use it to inspire direct action or change behaviour (e.g. encouraging a health check) by designing copy-driven visuals that communicate statistics or a short but impactful message.


The ultimate guide to Facebook Ads

When the changes to Facebook’s newsfeed were announced in early 2018, it was the final nail in the coffin for brands and organisations who had long relied on the social media giant as a kind of free advertising platform. From here on in, nonprofits who want to get their message in front of the right people on Facebook need to make the channel part of their advertising strategy and budget for it accordingly.

What are Facebook ads and why should nonprofits care?

Facebook ads are paid content placements that allow you to promote your cause to the audience of your choosing, either through boosting your own posts or the placement of highly targeted ads. Because the platform has such rich user data, it allows you to drill down into 100+ different characteristics to select the ideal audience for your campaign, from age, gender and location through to interests and behaviours.

Facebook advertising: the basics

If you haven't already, the first thing you’ll need to do is set up an official page for your cause (Check out Facebook’s Nonprofits guide for more info) and then create an ad account. When you’re ready to set up your first campaign, the platform's Ad Manager will walk you through the process and ensure it's optimised for success. Here’s a quick summary of the various steps you’ll take along the way.

  • Establish your goal. To kick things off, you’ll need to set an objective for your nonprofit. This will help you to measure its success. Do you want to boost event registrations? Increase engagement with your cause? Find new supporters? Encourage email signups? Depending on which objective you choose, the platform will recommend ad placements and options for you.
  • Choose a name. The next thing you’ll be asked to do is create a name for your campaign – this feature is handy if you’re running multiple campaigns at the same time as it allows you to easily differentiate between them.
  • Define your audience. This is the fun bit. You can pinpoint your target audience based on any of the following criteria:
    • Location. Drill down into specific countries, cities and communities.
    • Demographics. Target specific age brackets, gender, educational background
    • Behaviours. Set criteria around audience purchase behaviours, device usage and more
    • Interests. Narrow your audience depending on their hobbies and other Facebook pages they follow.
    • Connections. Select people based on who their friends are.

A note of caution: avoid being too specific when defining your audience. Customising your audience is important, but be mindful that the more criteria you add in, the smaller your audience becomes.

Select your ad placement

The term ad placement refers to where on the page your ad will appear. Which ad placements are available to you is dependent on the advert objective you’ve chosen, but options include sponsored newsfeed posts, standard ads which appear along the right hand side of the page, Instant Articles within Facebook’s mobile app and Messenger and in-stream videos.

If you choose to tick the ‘automatic placements’ tab (highly recommended for beginners), Facebook will do the hard work for you and make a selection based on which format is likely to perform best with the audience you’ve chosen.

Set your budget and schedule

This is where you dictate a limit for the total amount you’re willing to spend on the campaign. You can do this either by setting a daily budget, in which you set an average amount per day to be spent on your ad set, or a lifetime budget, in which the overall amount is distributed evenly over the duration of your campaign. If you’re new to Facebook ads, the platform recommends starting with lifetime budgets so you know exactly what you’re working with budget-wise.

You’ll also need to set a schedule for your campaign at this point. There are two options here. You can choose to run the ad continuously from a selected date until the campaign’s budget is exhausted (or you choose to end the ad), or set a defined start and end date. The latter option is compulsory for campaigns with a lifetime budget.

It’s a good idea to set a low budget initially so you can see how your ads perform – and even test different options to see which ads are the most effective. Once you begin to see results you can then choose to increase (or decrease) your budget accordingly.

Create your ad

Finally, you’ll be asked to upload your creative assets ie. imagery or video files. If you’re promoting an existing post, you can simply select that from your page. Once you’ve submitted the creative, you’ll be provided with a preview of your ad to show you what it will look like on different devices.

Press go!

Happy with how it’s all looking? All that’s left to do is click Place Order – and watch your experiment unfold.

Once you’re up and running, you can keep track of how your ads are performing by regularly checking in with Ads Manager. Remember, you can tweak your ad by modifying your audiences and budget at any time.


Want to learn more?

Read 5 Expert Tips for Writing Killer Email Copy That Converts to learn about how you can write the best email copy possible to encourage your supporters to provide their email address, share their stories, raise awareness for your cause, and more.

Read 4 Social Media Trends Helping Nonprofits Expand Their Influencers Online to discover some of the most exciting and innovative ways to engage your social media followers and harness the power of your supporters, including video marketing, virtual reality, influencer marketing, and more.

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