12 Ways Nonprofits Can Be More Effective Online

When you’re a nonprofit, the need is real – but usually the budget is small and the manpower is minimal. Fortunately, digital can be a great tool to help nonprofits do more marketing with less.

I recently spoke to a symposium of nonprofit leaders at Cendera Center about ways to leverage digital tools, compiled from the expertise of several Bs here at Balcom. These are proven digital tips and opportunities we've seen work for our nonprofit clients.


Your website is not just a digital brochure. It’s more like a digital headquarters. Everything else you’re doing – from fliers to billboards – should point people to your website, where they can learn more, donate or sign up to volunteer.

1. Make it conversion- and mobile-friendly.

More and more people are surfing on their phones rather than their computers – so make sure your website looks good on mobile phones, and make sure it’s easy to donate or sign up.

2. Tell the story with a blog, imagery and testimonials. 

Storytelling may be the most powerful marketing tool there is – especially for nonprofits, where the reward for your donor’s investment is knowing that they made a difference.

3. Use Google Analytics.

This is a free analytics service that will tell you how well your site is working and who is visiting. How to install Google Analytics.


Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second; you need to be showing up in results.

4. Claim your locations on Google.

Make sure your address, phone number and website information are correct:

  • Sign in to your organization’s Google (or Gmail or YouTube) account.
  • Google your organization.
  • Click the map.
  • Click each icon that marks one of your locations on the map.
  • A little window will pop up with your business information. Click the blue link near the top that says, “Own this business?” then follow the prompts to verify your business and update the info.

5. Apply for a Google Ad Grant. 

501(c)(3)s can apply to get $10,000 per month in free search ads. Yes, $10,000 in free ads. If you’re eligible, you should definitely be taking advantage of it. Apply for a Google Ad Grant.

6. Keep an eye on your page rank. 

“Page rank” is how high your website appears in search results. Google determines your page rank based on a variety of factors, like how many people link to you. To check yours, Google some terms people would use to find you, such as your organization’s name or generic description (e.g., Balcom might search “Fort Worth ad agency”). You can organically improve your page rank by:

  • Using keywords and phrases Google users would use to find you.
  • Publishing regular updates (like those success stories) to your site; Google tends to reward sites that have fresh content.

Social Media

With more than 900 million people – including your mother – visiting Facebook every day, it’s safe to say social media is not a fad. It's an effective marketing tool. 

7. Focus on quality, not quantity.

It’s tempting to jump onto every new, popular platform, but it’s better to post great content on a few sites than no content on a dozen. Start with Facebook and LinkedIn first. If you feel you can take on more, look for sites that are popular with your audience.

8. Create a social media voice.

Express your organization’s personality in an interesting and consistent way by cultivating a voice that fits with your cause and connects to your audience. Are you warm and professional or witty and irreverent? Write a few sample lines that exemplify that voice to keep as reference.

9. Work to increase impressions.

Facebook’s current algorithm means that, organically, a regular Facebook post only reaches 3 percent of the page’s fans. But there are ways to boost your numbers.

  • Organic: Tag volunteers, employees and partners to help spread the word to their friends and encourage sharing.
  • Paid: Invest small amounts to boost important posts – just make sure they're tied to conversions such as likes or donations. 

Email Marketing

While other marketing outlets may rise in popularity, email is still proven to be a highly effective outlet to inform advocates and drive conversions. 

10. Create an email database.

Ask people to join your email list; it’s a chance to remind them of the good things you do and encourage them to give or volunteer. Remember that you must ask them to opt-in; you can’t legally send commercial emails (even nonprofit ones) without the recipient’s express permission.

11. Send targeted messages based on audience.

Include categories on the opt-in form so you can identify and target your different audiences, like employees, volunteers, board members and donors. That way you can tailor each email to the specific audience.

12. Focus on click-through rate.

Open-rate is a vanity metric; it doesn’t really tell you how successful your email was. Instead, focus on the number of people who clicked through the email to your website. You can encourage those click-throughs using a concise "headline, teaser and link" setup.

A Few Extra Tips

  • Use consistent messaging and timing across all digital outlets to maximize exposure. 
  • Leverage visuals to tell the story. Photos, videos and infographics are far more effective than text alone.
  • Always ask, “Why should my audience care?” Determine what’s in it for them, then craft your messaging to address their needs and interests.

Your Next Steps

  • Use metrics to audit your current digital plans so you can see what’s working and what's not. 
  • Adjust those plans and goals to focus on what's most effective for your organization.

Need a hand? Balcom has a special rate for nonprofit organizations. Contact us.

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