Nonprofit Marketing MistakesScroll for special nonprofit 2015 calendar & mail rate cheat sheet—free download!

When limited budgets and compacted timelines are in play and the stakes are high, single-channel marketing and poor messaging are the last things that will help your marketing strategy. Unfortunately, this happens to be the case for many nonprofit organizations. Fortunately, they are issues within your control and that can have a major payoff when dealt with tactically.

These are the top 5 mistakes we see nonprofits committing in their multichannel marketing approach — and how you can work to rectify them:

Advanced Data Segmentation

Direct mail marketing has been a staple for nonprofits in their marketing campaigns for years. While the majority of organizations repeatedly invest in this worthy channel, many do not set aside part of that investment or a portion of their time to dedicate to data segmentation. In the end, this costs nonprofits more than they realize.

Recently, a healthcare nonprofit mailed 6,846 fewer pieces in their direct mail campaign yet boosted their response rate 43%, and their average gift increased by over 13%. They also saw their gross income rise above 57%; and received a 62% rise in ROI.[i]

How did this happen? Their team “applied advanced data segmentation techniques to the [nonprofit’s] transaction data to identify the specific demographic characteristics of donor clusters most likely to respond to its direct mail solicitations.”[ii]

The lesson learned? Market smarter, not harder.

Inspiring Messaging

Storytelling and emotional messaging are effective approaches when communicating with donors and the community. Unfortunately, lack of time, focus, and expertise often get in the way with a nonprofit’s approach to consistent messaging. In fact, 84% of nonprofits “characterize their messages as difficult to remember” and 26% even describe their messages as confusing.[iii]

Uninspiring or inconsistent messaging that has no target audience is detrimental to any organization, large or small. Battle this by dedicating time for your team to develop “buyer personas.” Personas are human representations of your target audiences with defined behaviors and challenges. Speak to them — your target audiences!

Create 3 to 4 personas and tailor every message you send to one of those characters. Your voice will become more focused, compelling, and effective.

Retention Campaigning

The 2013 Fundraising Effectiveness Project report found that donor retention fell to 39% and attrition hit 61% in the past year.[iv] More specifically by organization size:

  • Organizations raising $100-500k had an average loss of 5.1%
  • Organizations in the under $100k groups had an average net loss of 13.5%

Even more compelling is the notion that “a 10% improvement in retention can yield up to a 200% increase in projected lifetime value,” according to fundraising expert Adrian Sargent.[v]

To improve these statistics nonprofits must develop their long-term communication strategy with new and repeat donors. This includes a well thought out email, mail, and social media campaign with targeted messaging. Past donors certainly comprise one of a nonprofit’s buyer personas, and should be targeted as such.

Ease of Donation Giving

Fundraising is the lifeblood of any nonprofit. It is also the most challenging goal to perform successfully year after year. That being said, making the donation process as easy and enjoyable as possible is one of the simplest first steps to take in becoming more effective.

65% of nonprofits make donors click 3 or more times through their website before being able to give a donation.[vi] That amount of time is enough for someone, especially a first-time donor, to change their mind. Be sure to include engaging call to action buttons on your website’s homepage and an easy way of accessing a donation landing page from every page on your site.

Other ways to increase the ease of donation giving:

  • Optimize your website for mobile
  • Ask new newsletter subscribers to donate within the first 90 days
  • Create a direct link to your donation page for use on social media channels

Strong Online Pressroom

With the increasing amount of online resources for retrieving new articles, an online press room for your website may have fallen to the bottom of your priority list. After all, if you are focusing on your content marketing strategy (which would be wise) and distribution, a pressroom could even seem unnecessary.

But that is untrue. In fact, the expanding digital media landscape can be overwhelming for writers; and it’s difficult to find those golden nuggets of information worthy of reporting. By building a stellar online news room with consistently fresh content and descriptive press releases, you’re giving reporters a reason to bookmark your page as a go-to content resource.

Be sure to include:

  • Varied media including photos, user-generated content, and video that journalists and bloggers can download to accompany their pieces.
  • A search tool so visitors and journalists can easily find the information they want
  • Succinct and data-rich fact sheets of your detailed success
  • The correct contact information for follow-up

The Bottom Line

You don’t always have to spend more to get more. But you do have to put more time into considering the correct strategy, doing the research, and analyzing your results to get the maximum payoff. Luckily for you, those end results are well worth it — especially when it comes to your bottom line.

For more tips and advice, or to discuss your next campaign, contact us at 609-882-3444.

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[i] Case Study – Nonprofit fundraising. Retrieved October 16, 2014 at
[ii] ibid
[iii] Schwartz, Nancy E. Getting to Aha! The Nonprofit Marketer’s Top Challenge. Retrieved October 16, 2014 from
[iv]  Association of Fundraising Professionals and The Urban Institute (2013).  2013 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report. Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP). Retrieved October 16, 2014 from
[v] Schwartz, Nancy E. 5 Steps to Newsletters that Keep Your Donors Close (Part Two). Retrieved October 16, 2014 from
[vi] Dunham and Company

Is your nonprofit committing a multichannel marketing mistake? Let’s talk about how you can improve your strategy. Schedule a free consultation with us today.