When extending the reach of your nonprofit, the internet is invaluable. By creating a website and developing your online presence, you can share your nonprofit’s mission with those beyond your local community and provide information about your cause.
While building a site and your online presence sounds daunting, this guide will help you get up and running as quickly as possible. First, we’ll cover fundraising and outreach. Then, we’ll cover more technical topics, such as web hosting and domains for nonprofits.
Fundraising and Outreach
Though your organization is a nonprofit, advertising and marketing are just as important for you as they are for an organization that’s for-profit. Ads are a great way to get the word out regarding your mission.
Ad space costs money. But many companies offer special deals for nonprofits.
Google Ad Grants
The Ad Grants program offers eligible nonprofits up to $10,000 per month in text-based advertising so that they can expand the reach of their organization.
Using these funds, you can launch effective campaigns that reach a global audience, bringing in attention and donations from all around the world.
Ad Grants come in two flavors: AdWords Express and AdWords:
- If you want to get going with a minimum of fuss, AdWords Express might be the best option for yours. The service automatically picks where and when your ads appear. All you have to do is select your audience, write three lines of text about your nonprofit, and set your daily budget. AdWords Express takes care of everything else.
- If you’d like to spend more time managing your advertising, AdWords lets you do so. To help you out, you’ll get access to tools that help you create, target, and optimize your advertising campaigns.
Applying for Ad Grants
Applying for an Ad Grant is simple. You’ll need to:
- Check the eligibility requirements.
- Apply for Google for Nonprofits
- Enroll in Google Ad Grants and choose the program that’s right for you: Adwords or AdWords Express
- Create your Adwords/ Adwords Express account and create your first ad campaign.
- Submit your account to Google for review.
Crowdfunding is the process of funding for your organization and its projects by raising money from a large number of people.
While the transaction may be two-way (where the donor receives something in exchange for their donation), you can also set up campaigns strictly for raising funds without promising any goods or services in return.
There are many online crowdfunding platforms:
- GoFundMe: You can get a fundraiser set up in under 30 seconds with GoFundMe. You create a page that tells your story and request donations in support of your cause. GoFundMe charges a 5% fee on the amount you raise, although your donor is asked to cover these fees when the provide their payment information. Since launching, GoFundMe has helped raise over $3 billion for people in need.
- Kickstarter: You can’t use Kickstarter for the purpose of raising funds. But you can use Kickstarter to raise money to fund a project. For example, if you’re looking to create a low-cost device for use in a third-world country, you could use Kickstarter to fund the design and development.
- PayPal: PayPal lets you accept online donations, even if your supporter doesn’t have a PayPal account. For registered charities, PayPal offers discounted rates for its services. All you have to do is put a Donate button on your site.
- Teespring: Teespring is a site that creates custom t-shirts. Instead of asking for donations, you can use this site to create products whose proceeds benefit your organization. People like to receive gifts and tokens of appreciation in exchange for the donations, and Teespring helps you facilitate such transactions. Because Teespring verifies the charities involved, buyers know that their money will go directly to the organization, not to an unscrupulous seller
The world’s largest social media network has a full guide on how to utilize its platform to get your message out.
In addition to connecting with users around the world using Pages, you can:
- Create Groups for people within your community to interact
- Place targeted ads
- Bring awareness to and invite participation in your activities using Facebook’s custom Events pages
- Broadcast to the world using Facebook Live
- Share photos of your work using Instagram.
In addition to the above features (which are available to the general public), Facebook offers the following features free of charge to nonprofits:
- Fundraising: collect donations through your Facebook Page, ads, and posts
- Workplace: connect your organization — make voice and video calls, facilitate discussions, and see what your colleagues are doing in your customized News Feed.
Email marketing is a way for you to reach more people, get attention to your new and existing causes, seek donations, and find people to help — all in all, these combine to grow your organization and bring you closer to accomplishing your goal.
Of all the digital marketing tactics available, email brings in the highest return on investment. If you’re limited on time and funds, this is the area where you should devote a majority of your resources (and with the specials many providers offer to nonprofits, your returns could be even higher).
Remember, the people you’re interacting with via email are those who’ve already indicated interest in your cause — this isn’t like cold calling strangers.
People want to know why you started your organization, how you’ll help make the world a better place, and how they can contribute to making a difference. Emails are therefore a great way for you to tell your story. Here’s how the following types of email help you engage with your audience and keep them engaged with you:
- Welcome: Send a welcome email to users when they join your list. Acknowledge the person, and thank them for their interest.
