3 Tough Marketing Challenges Non-Profit Organizations Face in 2018

February 27, 2018

1. The marketing budget is too small 

This is probably the most common problem non-profits encounter and marketing budgets often fall into the crosshairs for cuts. Some brand building campaigns need a certain length of time to mature until their efforts become tangible and those eager to make reductions now may stifle their rewards prematurely. Other campaigns rely on intensive testing to identify the best time and use of a channel before hitting the sweet spot with their audience.  

The solution? Work smarter. With so many NGOs competing for donors, marketing is more important than ever to distinguish your organization from the competition. Online channels have made marketing cheaper than traditional mediums and there is a wealth of successful marketing campaigns to learn from easily found with a few search engine adventures. Document and plan your marketing efforts, create goals beforehand, analyze campaign successes and failures and how they can be optimized in the future. Leverage preexisting assets, like previous donor contact details, segment them and discover the best ways to reengage them with personalized creatives. It’s also worth considering consulting with marketing specialists to get guidance on where best to place your spend and what kinds of campaigns would appeal to your audience. 

2.  Targeting millennials is hard

It’s official: millennials are financially far worse off than their parents at the same age but make up a sizeable proportion of internet use. However, such connectivity comes at a price; winning their attention among the endless ocean of content online can feel like sorcery. What may surprise you is that 52% of millennials donated to a cause that improves a social issue last month 

So how do you reach these digital natives? Improved targeting improves results. Break them down into disparate age groups, such 18 – 21, 22 – 25 and 26 – 35. Create customer personas and journeys for each profile, highlighting their hopes and concerns, their income levels and how they consume and share media. Remember that millennials prefer purchasing experiences rather than material items so focus on messaging that enriches them so socially that they want to tell their contacts about. Keep a close eye on trends that affect them and how you can capitalize on these. Don’t forget to engage with them; use social media and even those in your organization to ask them what they like and what they want. You need to be sharp though – growing up with technology makes you adept at recognizing poor or outdated web design, pushy sales emails and lip service as a PR exercise, all of which can permanently damage your non-profit’s brand.  

3. It’s difficult to stand out among the crowd

‘Thinking outside the box’ is not easy, even in a marketing landscape where everyone is obsessed with the word ‘innovation’. Non-profit marketing means producing memorable campaigns that are informative, emotional and effortlessly communicate how a donor makes a difference. 

And now the hard part. One way to stay ahead of the NGO curve is to keep up with technological evolutions in marketing and don’t shy away from adopting shiny new strategies. Make sure you and your team are up-to-date with the latest social media features, the most recent marketing creations and general trends in the non-profit world. Working alone can be hard so consider partnering with another company to cross-promote – event sponsorship is an effective option for many. Another route to pursue is setting up your own events where you can meet donors, volunteers and supporters face-to-face. These could be local community events, fundraisers or conferences.  

Nothing remains static so it’s imperative that you keep a close eye on the marketing efforts of your non-profit as well as your competitors. Create timelines, planners and key learnings for each campaign and don’t be afraid to revise these if something changes further down the line. Marketing challenges keep popping up so maintain an adaptable attitude to stay ahead of the competition. 


About the Author

Elena is a Digital Marketing Account Executive in the hjc Marketing and fundraising team. She liaises closely with clients to define campaign objectives then produces comprehensive marketing strategies and execution to drive conversions and brand building efforts. Her marketing skills are well-rounded with specialisms in SEO, email, paid search, content, analytics, strategy, design theory, social media and more.