4 key strategies for nonprofits to keep supporters engaged

Published on 13 Sep 2022 by Auctria

Imagine that your nonprofit receives a large influx of new supporters as a result of a crisis in your community. These new supporters are excited to help in any way they can, and they may get involved with many of your fundraisers and volunteer opportunities. However, as time passes, their engagement starts to fade until they rarely interact with your organization.

While frustrating, stagnant engagement from supporters is common for nonprofits. There are many reasons your organization might struggle to engage donors and volunteers. For example, maybe your nonprofit isn’t using effective communication strategies to connect with and engage its supporters.

High engagement among your supporters will result in your organization retaining your volunteers, members, and donors for the long haul. This will help you grow your fundraising and programming over time. Using the right marketing strategies will be key to making this engagement possible. By creating consistent, personalized communications that reach the right audience, you can maintain high levels of awareness and motivate supporters to continue getting involved.

In this article, we’ll cover these four strategies to give you the tools you need to effectively reach and engage your supporters:

  • Create a digital marketing strategy.
  • Leverage email marketing.
  • Produce customized media.
  • Personalize your efforts.

Remember that keeping your supporters engaged should be an ongoing process for your organization. You’ll need to send supporters regular communications and leverage innovative and personalized marketing strategies that make them feel like an integral part of the organization. One of the best ways to get started is with a strong digital marketing strategy.

Create a digital marketing strategy

The internet is so intertwined with your supporters’ daily lives that a digital marketing strategy is a must-have for a successful marketing campaign. A compelling digital marketing strategy can boost brand awareness, event attendance, and donations during fundraisers. Not only that, but effective marketing also boosts engagement from your supporters by directing them to new ways of getting involved.

These digital marketing tips for nonprofits can help your organization better engage supporters:

  • Clearly define goals. Before getting started, decide what you want to accomplish with your digital marketing strategy and how you will define success at the end of the campaign. At this stage, consider pinpointing the data points you want to see growth in. For example, if your goal is to grow your volunteer program, reference specific, measurable metrics like volunteer attendance.

  • Break your audience into segments. More than likely, your audience consists of people from a wide variety of demographics and backgrounds, all united under a common cause. Segmenting your supporters into smaller groups based on common characteristics can help you target marketing messages more effectively, leading to more engagement with your nonprofit. Consider segmenting your audience based on information like their engagement history or motivations for participating.

  • Design digital ads. Let’s say a supporter browses your website but clicks away before donating or signing up to volunteer at your next event. Your nonprofit can create digital ads that will retarget the supporters that slip through the cracks of your website. These ads will appear on other websites they visit going forward, guiding them back to your website (and to more opportunities to engage with your organization!).

Digital media is a fast-paced environment full of content meant to catch a viewer’s attention for a split second. Build a successful digital marketing strategy that will do more by pulling in your audience, capturing their full attention, and directing them toward opportunities to engage with your nonprofit.

Leverage email marketing

Email marketing is a popular and effective strategy because it can easily be personalized and it leverages a popular media channel that people check often. For nonprofits, this is an extremely effective tool for engaging supporters. As Feathr’s guide to nonprofit email marketing cites, nonprofit organizations enjoy some of the highest email open and click-through rates of any sector.

Take advantage of the unique position your nonprofit has when it comes to email marketing. These best practices can help you create impactful emails to drive more supporter engagement:

  • Create branded emails. Be sure to add branded elements to any emails you - send out so supporters can quickly recognize your organization. Include visual elements like your logo, brand colors, and the fonts you typically use because your audience will process images much faster than plain text. Branding emails can also make them appear more legitimate and trustworthy so your audience is more likely to engage with the emails you send.

  • Use A/B testing. To run an A/B test, craft two emails that use slightly different messaging strategies. Be sure to only change one element of the email such as the image or call to action. Then, send the first email to half of your supporters and the second email to the remaining half. Compare metrics like click-through and conversion rates to see which one was more engaging and improve your overall key performance indicators (KPIs).

  • Optimize emails for mobile devices. People tend to check emails on their smartphones rather than on a desktop. However, emails are often designed for desktop viewing. While these desktop emails might look great in mockups, they might not be very effective for mobile users. Prioritize making the emails you send accessible and functional on mobile devices to better meet your supporters where they are.

