Everything works better with a plan. And your nonprofit marketing is no different. When it comes to making your organization’s strategy, it pays to come at it thoughtfully and prepared. I know, it may sound like extra work. But it’s crucial to first consider things like your organization’s goals and the marketing channels you’ll use to reach them before diving in.

I’ll walk you through what you’ll need to work into your strategy and the considerations you’ll need to make based on capacity and what’s worked for you in the past. In the end, you’ll be in a better place to create a marketing strategy for your nonprofit that won’t collect dust on the shelf.

What’s a Nonprofit Marketing Strategy?

Let’s back up. Your marketing strategy creates a general roadmap for the marketing channels you use. It notes key projects, the goals you hope to accomplish through each channel, and a plan for measuring your success. Instead of scrambling as big annual events, giving days and year-end fundraising draw near, why not work these things into an overarching strategy and allow all of your nonprofit’s marketing efforts to work in sync?

Marketing Planning Questions

If you have the time, it’s helpful to do a review of your current marketing, what you’re doing and what’s working or not working based on actual data. But if you don’t have that kind of time or access to the data, work through the following questions and write down thoughtful and up-to-date answers using what you do have. These answers will be great to have handy as you create your marketing strategy later on.

What are your organization’s goals?

These are the actions that you most want your supporters and those new to your organization to take. For a lot of nonprofits, this means things like increasing donations, boosting the number of volunteers or program participants and spreading awareness for your cause.

Some find it particularly motivating to set very specific goals for themselves based on past data. Instead of simply increasing donations, they might aim to increase donations by 15%.

What marketing goals do you want to accomplish in the next year to work toward your organization’s goals?

We realize that marketing can’t always provide the whole picture when it comes to accomplishing nonprofit goals, but we’ve seen it do some pretty hefty lifting for our nonprofit clients. What new projects or updates to current marketing projects can help move your organization closer to reaching its goals? This could be anything from expanding awareness of your cause through regular posting and interactions on social media to increasing volunteer retention rates with an automated email campaign built specifically for new volunteers.

The success of your marketing strategy is based on connecting your marketing goals to specific organizational goals and coming up with a plan to actually work toward achieving them.

What did your marketing accomplish last year?

Think about the goals your nonprofit was reaching toward last year and the role that marketing played. Was it able to move the needle or did it fall short? Were particular projects and marketing channels more successful than others?

It’s tough to improve without assessing your current and past marketing. These nonprofit dashboards on Google Analytics will help you digest your website data to determine where you succeeded and where you may want to make some adjustments to the strategy.

What marketing channels do you currently use? Are they effective?

Look at all the different components of your nonprofit’s marketing and how each has been able to move you toward your goals. Do you send emails or direct mail? Post on social media? Have a website? A blog? All of these are channels that can be used to get results.

If you look into certain channels and see that no one is clicking or paying much attention, you may want to think about cutting that channel or adjusting it in a big way through your marketing strategy.

Do you have a marketing budget?

If you have a limited budget or no budget at all, there are still lots of marketing options open to you! You’ll just need to give special consideration before starting projects with additional costs associated, like Facebook or YouTube ads or working with marketing consultants.

What marketing projects are currently going on? What will you need to promote?

It can be easy to forget the marketing commitments that you’ve already made when you go to create a new strategy. But for a marketing strategy to be most effective, everything you’ll need to do has to integrate with the new projects you’d like to start doing. Who knows, you may even find a few current projects that you can cut.

Failing to work current projects and upcoming promotions into your strategy can put you in a bad place when you’re forced to put new projects on the backburner to scramble through the current ones. In that situation, nobody wins.

What actions can supporters take to move you toward your goals?

As you think about your marketing goals, consider how you’d like your supporters to respond to those goals. That might mean clicking a link to subscribe to your email list, signing up to volunteer on your website, following your nonprofit account on Twitter, or engaging with you by participating in a user-generated content campaign.

How much time can you commit to marketing?

This last question is especially important. You don’t want to pack your strategy with an unseemly amount of work, so much so that you throw the whole plan out the window once things pick up. Rather, it’s helpful to know your time restraints and select projects that you could reasonably complete, prioritizing those that will push you closest to your organization’s goals.

Thinking about the past, present and future of your nonprofit’s marketing can start to feel overwhelming pretty quickly, but thoughtfully answering these questions is an excellent place to start. It’s essential to get your bearings and a good base of background information before you can use it to inform an overarching nonprofit marketing strategy. The next step of the process involves actually creating a nonprofit marketing strategy, using the answers you’ve compiled.

Have you created a nonprofit marketing strategy? How did you prepare for it? Can you think of any additional questions that would be helpful to think about before diving in? Let’s talk about them in the comments.


  1. Hi Christine,
    I enjoyed your article. It might be even stronger if you gave some specific steps. I find a lot of the smaller charities I work with get a little flustered with all the organizational part of running their non-profit and so skip over the details.
    A piece like this may have more stickiness if it gave some specific examples. For instance, part of marketing and creating a plan is knowing what’s out there already, right? So how about suggesting charities do an arms-length evaluation of their organization’s marketing image.
    You know, check all the same sources a hyper-vigilant donor would check. That way they can make sure it’s all accurate and frames them correctly and it also gives them a chance to beef up any areas that have been neglected or were created by an algorithm.
    (GuideStar, Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance all regenerate the IRS exempt organization file with basic information and you’d be surprised how frequently they get it wrong – that’s why they invite you to edit it for free!).
    Keep up the good work.
    Happy to help if you’d like.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, David. Before you build out a plan to improve any marketing process to better reach a goal, it’s extremely helpful to review what you’re currently doing. And for organizations looking to increase donations through their marketing, it’s always great advice to do a high-level overview of a nonprofit’s donation process and the resources that typical donors check before giving. Stay tuned for the next post in this series where we’ll break down strategies for common nonprofit goals, including increasing donations.

  2. I’m a beginner & I am interested in the concept of time management with all the vast resources, such as: SEO; Social media; Blogging; Website formation; Advertising; Automatically generated email and direct messaging. It’s already to conceive how much time I should dedicate to each and I am a hands-on type of person who prefers to limit the amount of delegation because I’d like to protect the purity of my vision, but understand attempting to churn out blogs, messages and content on my own/daily is not the most preferable. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Thanks for commenting, Kalena. To avoid burnout down the road and attain some sort of a work-life balance, knowing when to delegate tasks is crucial – especially if you have someone willing to help you out! Creating a strong strategy and style guide that they can follow will help to ensure that everything goes as planned and is consistent with other marketing materials.

      For those times when you may not have someone to help out with the workload, check out the resources in our Lone Wolf Marketing Toolkit. It includes tips on project management and productivity, as well as marketing tools to use, helpful checklists and templates.

      I hope that helps! But please feel free to reach out with any questions that come up along the way.