- Explanation: Tell people your story. Explain to people how their time and resources will help your cause to make the world better.
- Event Invitations: Let people know if you’re hosting or sponsoring an event. Send reminders as the event draws near to keep it on readers’ minds. If they can’t come to your events, offer them an alternative way to help, such as making a donation.
- Thank You: Send a letter of thanks to all who contribute to your organization. Donors do a lot to keep an organization running, so acknowledge their contributions promptly.
- Updates and Newsletters: These are similar to the explanation/ story emails, but more specific. You might choose to send these out regularly so that your organization gets regular attention from your audience. For example, you might decide to send a quarterly newsletter talking about what your nonprofit has done with the resources people have donated and how your goals might have changed based on your accomplishments.
Constant Contact is a dedicated email marketing service that offers robust services to help you reach your audience.
It provides an easy-to-use editor that lets you create professional-looking emails that work for your users, no matter what device they’re using — smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. Just pick a template and edit it using the drag-and-drop editor so that your email gets sent with your organization’s message and details.
You can also:
- Import any existing lists you have, and use the forms feature to create new sign-up forms that you can embed into your site or share via social media.
- Convert your emails to social media-friendly missives with just a few clicks of your mouse, which means you don’t have to spend the time you don’t have crafting customized posts for all of your accounts when your message is the same.
- Produce reports and access detailed analytics on how your marketing efforts are doing. Get details on how many opened your emails, clicked your links, and so on. You can use this information to determine what your audience is most interested in and craft emails that better resonate with your readers.
- Create event notifications and reminders.
- Create auto-responders. Never forget to welcome a new subscriber or send a thank you note when you receive a donation ever again.
You can try out all of Constant Contact’s features free for 60 days. After the trial period:
- Nonprofits that prepay for six months receive a 20% discount.
- Nonprofits that prepay for 12 months receive a 30% discount.
Check out the nonprofit section of Constant Contact’s website for informative posts on how you can implement the best email campaign possible.
GetResponse offers 50% off all services to nonprofits.
It’s an all-in-one online marketing platform that includes robust email marketing features. You can create attractive emails using any of the 500+ templates available, integrate your emails with your social media accounts, and add video and multimedia content. And you can also produce reports:
To help you send better emails, you can target your emails based on groups (for example, you might send customized emails targeting those who reside within your local geographic area) and survey members to get a better idea of how you might reach out to your audience.
MailChimp is one of the largest email marketing platforms in the world. It offers powerful features with a simple and intuitive interface.
MailChimp offers a 15% discount on email credits and monthly plans to nonprofits and charities. To receive your discount, you’ll need to contact the Billing team after signing up for a MailChimp account. Usually, this contact is sufficient for you to receive the discount, but if MailChimp has any questions, it might request that you fax in the appropriate documentation to verify your nonprofit status.
Because MailChimp doesn’t offer retroactive discounts or refunds, be sure to request your discount soon after signing up for a new account.
MarketerHire bridges the gap between qualified freelancers offering digital services and the email marketing needs of your nonprofit. They use a rigorous freelancer screening process ensures to look for proven experts with passion and drive. Accordingly, hundreds of marketers apply to MarketerHire each month and only 5% is accepted.
They review each marketer’s professional experience, client feedback, and work samples to assess their level of expertise and knowledge of best practices. The final layer of screening is a video interview that assesses communication skills, critical thinking, and professionalism.
If all of these criteria are met, the freelancer joins the MarketerHire community who assigns test projects as a final step in the application process. Test projects provide real-world scenarios for candidates to demonstrate their competence, thoroughness, professionalism, and integrity over what is typically 1-3 weeks.
To ensure accountability, MarketerHires are expected to maintain a perfect track record while working with clients. They check in with clients every 2 weeks to ensure the quality service they provide.
Maintaining active social media accounts is an excellent way to market your organization for free:
- Twitter is a great way of sending short messages to update your users on your activities.
- Instagram: A picture is worth a thousand words, so provide your viewers with the visual media that they love. Instagram is a great way to share images of what your organization is doing.
- Tumblr: Blogging is a great way to get information out to your audience. Tumblr focuses on micro-blogging; this means that your write shorter posts (which require less time to craft).
- Google+: While Google+ isn’t as popular as some of the other methods mentioned, this is a great way of getting your presence on Google, the world’s most popular search engine. Use your profile to provide users with your most important details, such as your mission and contact information so that those who do look your organization up can easily find the information they want.
