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Why Nonprofits Need Digital Marketing Now


by Kevin XuCEO of MEBO International

There are more people using the internet today than ever before. In America alone, 31% of surveyed adults in early 2021 said they were online “almost constantly” — a jump from 21% in 2015. With 5.03 billion people using the internet around the world, it’s safe to say that now is the time to prioritize digital marketing strategies.

With so many people and businesses online, it makes sense that digital marketing has skyrocketed. Successful marketing is all about location, after all, so why not go where the customers are? Brands know that a well-timed email blast, advertisement, or targeted social media ad will go a long way in attracting the right audience. And with that huge audience at stake, nonprofit organizations can’t afford to put digital marketing on the back burner.

What are the challenges of digital marketing?

The biggest challenge in any digital space is finding and connecting with the right audience. In fact, business experts note that not knowing your audience is among the top marketing mistakes to avoid. Consider Huggies’ failed television ad campaign, “The Dad Test,” in which a commercial portrayed dads as silly and incompetent. Mocking fatherhood in this way alienated a big part of their customer base, including single fathers and same-sex couples. Misunderstanding their customers and their values ultimately backfired on the brand, big time.

The last thing a nonprofit wants is to put out a message that misses the mark — or worse, one that pushes potential donors away. When leaders know their audience well, an effective digital marketing campaign can strike the right cord with consumers.

What are the benefits of digital marketing?

Marketing in digital spaces means reaching a wider audience in a shorter amount of time. A nonprofit organization that needs to reach the public after a natural disaster to extend help isn’t going to want to rely on a flyer in a mailbox. Quick accessibility is a huge part of what makes digital marketing so valuable to nonprofits who need to spread the word about their services.

This type of marketing is also inherently creative. Digital spaces can handle more than simple images and text — in fact, the more creative, the better. Sound, video, and other multimedia elements make people want to stop and click. And for nonprofits who use marketing to showcase their mission statement, a video clip goes a long way over a block of text. The creative element of digital marketing is ultimately a huge benefit when it comes to reaching audiences.

For nonprofits wanting to reach new members (and keep established ones), digital marketing makes outreach easier than ever. A steady stream of volunteers is often vital for nonprofits. And while an annual newsletter asking for help only goes so far, monthly emails emphasizing volunteer opportunities keep members engaged. Digital marketing methods like these are a key part of boosting audience engagement.

Moreover, digital marketing is a worthwhile investment, and one that’s far more cost-effective than other marketing approaches. Nonprofits that ignore an internet audience are missing out on potential big gains.

How can nonprofit leaders optimize marketing efforts?

Digital marketing is an essential part of building connections and engagement — and ultimately attracting new funding. With so many people using the internet every day, investing in digital marketing isn’t just a smart move; it’s also a necessary one. Here are a few ways to make the most of your efforts:

1. Seek out learning opportunities.

If leaders are new to digital marketing, start with learning the basics. Explore digital marketing conferences where attendees learn how to implement digital marketing strategies and build necessary skill sets. Explore other successful nonprofit digital marketing campaigns to see what works and seems accessible. These steps will set leaders up for moving forward with a digital marketing campaign that works for their organization.

2. Use SEO and SEM to improve visibility.

Everyone wants their organization to benefit from internet search results. Search engine optimization and search engine marketing are key steps in that process. Both organic and paid search results are valuable for the connections they build between nonprofits and internet users. Leaders can also consider programs like Google’s Ad Grants, which provides grants to nonprofits for advertising purposes.

3. Don’t be afraid to promote to supporters.

What’s the use of a strong digital marketing campaign if audiences don’t see it? The key to successful promotion is knowing where to promote. Nonprofit leaders should know where their supporters are on the internet, and then target their marketing to supporters within those spaces. If supporters are highly likely to engage with email marketing, for example, that’s a good place to invest time and energy.

4. Segment audiences to create connections.

It’s important for nonprofits to create personal connections with supporters. This is where segmenting audiences comes in. This means dividing supporters into groups, based on their history with the nonprofit — those who attend events, those who volunteer frequently, those who are frequent donors, and so on. The benefit? Leaders can create marketing campaigns targeted directly to those groups. Audiences will be more likely to engage when a message speaks to their interests.


Kevin Xu is the CEO of MEBO International, a California- and Beijing-based intellectual property management company specializing in applied health systems. He also leads Skingenix, which specializes in skin organ regeneration and the research and development of botanical drug products. Kevin is co-founder of the Human Heritage Project.


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