Nonprofits to Focus on Digital Marketing in 2012

Nonprofit organizations can be forgiven if they don’t make marketing a top priority. Many of these entities are focused on delivering goods and services to their constituents and profit  isn’t part of the game plan. But in a challenging economic climate, nonprofits might find themselves competing for donations and clients. Developing and executing a good marketing strategy could lead to improved operations for these enterprises.

The newly released 2012 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report reveals that only 24% of surveyed nonprofits maintain a written and approved marketing plan. Another 15% of managers make plans that they use for themselves while 44% stash informal notes about marketing strategies in a file. According to the report, once an organization has an annual budget of $5 million, a formal marketing plan is often in place.

Regardless of the status of marketing plans, these organizations do use several formal channels. Surveyed organizations indicate the following marketing outlets will be very important in 2012:

  •  Website 68%
  • Email marketing/​newsletter 67%
  • Facebook 31%
  • Newsletters/​direct mail (print) 38%
  • In-​person events 38%
  • Media relations/​PR 28%
  • Twitter 5%
  • Paid advertising 5%

These organizations clearly understand that email is an inexpensive and effective way to reach supporters. About 43% email their subscribers on a monthly basis, 19% send out a note every other week, and 14% have a quarterly email schedule. Organizations with an annual budget of between $1 million and $5 million were most likely, 46%, to maintain a monthly email schedule. Quarterly emailing is used most, 22%, by nonprofits with budgets of between $5 million and $10 million. When it comes to more costly direct mail, nonprofits usually send out mailings twice a year (31%) or quarterly (39%). Larger nonprofits, those with a $5 million+ operating budget were most likely, 43%, to say that traditional channels like printed newsletters and direct mail were very important communications tools.

Nonprofit staffers say that social media is important but there’s a significant difference between the numbers of groups that call Facebook, 31%, very important and Twitter, 5%, very important. In addition, about 9% of these groups say blogging is very important. Overall, organizations with smaller operating budgets are slightly more likely to use social media channels.

Agencies and media sales reps should know that nonprofit communicators are afraid of trying new forms of marketing. They understand that they need to compete for supporter attention. If approached in the right way, they might become a source of new revenue for professionals in the business of developing and selling advertising.

[Source: 2012 Nonprofit Communications Trends. Nonprofitmarketingguide​.com. 2012. Web. 25 Jan. 2012] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.