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Marketing for Nonprofits - Tools You Can Use!

Submitted Thursday, April 3rd 2014 5:05 pm by Tim Jacobson
in   marketing    communications    nonprofit organization    charitable organization    websites    direct mail    e-mail marketing    video    SEO    earned media    social media    fundraising    special events  

Marketing for Nonprofits:

Tools You Can Use!


By Timothy S. Jacobson

~The Nonprofit Provocateur~

Good communication is everything in the nonprofit world. It's the backbone of fundraising. It's how you build support from your community, the people you serve, the foundations you seek funding from, and the policymakers who influence the world you operate in. It's how you educate people and fulfill your mission.

Don't leave your marketing and communications to chance. Here are some tools you can use for a true multi-channel approach to reaching existing and potential supporters to strengthen your organization.



Your website may be your most prominent face to the world, and it’s an important investment to help ensure the sustainability and growth of your organization and accomplishment of the mission. It’s not enough to hire a designer to use pretty pictures and a nice layout. Content still is king, and you need a persuasive message to reach your audience. Launch a new website or, at least, update your content to improve your site’s SEO (search engine optimization) and conversion power.


E-mail Campaigns

Outlook E-mail with racing flame

E-mail is one of the most profitable fundraising and marketing channels available to your nonprofit organization or business, giving you the power to automate and customize the way you communicate with each segment of your audience while keeping the cost of communication very low. According to a survey by McKinsey & Company published in 2013, e-mail is nearly forty times more effective for acquiring customers in the business context than interactions through Facebook and Twitter combined. Without e-mail campaigns, you’ll miss a huge opportunity to build donor or customer loyalty and generate revenue. Formulate a plan of action for using e-mail, create an e-mail database, sign up for a service like MailChimp or Constant Contact, and write persuasive copy to turn followers into donors.


Newsletters and Annual Reports

Newsletters are likely one of the most powerful, regular communication vehicles you have for sharing your organization’s accomplishments, motivating donors or customers, and building a sense of connectedness. A beautiful, insightful newsletter has staying power--people may keep it on a coffee table or desk for an extended period of time, allowing even more folks to see your message. Also, if a charitable group wants to garner financial and volunteer support from people, it needs to have several positive ’touches’ with those potential supporters between requests for support. Newsletters provide an excellent way to accomplish this. Maybe you can write powerful, persuasive copy for your next newsletter or annual report, and maybe you have the capability to lay out the publication with a program like Adobe InDesign, or maybe you don’t. Consider hiring a professional to handle these tasks for you, thus removing a time-consuming burden from you and your staff and getting a better, more effective result.


Social Media Marketing

Social media icons

Social media done well has the power to attract supporters, drive inbound traffic to your website, and stimulate engagement with your organization's brand. Your charitable group should not ignore Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. There are other sites you may want to use, too.

And don’t forget about the opportunities for social media advertising. It’s amazing how well an organization can target potential supporters, how low the cost can be, and how broad your reach can extend.

Don’t let perfection become the enemy of completion. Set up your social media sites today, and work on refining your social media skills over time. Or hire a consultant to jump-start your social media efforts.



Blogs are important for your organization’s marketing because they do two things: enhance your website’s SEO and establish your organization as an expert problem solver. In other words, blog posts drive your target audience to your website and keep them coming back for more. For maximum results, it's important to publish content regularly.


Marketing Through Video

video cameraVideo may be the most powerfully persuasive force on earth. Your organization is greatly disadvantaged if you are not utilizing this tool for marketing and fundraising. When it’s done well, video can make people feel like a superhero ready to conquer the world or can make them feel intimately connected to a cause, a person, a group, or a place. Video, more than anything other than their direct and personal involvement in the cause (something you’re trying to bring about), can capture people’s attention and their imagination. Video can convey large amounts of information, including many subtleties, in a short amount of time. It’s a medium that can both inspire and inform. On top of that, in today’s society video is a communications tool that can reach thousands, or even millions, of people quickly. Online video is gaining ground rapidly as a prime source for content marketing. Based upon data from the B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Survey for 2012 by technology research firm Software Advice, video garners the highest percentage of marketing respondents over other types of content.