  • Feature calls to action. A call to action helps encourage your audience to take your campaign’s desired action that will support your overarching goals. Clear calls to action reinforce the purpose of your email by clearly defining how viewers can get involved. Make it easy for your audience to take the next step by providing links that lead them to your donation page or volunteer sign-up sheet.

Whether you’re using email marketing to promote your next online auction fundraiser or to boost volunteer recruitment numbers, be sure you incorporate specific campaigns like this into a larger email marketing strategy. Communicating regularly with your supporters can help you develop a deeper relationship with them.

Produce customized media

If your nonprofit aims to have robust digital and email marketing strategies, you’ll need to create customized media. While you can accomplish many of your marketing objectives with branded graphics and social media posts, why not take it a step further and produce your own high-quality media?

Nonprofits are in a unique position when it comes to content creation because they usually market to a smaller, more niche audience than a business would. For example, Longhopes Donkey Shelter, an organization that rescues and rehabilitates unwanted donkeys, has a very unique and niche cause. This means organizations like Longhopes could play a major role in meeting the demand for high-quality, educational content about their cause.

Creating your own media can seem intimidating, but modern technology makes it easy to create high-quality content with a little planning and practice. Let’s dig into a few ways you can get started:

  • Create videos. Videos are an engaging way to spread educational content and make emotional appeals to your audience. As Tectonic Video’s guide to nonprofit video creation explains, there are many different types of videos nonprofits can create to support their mission such as explainer, campaign, and testimonial videos. While these videos can have very different purposes ranging from educating to entertaining, they can all help your nonprofit work toward similar goals like attracting attention and encouraging supporters to participate.

  • Write blog posts. If your organization doesn’t have a blog or resources section on its website, begin writing high-quality, educational blog posts. Blog posts motivate supporters to learn more about your organization, spend more time on your website, and move closer to donating or volunteering. Additionally, if you leverage SEO best practices, you can reach more audiences by boosting your website’s ranking on search engine results pages.

  • Start a podcast. While launching a nonprofit podcast isn’t easy and will require significant planning and research, it can be an inexpensive way to create high-quality educational content. This long-form content gives your organization a way to thoughtfully dive into interesting topics related to your mission, highlight opportunities to get involved, and host interviews with the organization’s leaders. Plus, there are plenty of nonprofit podcasts you can draw inspiration from because the industry is growing so quickly.

Not only does creating your own media give your supporters access to high-quality, educational content, but it also gives your organization the freedom to tailor it to your mission. That way, you can educate supporters about the most important parts of your cause and promote the most valuable ways for your supporters to get involved.

Personalize your efforts

Having great marketing ideas is one of the keys to capturing supporters’ attention and motivating them to engage with your organization. One of the most effective strategies for creating engaging marketing materials is to personalize them to your audience.

Personalized marketing that hinges on your audience’s unique interests is far more effective than mass communications with a vague, generalized message. For example, if you run an animal rescue organization, you might have a portion of your audience that loves spending time with dogs in particular. For this segment, you should focus on marketing that prompts them to volunteer as a dog-walker.

Not only are these communications more effective than impersonal marketing methods, but consumers also tend to prefer them because they are relevant to their preferences and experiences. By appealing to your supporters’ personal motivations for giving in your marketing communications, you can employ messaging that tugs at their heartstrings and drive more engagement.

Marketing can motivate your supporters to regularly engage with your nonprofit, prompting them to turn their passion for your cause into action. With these strategies, your nonprofit can grow and maintain high levels of engagement for years to come, building deep relationships with your core supporter base.

Special thanks to Aidan Augustin for the expert advice.

Aidan Augustin is the co-founder and president of Feathr, an industry-leading tech company building marketing tools specifically tailored to the needs of associations and event organizers. Feathr has helped over 800 associations and 5,000 conferences, trade shows, and virtual events grow attendance, member engagement, and digital sponsorship revenue. Based out of their Gainesville, FL headquarters, Aidan leads the sales and marketing functions of Feathr and spearheads industry engagement. He is an actively involved member of both ASAE and IAEE and a regular speaker on the topics of digital marketing and event/association technology.

Aidan Augustin is the co-founder and president of Feathr, an industry-leading software company making digital marketing more accessible to nonprofits and event organizers. Feathr has helped over 800 nonprofits and thousands of events know, grow, and engage their audiences. When he's not steering the ship at Feathr, he's playing strategy games, singing karaoke, or reading books about people who changed the world.