As most non-profit organizations learn the hard way, the mere fact that they exist and do good deeds in a sometimes hostile world doesn’t amount to squat when it comes to raising the next operating dollar. In other words, a non-profit has to scratch and fight with limited financial resources for consumer attention against the deeper pockets of profit-motivated companies.

Since armed robbery as a fundraising tool remains firmly out-of-bounds, your marketing strategies need creativity. Lack of money doesn’t have to be a problem when it comes to carving out space on a noisy advertising landscape. Make it a motivation instead.

In case you were wondering, we have ideas.

1. Don’t Ignore the Donors You Already Have

Both non-profits and profits are guilty of this marketing failure. We’re talking about neglecting those who have already shown support in the past and to whom you haven’t paid proper attention with subsequent recognition. Part of this recognition is to plant the seed in their heads that giving isn’t a one-time thing – the mission for which they’ve already shown support for goes on.

There is business maxim that states it’s almost always cheaper and easier to convince a current customer to spend money than to acquire a new one. A regular newsletter is a good place to send out updates about all the great things you do and what else you would accomplish with just one (or a few) more dollars. The goal is to get very specific with your organization’s activities. A weekly or monthly spotlight is an excellent idea. We’re glad you thought of it.

To ignore those who have already shown support is a sin. Well, that might be a little extreme but it’s at least bad business strategy.

2. Email Marketing: Old Fashioned But Effective

In this flashy, non-stop, brain-numbing social media world, email marketing is sometimes scorned as hopelessly outdated. We’re going to call bull crap on that. Is it outdated to earn $44 in revenue for each $1 that you spend with this method? If you’re doing better than that with your current marketing strategies, you can stop reading right now. You don’t need us. For the readers still here who are tired of making themselves dizzy trying to update ten social platforms five times daily, keep reading.

A creative, well-written email headline with short, compelling text is still probably your best option in the digital realm. Did we say short? We did. According to point #48 on this infographic, the human attention span has declined from 12 to 8 seconds. It doesn’t say over what span of time and we’ve already lost the interest to find out.

Keep in mind that we didn’t say to ditch social media, sell your car, and ride a donkey everywhere. We’re not against social media by any means. In our estimation, email is the original digital social media and can be a goldmine for those who use it with skill.

3. Build and Maintain a Digital Platform

The bottom line is you won’t be taken as credible unless you have a few pieces in place that add up to a cohesive, multi-part online platform. That’s the reality of today’s world. Despite our love affair with email, as professed previously, you also need a few social media channels, a website heavy on images and video (‘cause that’s how internet users roll these days) and a blog. Maybe consider starting a podcast. That last one depends a little on the skill set available for hire or already within the organization. One thing seems apparent. Podcasts have already made a splash and it’s only going to get bigger.

How many social media channels should you take on? As many as you will dedicate appropriate time to maintaining and not one more. At least have a Facebook business page and go from there. While this marketing strategy can be quite effective and is free, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. You must – MUST – have someone to post regularly and respond to comments. If you don’t interact with followers, you’re sort of missing the point with “social” media and your results will likely not be impressive.

4. Create Better Content

This one might seem simplistic but don’t make the mistake of dismissing it. The human brain that resides in each and every potential donor loves stories. From the caveman recounting the near disasters in his latest woolly mammoth hunt to the more than half century of General Hospital soap opera shenanigans in Port Charles, it’s obvious that we like drama, adventure, humor, and we like it told in a compelling way.

What we’re saying is that you need to find someone inside or outside the organization who can craft a story and then put them to work retooling the copy that goes on anything you have – press releases, advertisements, business cards, social media posts, blogs. A few years ago Google adopted the mantra that content is king when it comes to ranking websites in search engine results. Smart online entrepreneurs – and that’s what your non-profit needs to be – had already realized that and tweaked their written copy accordingly.

5. Create an “Instant” PPC Budget With Google Ad Grants

Perhaps the word “instant” isn’t exactly reality but the $1 billion that Google and Microsoft each donate annually to non-profit causes is. You do have to fill out and submit a form and wait a while for the hopefully good news that you’ve been accepted. Let’s take a look at the Google Ad Grants program in particular. You can find the pertinent deets here.

The bottom line is that, if you qualify, Google will hand you $10,000 a month with which to run PPC (pay-per-click) ads. There are a few caveats. One is you can’t spend more than $2 per click. There are also various mechanisms in place to assure that 100 percent of proceeds go to support your organization’s mission.

Is it hard to get one of these grants? Probably, but it’s a lot harder if you never apply. Why not start the process?

5 Ways to Effectively Market a Non-Profit With Limited Funds: Start the Google Ad Grants Process

The Bottom Line

We’ll leave you with this. If you’ve been moping around about your lack of a marketing budget, you can stop now. We just told you exactly how to approach this beastie. With around 1.5 million non-profits registered in the United States, you’re going to have to throw some elbows to claim your share of funds. Your cause beneficiaries deserve it. Good luck!

More about the Author

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Gary Stevens

Gary Stevens is a front end developer. He's a full time blockchain geek and a volunteer working for the Ethereum foundation as well as an active Github contributor.

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