Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Promoting your nonprofit

Unlike a famous movie line, just because you build it doesn't mean they will come. "They" being the donors you need to attract to actually make your nonprofit dream a reality.

Just like any other small business, you need to convince people you may not even know to spend money to support you, or rather, your mission. So, how do you do that? Especially when as a new charity, you can't qualify for most grants?

You must have a webpage, but you still need people to visit it. How do you drive traffic to your site and hopefully to your "Donate Now" button?

Well, you could advertise, but advertising costs money, sometimes a lot of money. Even a business card size ad in your local paper or a 30-second spot on your local TV station can cost you a few thousand dollars a year. However, many media outlets have public service requirements to fill, so traditional advertising is still possible.

Of course there is always social media. Lots of nonprofits have Facebook pages, but they don't typically generate many dollars, and they don't attract many new faces. Facebookers are generally talking to people who already know them. On the other hand, those people also know people that they can bring to your cause.

Twitter can be a way to attract new blood, provided you understand that the response will be to "hashtag-their interests." If they don't know you, then a key phrase that targets their interest will be far more effective than "hashtag-your charity's name."

Then there is the oft-dreaded personal interaction. Speaking at meetings, attending stuffy events, or even volunteering creates personal connections. While it isn't quite the same as door-to-door sales, sometimes it feels that way.

The point of all advertising to reach people. People are the conduit to the funding that supports  your nonprofit.

To that end, try all of these strategies. Some will work better than others, and then you can refine your campaign. But you can't succeed without reaching out, no matter how awesome your mission statement sounds.

One emerging form of fundraising is crowdfunding. As it becomes more well-known, a lot of nonprofits are posting on sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo or StartSomeGood.com and a lot of them are not meeting their goals.

The one thing that all of these sites require is that you have a network or nucleus of supporters. People aren't logging on to their computers every morning and typing "find an awesome nonprofit I can donate to". You have to have people that will not only start the ball rolling by donating, but reach out to their friends and direct them to your campaign.

Start developing your PR strategy now, build your network, and the funding end of things will become a lot simpler. Need more information?  Email me at rightwords@ida.net and we'll talk!

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