Inbound marketing, as I’ve written about before, is a technique for bringing more fans into your non-profit engagement funnel by providing them with a product, service, or piece of content for which they give you their name, contact info, and permission to contact them in return. It’s an underutilized marketing tool in the non-profit world, but can reap major rewards for the creative organization.
But inbound marketing requires a major shift in thinking for most non-profit staff. First of all, it usually requires a product, like a white paper or ebook, when we’re used to providing services. Second, it requires non-profit staff to think of themselves as authorities when we’re much more used to thinking of ourselves as servant leaders. And third, it requires us to withhold something in return for a name and contact info, something we don’t often do.
So, with these major barriers in mind, this blog post is a starting point for you to think about inbound marketing ideas for non-profits – to get more people involved in your cause.
First, let’s address the barriers to inbound marketing for many non-profit professionals
Yes, you’ll need one. This may take time and resources, or it could be quick and easy. I’ve listed ideas below, but try to make this as easy on yourself to begin with.
I’ve met many non-profit staff who don’t see themselves as authorities or even as servant leaders; they simply see themselves as servants. But this may be holding you back (in more ways than I can address in this blog post!). If you have a job, doing whatever you’re paid to do, then you are the most qualified person in your field/organization/state. You don’t have to be boastful, but you certainly don’t have to give away your authority. Inbound marketing could be built off of something you, personally, are good at. Or something you have experience with. Or even something you’ve done once and are willing to then write about it in a meaningful way for others. See the ideas below.
If it helps, skip the personal authority struggle and think about all the things your organization is an authority in.
For inbound marketing to be successful, you need to offer something to your supporters and get something you need in return. Aside from donor information, this is a rare request in the non-profit world. We’re not in sales, we’re not about withholding anything from anyone, but in this case, it can serve your cause well.
If you have something, like a how-to guide or an instructional manual, the least your supporters can do is give you their name and e-mail address. This allows you to track downloads and add these folks to your e-newsletter list. But don’t be shy to ask supporters for their mailing info as well. After all, you’ve put time and resources into this thing they are interested in.
Inbound marketing ideas for non-profits
It’s difficult to make a list that will serve anyone reading this post, but I’m going to describe some key starting points for non-profit inbound marketing. If you’d like to brainstorm one-on-one, contact me.
- PDF on the Top 10 Ways to Make an Impact (in your service area)
- Report card on your political representatives
- Photos for desktop backgrounds (relevant to your cause, of course)
- Social Media Ambassador materials
- How-To Guides
- Think about serious content: lobbying, changing the system, making an impact, talking about the issues, etc.
- Think about fun content: “how to train your dog to dance” (animal welfare orgs), “how to make in-season vegetables last longer” (anti-hunger orgs), “how to get kids involved in X” (any cause)
- Coupon booklets (with supporting companies)
- Contests (with gear from your org)
- Timely videos, from the CEO or a local celebrity, for example
- Quizzes/Surveys (related to your cause, of course)
- Newsletter or Annual Report (for those not on your mailing list already)
- Program reports or reviews
The possibilities for inbound marketing are most fruitful with How-To Guides or other fun content. These things, too, could be a positive/uplifting way to engage supporters, rather than the often sad stories or pleas for help non-profits often put out.
If you take this road, you could certainly take on the project yourself, especially if you have a significant amount of experience or expertise. Or the material could be a crowdsourced collection of how-tos from your staff, volunteers, or clients.
If you’d like to brainstorm inbound marketing for your non-profit, I’d be happy to help. I have experience – that I wrote about here – with a great inbound marketing project for a statewide non-profit.
Do you have other inbound marketing ideas for non-profits? If you have suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments!
2 Comments for “Inbound marketing ideas for non-profits”
Vermont Higher Education Councilsays:
This also makes me think about assessment – by asking someone for their name and contact information we can track who is accessing and downloading our materials (such as applications for programs or data reports we are publishing). Yes, we can reach out to them again from a marketing perspective, but we can also better track where our materials are ending up as a tool to report to our Boards and to improve our programs. Thanks Michelle!
Hi, Carrie. Great point! I hope you’re able to collect some interesting data!