Even if you’re already using video to spread your message, undoubtedly you’re yearning for better results. You'd like one of your videos to go viral. But how? Some people contend that viral marketing happens by accident. But did you know it’s possible to craft an effective viral marketing strategy?

You may be able to get your video public service announcements (PSAs) broadcast on local television stations for free or at discounted rates. And you certainly can upload them to YouTube for free. You don’t necessarily need expensive video equipment. To get started, shoot video with your smartphone and use a program like iMovie to edit your content. Make sure you include powerful video messages as part of your marketing arsenal.


Earned Media / News Releases

We live with a 24/7 news cycle, which can be a big bonus for organizations hungry for publicity. Newspapers and local TV stations constantly hunt for stories, including positive, feel-good tales. Your organization is, or should become, a fountain of positive activity and measurable results to improve the welfare of others. You need to get this information in front of members of the media in a timely and compelling fashion. Start writing news releases today!


Direct Mail

There may come a day when nonprofits cease to use direct mail to market their organizations and fundraise, but that day has not arrived. Direct mail is an important component of any marketing program for nonprofits. Although we live in an increasingly electronic world, physical pieces of mail remain one of the primary propellants for nonprofits to deliver important messages to potential supporters.


Events, Speeches and Presentations

Hosting events can be an incredibly fun and satisfying way to connect with existing and potential supporters. Who doesn’t like a cocktail party? These events can be a wonderful way to schmooze people of influence, show appreciation for past support, and raise ongoing support. Delivering speeches, on the other hand, can be a bit nerve-racking. It’s usually necessary to include a short speech in an event to remind people why they’re in attendance and how they can further the cause. Outline your thoughts ahead of time, and create a bulleted list of talking points on a 3” x 5” card so that you don’t forget any important subjects. And then simply talk from the heart, using your list to provide a measure of comfort and guidance.


Editing and Proofreading

Spelling errors, basic grammar, and other typos will give your audience the wrong impression and turn them away. No matter how good of a writer you are, always try to enlist at least one other person to review your copy’s style, structure and grammar. Consider hiring a professional copywriter (someone who writes copy or text; not a copyrighter) if you have doubts about how persuasive and engaging your writing is. Copywriters also can be a big help if you lack time to author newsletters, direct mail, e-mail pitches, video scripts, website copy, news releases, blog articles and social media posts.



In the nonprofit context, marketing consists of sharing information and telling stories, in a persuasive way, about the good mission and fantastic work of your organization so that more of the world can benefit from what you do. When you market in this way, you become a vehicle for enlightenment in a sometimes dark and scary world. You empower people. You help guide citizens to invest in this goodness.

Contact Visjonær Consulting & Communications today for a free consultation about how we can enhance and polish your organization’s communications. We can help you create and implement marketing plans and/or craft individual print or digital pieces to help you put your best face forward and achieve tangible results! Call 608-386-2563 or e-mail info {at} visjonaer {dot} com and make your life easier and more productive.


Explosive Marketing for Nonprofits: Trajectory for Success - new book

Coming in 2017 . . . Tim Jacobson's new book Explosive Marketing for Nonprofits: Trajectory for Success. The goal of Explosive Marketing is to strengthen and inspire leaders of charitable organizations, to empower them to realize their amazing potential to do good. Stay tuned for ways to get your hands on the book!


Check out the author's Facebook page at and find him on Twitter at

Like’ and/or 'Share' this article below if you believe in the power of communications to further the mission of nonprofit organizations. What types of communication vehicles do you find most effective? Share your stories!


Tim Jacobson's picture

Tim Jacobson, CEO of Visjonær Consulting & Communications, has served as a board member and executive of a variety of nonprofit and for-profit organizations over the past two decades. He's author of the book Explosive Marketing for Nonprofits: Trajectory for Success, with an expected release in 2017, the executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning documentary film, Mysteries of the Driftless, broadcast on PBS, and author of Amazon best-selling thriller The Kurchatov Penetration. He has been featured countless times by TV and radio stations, magazines and newspapers for his organizational consulting, filmmaking, writing, conservation and legal work and for his exploration of international justice and peace issues.

This article is copyright (c) 2014, Timothy S. Jacobson. All rights reserved.


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