A few years ago, a common approach to marketing was what we called, "spray and pray." Spread lots of messages, and hope someone sees or hears and responds. It was not very efficient or effective. Who was reading that newsletter? What did our supporters need? Unless they told us, it was hard to know because we couldn't monitor their behaviors. Today we have many tools to connect with our supporters and gauge their behaviors. We can see what emails they open, what they forward, read, share, etc. Because of this information, we can hone in on our best prospects.
Our approach needs to shift.
We no longer need to worry about convincing people of our nonprofit’s worth. Instead, we should find like-minded people and be available to them so they are attracted to your organization. Stop running after people who won't connect to you. Stand still and be available and easy to find. This is called inbound marketing. Instead of going outbound and spreading your message, hoping someone responds, stand strong in your message and make your organization easy to find. When people interested are in your cause and go looking, there you are! And because they have self-identified as "interested," you already know they think your mission is worthy and valuable.
Draw like-minded people to you.
So instead of trying to convince people your cause is worthy, be who you are: strong in message and easy-to-find. That means keeping your site updated, blogging, posting and tweeting relevant information, and having solid SEO (search engine optimization) rankings.
This also means looking at some of the ways you spend your money and seeing how well they work. A local private school spent the largest portion of its marketing budget on advertising (outbound marketing, a spray and pray approach) when only three percent of families said that the ads were how they learned about the school. The school's most effective form of marketing was word of mouth from families, friends, and coworkers. This is the best example of inbound marketing. The school is now cutting back on ads and encouraging its current families to share stories about their school experiences.
But no one has ever heard of us.
A common complaint we hear is, "No one has ever heard of us." Well, who are those people? Does it matter if they haven't? Are they likely prospects? Convincing absolutely everyone that your organization is worthy and valuable only to have most of them not become supporters is a waste of your valuable time, energy and money.
It seems weird not to go chasing after prospects. It seems like you are not doing your job. But when you focus on sharing stories of value and interest, being helpful, available and findable, people will respond. It will get you off the communications treadmill and will get you results.