Marketing Tools for Your Nonprofit and When They’re Effective

Lately, we’ve been talking about taking an integrated marketing approach. We’ve discussed what that means, how it’s a useful practice for your nonprofit and how your nonprofit should be looking at your marketing strategies.

Today, we’re breaking it down further into the most common communication tools used in integrated marketing. Whether it’s direct mail or advertising, each marketing tool has a unique purpose and a place in your integrated marketing plan.

Direct Mail

When you’re looking to create a more personal touch with your communications, consider direct mail over email. In this technological age when our inboxes are often flooded, sometimes it’s a nice surprise when we receive a personal, traditional piece of mail.

Direct mail is also useful for a number of things, like promoting an upcoming fundraiser and for getting some feedback. Additionally, if you operate mostly through an online blog or email newsletter, the print source is a good way to break up all the online communications.

When it works: Personal touches are important when you want to add something special. It’ll need to be different enough to avoid the junk pile. Also, make sure you have a specific call-to-action on the direct mail piece.


Advertising is very broad in nature, because while advertising itself is a communication tool, it is usually used in conjunction with another tool, such as the Internet. However, don’t forget about traditional forms of advertising, like print news sources and television. These could be especially useful if you are a small organization that relies on local support.

Be prominent on your local channels, newspapers, newsletters, etc. If you’re a bigger organization with a more sizable budget, don’t be afraid to go beyond the borders of your local community. Overall, use advertising when you need to educate your audience on something, like the start of a new project or an upcoming event.

When it works: While advertising doesn’t always have a cost, it very likely can. Use advertising when the return on your investment is projected to be worth it. That return doesn’t have to be just about the money. Factor in the time and effort you’d be putting into the finished product.

Internet Marketing

If there is any communication tool that you should be using, it’s this one. Marketing your brand and cause via email or on a number of social media networks is not only low-cost or free, but it’s also a really great way to reach several different populations at once. Additionally, people are increasingly using the internet to search for information before making decisions, which makes internet marketing the perfect tool to make your first impression.

Whether you are participating in #GivingTuesdsay or hosting your very own nonprofit conference (like Cause Camp!), internet marketing is a tool that should have a primary spot in your marketing plans.

When it works: The Internet was made to reach people quickly, and to target a large quantity of people. When you have something that you need to get out fast and to a lot of people, use Internet marketing.

Special Promotions

As a nonprofiteer, you might be wondering how sales promotions are useful for your NOT-for-profit organization. However, we all know that you must have some sort of revenue in order to sustain your mission. Most of this comes in the form of donations, but if you have some sort of product or service that you are offering your audience, consider using a sales promotion to boost your marketing.

For example, we provided a Cause Camp early-bird registration fee that was a reduced price from the regular registration fee. Not only were we plastering our social media and email campaigns with all-things Cause Camp, but pairing our marketing efforts with that sales promotion helped increase recognition and registration of the event.

If you can afford to take a small cut in revenues, offer up some sales promotions to reel in your audience.  

When it works: Special promotions are merely that—for special occasions. They’ll lose their luster if you use them all the time with your marketing strategy. Use them to boost hype for a special occasion that needs an extra kick.

Public Relations

Much like advertising, public relations is a very broad and widespread communication strategy. There are a number of benefits to utilizing this economical tool, but perhaps the most important is the control it gives your nonprofit.

Public relations allows you to control the image that you want the public to see, creating a more positive perception of your brand and cause. A great way to do this is by using press releases with local news sources to get the word out about upcoming events or new opportunities at your organization.

When it works: When you have an event or something exciting that directly impacts the community. Send out a press release to news outlets, always keeping in mind that you’ll get press coverage if you can convey that it directly impacts the community.

Personal Selling

When you think of personal selling, you might think of door-to-door salespeople. While you don’t have to be going door-to-door, nonprofits are certainly in the business of sales.

This is a communication tool that utilizes one of your best resources: your human resources. You can roll out beautifully designed mail and social media posts, but nothing will woo your donors like someone who can build a unique relationship and cater to their needs.

When it works: People trust people they know and love. That’s why people are the best advocates for your brand. Encourage anybody and everybody at your organization to spread positive light around your organization.


As we’ve talked about this past month, integrated marketing is all about conveying one consistent message across all your communications platforms. Whether you choose one or a combination of these tools, make sure that they always work together, not against each other. Are there any tools that you’re a fan of and think should be included in this list? Let us know in the comments.

You May Also Enjoy

Become a Member

Whether you’re with a large team or a solo entrepreneur looking to start the next great cause, we have a membership package that will help you grow your network and your cause.