6 Key Mistakes NonProfits Make in their Communications Strategy
There was a time when having a website with a freewebs.com address was ok for a nonprofit. There was a time when not having a Facebook Page was normal. There was even a time when “I wonder if they have online giving on their website?” was a question people asked themselves. Those times are all far behind us.
Most organizations have come a long way in improving and priotizing their digital platforms. However, many are still making mistakes which have a negative impact on their mission and success. Let’s dive right in:
1. Not having a digital communications strategy at all
A lot of medium and small nonprofits do not have a well thought-out communications strategy. They may have a website and a facebook page, but they don’t have clear goals and objectives outlining what results they expect to see from their digital communications efforts. Without clear goals, there is no way to assess progress. A detailed plan will help your organization identify opportunities for growth that will otherwise go untapped.
If you don’t see online communications and fundraising as a priority, you should. Online giving continues to grow at a record pace. In the past 5 years alone it has gone up more than 50%, from less than 20 billion dollars in 2012 to more than 30 billion in 2017. And the trend is not stopping. As of last year, online giving represented roughly 10% of all individual giving. And once you remove large gifts that are unlikely to come in through a credit card, that number is much higher. Most monthly recurring givers, do so via credit card. And while you would think all these facts would mean that most nonprofits have a clear plan as to how they will grow their online giving base, the truth is that most of them don’t.
2. Assigning digital tasks to the newest staff member or intern
Email Newsletter? Website updates? Facebook posts? No worries, Joe the intern is here to help! Afterall, he is 19 and has a Macbook! What could go wrong? Or better yet, let’s hire a “junior associate development assistant coordinator” at minimum wage, 20 hrs a week and let them figure it out.
Ok. Pardon the sarcarm. But… seriously? Out of all the interactions you have with your donors and clients, 90% + will be through digital channels. Take for example your donors. Let’s say they come to 2 events per year and volunteer another 5 days. That’s 8 interactions. If you send out a monthly email newsletter and post twice a week to your Facebook page that’s 116 touch points. And we’re not even counting them visiting your website every now and then, or following you on other social media outlets.
Now, while it’s true that in-person events will be much more significant interactions, it is also true that we live in a world where there is a high level of competition for your donors and clients’ attention. What are you doing to stay at the forefront of their minds? How are you letting them know about all the good you are doing in the months between in-person engagement opportunities?
Giving your digital engagement responsibility to someone that will likely not be with your organization in 9 months simply doesn’t make a ton of sense.
3. Neglecting your social media channels
What kind of following do you have on social media? Do you post content that is likely to be shared by your followers? How often do you post and who decides what goes on there? There are many mistakes being made on social media by today’s nonprofits. Ignoring them is the one mistake you cannot afford to make. Facebook, for example, works with an algorythm that accounts for frecuency of posts as well as engagement to decide how many people it shows your posts to.
When you post regularly content that is relevant and engaging, you will see your reach skyrocket. It is not uncommon to see a page that has 3,000 followers reach 10,000 people with an engaging post. However, it is also not uncommon to see a page with 100,000 followers reach only 1,000 people with a post. Neglecting or flat-out ignoring your social presence could be a huge wasted opportunity for your organization.
4. Relying solely on organic reach.
Most nonprofits are willing to spend thousands on a year-end fundraising campaign or key event, yet are completely unwilling to pay for online advertising. With today’s technology, you are able to set a Google or Facebook retargetting ad to show a donation button to those who have visited your website in the days following their visit. While you might think this would cost you thousands, it really only costs a few cents per click. With the average online donation being over $100, just one or two donations could pay for the entire cost of your yearly re-targetting campaign. And while organic (free) reach is great and more valuable than paid, there are many ways to increase your organic reach that don’t cost much.
Are you running giveaway campaigns on your social media? What about having one of your longtime donors help you with an online campaign to grow your social media pages? There are many ways to go about this, but relying solely on organic, non-strategized reach for your social channels is not one of them.
5. Not using multi-channel fundraising campaigns.
30% of all giving happens at year’s end. Because of this, most nonprofits send out a neat letter, usually with some impactful images and creative goals to raise valuable funds to support their mission around December 1st. However, most of those campaigns stay in print only. A multi-channel fundraising campaign means replicating the same idea on every communications channel your organization has. This includes social media, email newsletters, youtube channel, etc. While just writing a letter and “being done with it” might be tempting, a multichannel campaign provides a reminder to your donors about your goals and giving opportunities.
Most of us have looked at an item on an online store but not made a purchase until clicking on an ad a few days later. Giving is no different. However, most nonprofits only contact their donors once, through the initial fundraising letter. Imagine how much more powerful your campaign could be with a structured follow-up campaign including social media, email and more? More channels means more opportunities to remind donors about your need.
6. Forgetting about mobile users
More than 60% of your digital content will be viewed on a mobile device. While you might spend a lot of time browsing on a desktop computer, the reality is that most people won’t. We are now aware of the importance of mobile-friendly and responsive sites. But not all responsive sites are created equal. Everytime you publish a digital piece, it must be tested to make sure it is easy to open, read, and interact with on a mobile device. How big is that image you are posting to your latest news article? Is your website easy to browse through on a iPhone? How does your Facebook banner look on a mobile device? Trust me: give mobile some thought. The results will speak for themselves.
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