Marketing on a budget: best practices for charity organizations

6 min read
Lisa Stambaugh

Which charity organizations aren’t on the lookout for online marketing opportunities that don’t break the bank? Read on for five tips to gain visibility, increase donations, recruit more volunteers, and share your message in a way that engages community participation.

But first … make sure your nonprofit’s website is up to the task. Before investing in activities to increase engagement, optimize your existing website and ensure it accurately reflects your current services and capabilities.

First steps:

Review your positioning. A Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is not just for for-profit businesses. What differentiates you as the most deserving organization when it comes to donations and volunteer efforts?

Confirm your target audience. In addition to those who need your services, do you have a clear picture of those interested in supporting the work you do?

Online marketing efforts must focus on nurturing relationships with those most likely to contribute to your cause.

Clarify goals and priorities. Are your fundraising goals clearly defined in a measurable way? Focus on data-driven goals such as the number of donations, volunteer hours, or event participants.

If your website is due for an overhaul, consider a redesign before investing in marketing.

1. Get found using Google Ad Grants

Imagine the possibilities built into free advertising provided every month by Google AdWords. In addition to increasing contributions and recruiting volunteers, this is an opportunity to share your story with a global audience.

Ads displayed next to Google search results increase awareness of your cause, which translates directly into donations and volunteers.

First steps:

Confirm your eligibility. Google works with 20,000+ charity organizations and nonprofits in 50+ countries. To participate, your organization must be based in one of these countries.

Check and/or complete registrations. Your organization must be registered as a charitable organization. In addition, organizations must be registered with the local TechSoup partner in their country.

Review your website. Your organization must have a live website with substantial content.

charity organizations google ad grants

Go here to learn more about Google Ad Grants.

2. Increase donations with Facebook’s Charitable Giving options

We all know that Facebook is used to connect and share with friends, family and business peers; it’s a powerful place to engage communities to raise money for the causes they care about. A compelling story on your Facebook page encourages followers to share their enthusiasm toward your cause.

In addition to simply sharing information, Facebook is committed to helping charity organizations increase awareness, activate supporters, and raise funds — including the ability to collect donations from their page, individual posts, and Facebook ads.

First steps:

Make sure you meet eligibility requirements. Start with a verified Facebook page that has a category set to “Non-Profit Organization.”

Check your nonprofit status. Eligible charity organizations must hold verified US-based 501(c)(3) status.

charity organizations nonprofits on facebook

Visit Nonprofits on Facebook to learn more.

3. Create compelling shareable content like infographics

You benefit when others tweet about your campaign or share information about your charitable organization’s good work. Celebrity support is perfect to reach a wider audience, but even without it, captivating content, featuring success stories with a personal touch, can gain plenty of traction on social media.

Infographics are an ideal medium to combine pictures and data, and therefore demonstrate your nonprofit organization’s impact on the community.

Infographics convey a large amount of information in a concise, visually persuasive presentation that is easily shared on social media or included on your website.

First steps:

Find your angle. Identify data that demonstrates your impact; focus on measurable results.

DIY vs. DIFM? Decide whether you will create the infographic yourself, or hire someone. If you’re thinking DIY, consider, which provides turnkey tools to get started. To hire someone to create an infographic for you, consider the affordable graphic design talent available via freelancer networks like Upwork and 99designs.

charity organizations easely infographics

4. Tug on heartstrings through video

Video effectively sparks empathy and caring among your audience. Nothing motivates giving more than true stories about actual people who have been affected by a crisis situation and benefitted from your help. Video is an excellent medium to demonstrate the scope of need and your solutions – and you don’t need fancy technology to get started.

First steps:

Determine the goals for your video campaign. Are you looking to directly encourage donations or volunteer efforts, or to spread awareness? How will you share the video?

Look into the YouTube Nonprofit Program. With donation cards, viewers can make a donation to charity organizations right from a video.

Get educated. Learn more about how video gives you SEO superpowers and helps you dominate on social media, and study up on shooting video with your smartphone.

5. Implement a donate-by-text program

Mobile fundraising is one of the quickest and most convenient ways donors can contribute to your charity organizations. Collecting donations (billed to credit cards) is as easy as instructing donors to text a unique campaign keyword to a five-digit phone number. They’ll instantly receive a text message that directly links to a secure donation form to capture donor data.

Text-to-donate is easily promoted across all of your marketing channels (including print, email, social media, direct mail, TV, radio, and word of mouth), encouraging donations and engagement with donors across campaigns.

First steps:

Identify how you will manage the campaign: staffing, timeline, and focused donation areas to benefit from the text-to-giving campaign.

Select a service provider, with a platform offering the features your organization needs, while keeping your donors’ information secure. Leading providers include @pay, BidPal, Qgiv and Connect2Give.

Get a phone number. Your nonprofit will receive a unique phone number from your text-to-give provider that donors use to text in their donations.

Decide how you will promote your campaign. Once your nonprofit is set up with a text-to-give provider, it’s time to let donors know about your campaign through your existing communications strategies and channels.

Charity organizations: Start marketing on a budget

There you have it: five sure-fire ways to increase visibility and engagement for charity organizations without taxing your budget. Roll them out individually, or combined into a multi-faceted program to reach as many supporters as possible.