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How to Build an Effective Nonprofit Outreach Strategy

Avatar of Pulse Marketing By Pulse Marketing

It’s no secret that a solid development plan forms the backbone of successful nonprofit growth. Outreach makes up a huge part of nonprofit campaigns – but what’s the best way to reach out and engage your target audience?

Modern digital culture offers endless opportunities for communication, and all those options can be overwhelming. That said, however, most campaigns can build a good starting foundation from some “core” communication channels. Begin your nonprofit outreach strategy with these tips:

First, a little homework. Before you can decide how to share your organization’s message, you need to be sure that message is carefully streamlined to resonate with your audience.  Do some research to determine the needs, attitudes, and motivations of your ideal supporters – or even better, create detailed personas.  This will give you a good idea of what’s emotionally relevant to your prospects, and which outreach channels are likely to work best in reaching them.  You can then craft a more compelling, persuasive pitch for your cause and adapt it to different audiences. Keep in mind that a powerful message should also highlight what’s unique about your organization, and show how your sponsors will benefit from supporting your cause.

Once you’ve nailed your audience and decided on the most effective message, you have several options to get yourself out there.
Believe it or not, Direct Mail still plays an important role in nonprofit development.  Mailed invitations, “save the date” cards, or special announcements put something personal and concrete into your supporters’ hands. Plus, not only do they offer a preview of upcoming events and tangible reminder, they encourage greater commitment by asking the recipient to RSVP.

Your website is often prospective donors’ first impression of your organization, and it’s where existing donors look for information and updates.  To make the greatest impact, pay attention to key details to be sure you’re putting your best foot forward:

  • Identity. Viewers should be able to see immediately who you are, what you do, and where you operate geographically. Provide clear insight into your structure, mission, and accomplishments.
  • Accessibility. Keep menus and navigation logical, visible, and readable so that visitors can find what they need quickly and easily. Your contact information should appear on every page.
  • Convenience. Be sure that your supporters can make online donations easily and simply. Include calls-to-action, buttons, or links throughout your website to help keep the process straightforward and user-friendly.
  • Sustainability. You should clearly illustrate your funding needs and successes. The more specific you can be about how and where contributions will make a difference – especially for financial gifts – the more confidence supporters will have.
  • Relevance. Few things speak louder than a stale or neglected website. Be sure to update regularly with news, stories, photos, or other fresh content to keep visitors engaged and interested.

Social media provides a great opportunity to do what nonprofits do best – share the story of their cause. Social platforms like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter are ways to educate the online community about your mission and the impact of your work, as well as to generate web traffic. Take advantage of it! Post updates, success stories, event notices, and links back to your website, your blog, or outside sources. Add a personal touch by thanking or recognizing supporters, and don’t be afraid to include calls-to-action. Remember, though, that the purpose of social media is sharing. Ask your followers to spread the good word about your cause rather than donate directly.

Blogging may seem like an impossible task while juggling the enormous workload that goes with nonprofits, but the rewards are worth the effort!  A well-written blog will engage and inform readers as well as help drive traffic back you your main web site.  Start by inviting members of your staff – or volunteers, or even donors – to tell their stories, share their opinions, or write about something within their expertise.  This will help distribute the blog work and build a wider range of perspectives.  It will also get at the heart of your mission to make your content more engaging, relevant, and compelling.

Once you’ve picked out a few sources, plan an editorial calendar to map out when each blog will be posted, what topic it will cover, and who will be writing it.  Assign one person as a “core” editor to ensure consistent quality. You can also repurpose older blogs into new, fresh content – rewrite them in a different tone, with a different focus, or expand smaller points into individual blogs.

Make sure your website and blog posts include clear and compelling calls to action.  Don’t be afraid to ask for volunteers, donations, and other gifts.  The call to action on each page should be relevant to that page’s content, and should provide an easy way for people to help out.

Finally, remember to optimize all your content for search engines. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – using relevant keywords to tag your web pages, content, and images – is essential to keeping your organization visible online. A great website or fantastic blog, or even a hot Facebook page, will only go so far unless it’s easy for new web browsers to “discover.” A web page with no SEO is much more difficult to find – if not impossible – unless visitors already know the direct URL. Analyze your web traffic, blog hits, and other metrics regularly to see which SEO works and which doesn’t, and adjust your tactics accordingly.

Remember: whatever outreach channels you choose, never go silent! Communicate with your supporters on a regular basis – and make sure all your delivery channels are integrated to convey a consistent message.

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