7 Nonprofit Marketing Tactics & Hacks To Multiply Growth

I’m often amazed at how tech startups are able to scale from hundreds to millions of users seemingly overnight. There are reasons why this is possible of course that are unique to tech companies (especially SaaS companies). Yet, there are other tactics and hacks they use regularly that any organization can take advantage of them for exponential growth. 

After leaving the startup world, I specifically went to work figuring out how to exploit these methods for nonprofits to amplify the change we wanted to see in the world. 

Here’s a list of 7 marketing tactics and hacks that nonprofits could use to multiply their growth:

  1. Have a growth mindset
  2. Marketing funnels
  3. Up-sell techniques
  4. Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
  5. Retargeting ads
  6. Lead magnets
  7. Email drip sequences

Each one of these topics could be a blog post in themselves (some of them can fill books), but I thought I would discuss some approaches I have used or have seen others successfully use for nonprofit organizations.

1. Have a Growth Mindset

This isn’t a tactic, but without it, the rest of the tactics and hacks below will fall flat. So, how do you know if you have a growth mindset over a fixed mindset?

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Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you believe in luck?
  • Do you believe that talent is more important than effort?
  • Do you avoid challenges to mitigate failure?
  • Do you avoid criticism and constructive feedback?
  • Do you worry about what others think or say about your ideas?
  • Do you believe there is only so much growth that your marketing can attain?

Saying yes to any of these questions reveals a fixed mindset. If you want to multiply the growth your marketing efforts produce you have to believe:

  • That you can get better over time with consistent effort.
  • That talent is only a small part of what it takes to be successful.
  • That you are in control of the results.
  • That feedback and criticism make you smarter as you learn from it.
  • That you absolutely are capable of finding and executing a game-changing marketing strategy that can multiple growth results by ten times.
  • That luck isn’t a part of the equation.

You have to believe that you can make these tactics work. Otherwise, success is highly unlikely.

2. Use a Marketing Funnel to Plan Your Campaigns

I’ve already written at length about how to use a marketing funnel for your nonprofit to win, but I’ll summarize it here.

A marketing funnel is an illustration that shows the journey your prospective donors take from the first impression to the first donation. The same concept can be used for volunteers, program participants, etc.

This is a common tactic used to plan your marketing activities, so that each piece of a collateral, web page, social media post, or email has a more clear objective about which stage of the funnel it’s addressing. Marketers often try to accomplish too much with each piece and fail to convert most of the prospects who are unlikely to go from an early stage of the funnel to the end goal.

The marketing funnel is an invaluable tactic to bring clarity to every marketing campaign and message you send out into the world.

3. Up-Sell Techniques

The up-sell is a common sales tactic and internet marketing technique that I have rarely seen nonprofits utilize. In a sales conversation, a helpful sales rep might offer another complimentary item after you agreed to a first purchase. In an online shopping experience, it often looks like a subtle recommendation on the checkout page that makes a helpful suggestion like “people who bought that also bought this”.

One extra sale might not sound like much, but when multiplied across hundreds or thousands of transactions getting 1-3% of people to agree to a second purchase right away can add a substantial margin to the bottom line.

Nonprofits can utilize the same tactic in the following ways:

  • Pay-It-Forward Campaign: When a prospect requests a brochure or some other kind of print material, the thank you page can be a request to pay for the printing and shipping of the next persons behind them. You can see an example of this that I set up for Bethany International in our global prayer challenge. We ask for $3, but allow them to change the amount.
  • Single Gift Upsell to Monthly Gift: Instead of asking for monthly upfront, it’s better for some campaigns to go for a low single gift with an upsell to change it to monthly after they check out.
  • Single Gift to Honorary Gift: After a simple single gift is made, offer the chance to make the donation in honor of somebody. Not only does it involve a little more time and effort from the donor to think through it (making them feel more committed to your nonprofit in the process, it will expose your organization to the person they made the donation in honor of (who’s information you now need to collect to tell them so).
  • Event Registration to Donation: Once they register for an event, regardless of whether they had to pay for it, you can make a subtle and polite request to help cover the cost of the event so that it starts off in the black.

There are dozens of ways to mix and match offers. Take a few minutes to create a list of all of the ways people can get involved in your organization to see which ones work well together.

4. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the most underutilized method of this whole list. CRO is the systematic process of testing variations in your marketing to see if you can increase the likelihood of your desired outcome. For example, if you want more people to open your email, you might send one email to 10% of your list with one subject line and the same email with a different subject line to another 10% to see which one yielded more opens. You can then learn which worked better and send the winner to the remaining 80% of the list.

If I could only recommend one of these tactics/hacks, it’s this one for three reasons:

  1. It’s Free! You can install Google Optimize on your website and begin a test within the hour (depending on how hard your website is to edit).
  2. It’s relatively easy to do. Once you have the tracking code installed, it’s easy to set up tests and start, though your results will only be as good as the ideas you test.
  3. It can have a compounding effect on the effectiveness of your marketing. Over a three year period, we doubled the number of leads one landing page produced through a serious of split tests. This one page was partly responsible for tripling the size of Bethany Global University.

Pro Tip: The best thing you can start testing is your value proposition. Give people a different reason for doing what you want them to do and split test it against the existing reason. This will not only help you improve your conversion rate, it can yield insights as to what people really want. It usually only requires changing a few sentences and a headline, so why not start there?

5. Retargeting Ads

The vast majority of people who visit your website are not ready to buy. You’re lucky if 5% of that traffic is ready to donate, volunteer, or sign up for your newsletter.

Let that sink in for a bit. It’s a big deal.

You could use CRO to double that rate, but it will still be well under 10% at best. So, since you don’t have these people’s emails, addresses, or even a name to look up on Facebook, there is only one way you have a chance to bring them back: retargeting ads.

With a few snippets of code installed on your website, you can run ads on Google’s display network, YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram to attract your anonymous website visitors back to your cause. While it may seem odd to pay to bring them back, just know that the return on investment on retargeting is typically much much higher than advertising to a cold audience.

It’s a great deal. Yet only a few in the nonprofit sector run these ads.

6. Lead Magnets

Again, since only a small minority of visitors on your website are ready to take the action you want them to take, there is another tactic you can utilize to increase the odds that they will convert later.

You can offer a lead magnet.

A lead magnet is a piece of content your audience deems valuable enough to give up their email for. It’s often a guide, checklist, simple tool, or some kind of information that is simple yet highly valuable to them that you can offer as a download in exchange for their contact information.

They may not be ready to donate today, but if you capture their email or phone number, you can follow up with them later to increase the odds that they will be ready another day. So, spend some time thinking through what your organization can offer that is valuable to them yet still unique to you.

Here are a few examples of lead magnets I have developed for Bethany International:

7. Email Drip Sequences

Last on the list are drip sequences. Traditional newsletters and one-off email blasts are a thing of the past. Drip sequences are much more effective and will save you a ton of time.

An email drip sequence is a sequence of emails that are sent to new subscribers as they come to different parts of your funnel. The sequence assumes that people who have just entered into the sequence need to see the same messages.

An example of a simple drip sequence from my Infusionsoft account.

You can build these sequences out to be as short or long as you need and can involve more than just emails. It is a powerful way to write a message once and have it used over and over again. Let’s face it, new prospective donors often ask the same questions again and again. Just give them the answer one email at a time in a drip sequence.

A more elaborate campaign we created for Bethany was to deliver the Global Prayer Challenge. When users sign up, they are immediately sent an email thanking them for starting with instructions on what to expect. We then queue them up to be sent a physical map within the mail. Two weeks later, the sequence begins to send them one email a week highlighting a region of the world to pray for and a text message a day with a specific prayer point that correlates with a point on the map we sent them.

Global Prayer Challenge Campaign In Infusionsoft
Global Prayer Challenge Drip Sequence of Text Messages

It’s a huge project to build this, but now it has been running effectively for years without me having to do a thing. A few dozen people request one of these prayer maps each week and they all get their maps, emails, and text messages on time every time. That is the power of drip sequences.

Conclusion (Don’t Skip This Part)

All of these tactics mentioned above have a few things in common in that they:

  • Take time
  • are process-driven
  • have small short term returns
  • have massive long term returns

All of the examples above have the chance to bring about growth alone, but when used together, they have the chance to bring exponential growth. They are not flash in a pan type campaign to raise thousands of dollars quick but require you to think ahead about how your nonprofit ought to operate in order to best serve your audiences and in turn reap the rewards.

Dan Sanchez, MBA

Dan Sanchez is a marketing director, co-host of the B2B Growth show, and blogger. He holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and BS in Marketing Management from Western Governors University. Learn more about Dan »

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