On all platforms, remember to use appropriate hashtags to reach a larger audience and bring attention to your cause.
Websites and Domains
When creating a new website, you’ll need to purchase services from a web hosting provider, register a domain name, and build your site. This might sound complicated, but there are lots of tools out there to make this process as easy as possible.
To share your website with the world, you’ll need to sign up for a web hosting plan.
Shared hosting plans are the most inexpensive option, so they’re an excellent way to get started. Many hosts offer packages that you can purchase for just a couple of dollars a month, but that doesn’t mean that all hosts are equal. Here are some things to consider when you decide on a web host provider:
- How much does your package cost? The price displayed could be the price you pay on a monthly basis, or it could be the amortized price if you pay upfront for a three-year contract.
- How is the host’s tech support? How often can your reach them? Are they helpful? Nowadays, many providers offer 24/7 support, so you can get the help you need when you need it.
- Do you get a free domain name with the purchase of your package? If so, will you be responsible for re-registering your domain in subsequent years?
- What add-on features do you get? Do you get email inboxes and storage? Do you get an easy-to-use editor that you can use to build your site?
- Does the provider offer any uptime guarantees? If they do, what compensation will you receive if your site is unavailable?
Web Hosting Specials for NonProfits
There are many organizations out there who offer discounted or free services to nonprofits. Some of them are:
When choosing a domain name, or the URL people use to reach your site, opt for one that’s short, memorable, and catchy for your users. Additionally, don’t neglect the importance of your extension. Common ones
Additionally, don’t neglect the importance of your extension. Common ones include
.org, but there are more options out there (though these tend to cost more). In general, opt for
In general, opt for a
.org extension, since people usually associate these URLs with nonprofit organizations.
Domain names aren’t costly, and you might even get a free domain name when you sign up for a web hosting package.
Once you have a domain name and a web host, you’ll need to create your site. You can do it yourself, but you can also bring in someone to help you if you find this task overwhelming.
Do It Yourself
For example, WordPress is free and really easy to install on an inexpensive hosting plan. It offers numerous themes and plugins that you can use for free.
Many web hosts, as part of your hosting package, offer access to site building software. Typically, you would begin by picking a template. You would then use the drag-and-drop editor to include your pictures, text, and contact information.
Extras, such as widgets that allow you to embed social media links and photo galleries, enable you to get creative with the features on your site.
Website builders are a great way for you to get a site up and running in no time. With that said, be aware of any limitations your host might place on your use of a website builder. For example, many hosts limit you to creating just a small number of pages if you’ve only purchased the most basic hosting package, or you might have to display ads you have no control over on your site. As your site grows, adding pages can be expensive.
Hiring a Web Designer/Developer
While some people are both web designers and web developers, these two roles are not interchangeable. Web designers design your site, which means they decide how it will appear. Web developers turn the design envisioned by your web designer into a functioning website.
Web design and web development services can be expensive, but there are design and software engineering companies that offer specials for charities and nonprofit organizations, including:
For web development, consider Free Code Camp. This program aims to teach people how to become web developers, and as the capstone project, students build software for nonprofits pro bono.
Developing a solid online presence for your nonprofit organization is imperative in today’s digital world, but you don’t have to break the bank doing so. In addition to the plethora of free apps and programs that help you get the word out via social media or email, many for-profit companies offer generous discounts to nonprofits.
Don’t let cost hold you back — if you see something that might be helpful for your organization, there’s a good chance the vendor offers discounts to charities.
- 10 Marketing Resources for Busy Nonprofits: tips and tricks for fundraising and email marketing
- 59 Useful Mobile Apps and Online Tools for Nonprofits: a comprehensive round-up of tools spanning the gamut from social media to content development
- National Council of Nonprofits – Tools & Resources: a list of reference material curated by the National Council of Nonprofits
- Nonprofit Technology Network: an organization dedicated to helping nonprofits leverage the power of technology
- The Chronicle of Philanthropy: a popular news source for all things charitable — this is helpful for tracking new trends and gaining ideas on what is working for other organizations and what isn’t
- The Fundraising Authority: newsletters and articles bringing you information on how to improve your fundraising efforts
- The Storytelling Nonprofit: this company offers a host of training sessions, webinars, and resources to help your nonprofit craft its story
If you know of someone looking to get the word out about their charity, share the love. Forward them this guide, or share it on your social media pages now.