A Step-By-Step Guide to Nonprofit Inbound Marketing

When it comes to making new friends, sometimes you meet a person and everything just clicks. But whether you were besties right off the bat or it was rocky at first, long-lasting friendships always require hard work.

The same lesson applies to the relationships nonprofits have with their donors. Not every supporter will be gung-ho about your organization right from the start; it takes hard work on your part to foster trust, dedication and a stronger overall relationship.

The concept of inbound marketing takes all of that knowledge and incorporates it into a real-life framework for nonprofits and businesses to use when engaging their audiences. Don’t know what inbound marketing is (or how to use it, for that matter)? Fair warning: it might just rock the way you look at welcoming and cultivating donors.

Inbound marketing digs deeper than just attracting an audience; it aims to put out information that they truly enjoy. This approach brings donors to your organization. The alternative, outbound marketing, occurs when organizations sends content out to their audiences (think print ads, commercials, and so on). It interrupts the organic relationship that forms when organizations take an inbound approach.

The inbound marketing process involves four phases. As your audience experiences each phase, they grow and become more in-tune with your organization. Here’s a closer look at each of the steps:

Attract.

What it is: This process is pretty self-explanatory—you’re attracting strangers to your organization. Knowing who you want your audience to be is crucial in this step. Take time before diving right in to figure out who needs to hear what your NPO has to say. When you know the type of people you want to attract, you can create messages that stir their interests.

How to use it: Depending on your current outreach, you may or may not already be familiar with this part of the equation. An audience can be brought about through things like blogging, social media and search engine optimization. Once you have one of those down pat, you can integrate and connect it with the other approaches (like having social media links on your blog pages). Sound like it’s step one and done? Not quite.

Convert.

What it is: This step focuses on changing your visitors into leads primarily by getting their contact information. Converting your visitors is vital; without contact information, your relationship-building progress is stunted. You can’t develop a sustainable relationship without being able to communicate.

How to use it: The options here are endless. You can snag phone numbers and email addresses through things like print and online forms or landing pages. Also, never rule out the power of a productive email strategy. Emails and calls to action (buttons encouraging your visitors to complete an action, like downloading a whitepaper) allow you to offer a little somethin’ somethin’ in return for your audience’s valuable contact information.

Close.

What it is: Now comes the hard part: changing your leads into donors. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t happen at the flip of a switch—some donors may take more time to build trust with your organization before they’re ready to make a donation. Just be sure you’re staying consistent with interesting content to keep the leads that you already have involved with your mission.

How to use it: Throughout this process, CRM is your friend. CRM software can streamline your fundraising strategy and help you develop more personal communication with your audience. And, once again, email has got your back. It’ll help you build your contact list while you create relevant content and pertinent calls-to-action.

If you’re still confused about how to convert leads into donors, no worries—this one can be a long operation. Prism Global has some useful questions to continue leading you through the closing process.

Delight.

What it is: The train doesn’t stop once your donor has given their initial gift. Now your focus is to maintain donors as they grow into promoters of your nonprofit and its mission. You’ve already made the initial connection—now you have to sustain the relationship.

How to use it: Communication is key here. Use surveys to gather feedback on your organization’s strengths and weaknesses. Keep an eye on your social media channels to keep track of what your donors and advocates care about. Remember: the best way to improve your content is through your audience—it’s made for them, after all.
 
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The relationship between your organization and its donors can sometimes be a tricky one to navigate. The process of inbound marketing can do significant work to help cultivate that relationship. When you develop content to feed their interest, your captivated audience will be receptive to the needs of your cause—meaning you’ll be free to do more good in the world. That sounds like a win-win-win!

If you’re still looking for more information on what inbound marketing is all about, check out HubSpot’s blog post to do some exploration of your own.

  • Megan

    Hi Claire! I just wanted to add that if you are having trouble figuring out your audience, HubSpot has a nifty little guide to help you develop what are called “personas” in the inbound marketing world. (See “Attract” in the list above.)

    I’m about to re-up my Inbound certification, which is definitely helping me to define and refine my marketing strategy at my current nonprofit. Hopefully they’ll have added a little more substance to their unit on the creation of personas by the time I have a free moment to review the coursework.

    Coursera and EdX also have college-level coursework that I think will help any nonprofit personnel to refine their marketing skills. I enjoyed Northwestern University’s social media marketing specialization myself, and earned the certificates to boot!