Nonprofit Marketing Tips from 19 Experts

Nonprofit Marketing TipsA while ago, I was invited to be a guest lecturer at Brandeis. As my friend David Mersky was introducing me, I put this question across various social media platforms:

RIGHT NOW: Nonprofit people, what marketing tips would you tell a graduate class on philanthropy? I'm guest lecturing at Brandeis right now and would love to show the power of social media.

There was a lot of wisdom in the responses so I thought I'd share them with you. I'm including the links to the people who posted them.

Marketing Tips for Nonprofits

On Google+

  • Julia Campbell: Passion over technology! If you have a compelling story to tell and you can authentically connect with people, you can succeed on any marketing medium.
  • Matt LaCasse: I work for a Boys & Girls Club chapter, and the number one thing I try to put front and center are our kids. The activities they are doing, the difference we're making in their lives, etc. Don't market your organization. Market your CAUSE.
  • Jennifer Ott: Don't hand responsibility for online content to an intern! Fabulous as they are, there's no consistent and informed voice if the person is too new to know the nuances and other crucial elements of a coordinated social media effort--and then you're back to square one 3-4 months later.
  • Rob Hatch: Tell stories worth sharing.

On Twitter

  • @nathan_hand: @marcapitman The entire #marketingdynamic has shifted. People have big megaphones. Respect, engage and mobilize them.
  • @nathan_hand: @marcapitman and more and more, people expect immediate impact and immediate communication about it
  • @PamelaGrow: @marcapitman Honestly? Not to be AFRAID of marketing! Too many npo folk turn their noses up at anything resembling marketing or sales
  • @bradbridges: @marcapitman Start by asking how you can serve your donors rather than how you can get their money.

On LinkedIn

On Facebook

  • Laura Edmondson Amerman: It's about the donor and the recipients of your services; NOT about how awesome your nonprofit is.
  • Derek Viger: Beware donor fatigue!
  • Jacob Brier: Every message should be mission-based. If it doesn't relate to your mission, don't say it.
  • Laura Edmondson Amerman: Don't expect credit for doing the right thing. Doing the right thing as a nonprofit is a default. Credit is for matching need with donor impact.
  • Clover Frederick: Fundraising without solid marketing is a nightmare.
  • Matt Johnson: Market message should be about the people you serve not the results you obtain.
  • Emily Downing Pitman: Don't be cheap. Don't send me a cheap mailer than hasn't been looked over by someone that is good with words. Don't call me during the dinner and bedtime hours. If my demographic places me with a husband or kids, help me to include them in my passion for your NP. LOVE your job. If you don't, get a new one.
  • Emily Downing Pitman: Don't expect me to speak your language - I don't know what all the in-phrases of your NP are. And I don't talk Boomer.
  • Jonah Halper: Fake it 'til you make it.
  • Jonah Halper: People don't give TO you. They give THROUGH you.
  • Laura Edmondson Amerman: Never market from your nonprofit's need for money. If you're a charity, and doing good works, everyone knows you need their money. What people want know is how you ethically and wisely use their money to enact change. Think Guidestar profile, invest a lot of effort making it as accurate and mission infused as possible.
  • Sandy Call Wilder: Put it in the database!!!
  • Melissa S Graves: Donor fatigue is actually tough to do. You need repetition in this Coke advertising world. If it didn't work I am certain Coke would not spend billions on advertising every year when they could keep that money as profit.
  • Jacob Brier: People and organizations want to back winners. Non-profits are not designed to make no profit, they are designed to share their revenue with the community rather than distribute profit to the board members... Market your non-profit as a successful business, the product for which satisfies a NEED of the community.
  • Eric Frans: Philanthropy is not what YOU do. It's what they do. You simply facilitate that. Never forget that and you will remain focused on the important things: the donor and the beneficiary.
  • Eric Frans: Treat your donors with the same amount of love, care and concern as you do your organization's beneficiaries.

What advice would you add?

I resonated with so many of these tips. From the importance of telling your nonprofit's story in a way worth sharing to logging the interactions in your database, this list contains some great ideas for your own marketing.

Which was your favorite? And what would you add? Tell us in the comments!

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. Nagla Ibrahim Elarabawy says:

    Most of the tips were so helpful, some were already on my mind, others presented a new perspective to seeing things. I liked "Fundraising without solid marketing is a nightmare" because it was like an arrow in the heart of my problem. Thank you for your wisdom, everybody.

  2. People don't give TO YOU, they give THROUGH you...

    I am just learning how to ask for funds for a NP I support...I am a bd member not a professional...and I have so much to learn...but getting myself out of the middle has to be the first thing. I also resonated with "philanthropy is what they (the donor) do not what you focus on Donor and Beneficiary...I do think it helps to understand the dynamics of donations ....Cathy in MD

  3. John Huber says:


    I underlined the “phrases” that caught my attention and in no particular order of importance:

    “compelling story”; “Market your cause”; “Tell stories worth sharing”; “always stay in touch”; “It’s about the donor and recipients of your services”; “Beware donor fatigue”; “Every message should be mission based”; “Credit is for matching need with donor impact”; “People don’t give to you. They give through you.”; “What people want to know is how you ethically and wisely use their money to enact change”; “Market your non-profit as a successful business, the product for which satisfies a NEED of the community”.

    Those are the phrases I'll share with our Salvation Army Board. One of the things that jumped out at me was the: "Tell stories worth sharing". From now on I'll ask people ahead of time what "they" think the stories are to make sure those of us on the "ask" believe that it is a story worth sharing. Ran into that problem recently - in other words, it really wasn't worth sharing to the group that was addressed.

    Have a phenomenal day, my friend.

    John in IN

  4. So pleased to be included, Marc. Thank you.

  5. Marc, you have so much great advice already! I would say that fundraising is about relationships... Strengthening those with your donors, leveraging those with community leaders and champions, building relationship bridges with your marketing, program and finance colleagues. Deepen relationships you have before chasing every new prospect.

    • Thanks, Beth!

      It's sort of a "both and", isn't it?

      • Marc,
        Have you looked into Mobile Cause?

        It would make sense to evaluate what percentage of the money/donors come from the following: Direct Mail, Telemarketing, Website, Social Media, Mobile phones and face to face. There are ways to increase the amount of money raised or the number of donors added to your sphere.

        • I'm not understanding how this comment fits the post. Did you mean to post it here?

          • Absolutely. The question is about marketing and what advice is out there. Having the right technology in place to integrate with several platforms including mobile to make it easy for donors/volunteers to get more info and to track how effective the marketing platform is performing has a huge impact on a non-profit.

What would you add?