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As you begin digital marketing, make sure you are focused on the donor, and engaging her in clear and compelling ways. These three principles should guide your social media marketing efforts.

When you move into digital marketing, particularly outreach through social media, there are three principles to apply to keep your nonprofit’s marketing strong and compelling:

  • Integrate your messaging across multiple channels
  • Involve your audience in meaningful ways
  • Inspire your audience on an individual and emotional level

As Eric Streiff explained yesterday, your mission should always be front and center. While you seek to “integrate, involve, inspire,” the goal is to ignite the hearts and minds of your audience with the mission of your nonprofit, to inspire a deep sense of identity and belonging with your charity. Let’s walk through each of these principles to help ensure you are checking all of the right boxes in your digital marketing playbook.


This is a tactical principle that for-profit marketers have applied for years. You need to reach your audience through multiple channels with a consistent message.

We daily navigate a world inundated by media from TV, websites, social media, billboards, direct mail, and face-to-face conversations. Integrated messaging and strategy across all of those channels is a way of building attention and momentum for your organization. It’s a rising tide that raises all boats which will feed your fundraising.

On the other hand, if the message feels disconnected, it can erode trust.

Often underrated and underused by fundraisers, social media is critical piece of an integrated approach. Engagement on social media is extremely high right now. This is a medium that people are turning to for a sense of human interaction, a feeling (however dim) of belonging—even inspiration and relief from other stressors.

If you are not already, you should be reaching donors on social media with a message that they are also seeing in their mailboxes and through email campaigns. Now is the time to get out of your comfort zone and try some innovative approaches to digital marketing: double-down on storytelling, enter a new platform, try live content.

But as you attempt these new ideas, avoid “random acts of marketing.” Though social media can feel impromptu and casual when we use it personally, you need to be strategic and thoughtful about how you approach it for your organization. Your innovative marketing tactics need to integrate with your current communication plans through consistent messages and thoughtful timing.


Social media is … social. At the core, social media is about relationships and engagement. And oftentimes, the best approach is similar to a “real” human relationship. It’s about being relevant, valuable, personal, and timely. These are the things that drive meaningful interactions regardless of the channel.

To create meaningful engagement with your audience, you need to focus on both quantity and quality. You should aim to post daily, or at least a few times a week. But, let me be clear: produce digital content … but do not publish for the sake of publishing. Plan ahead to develop relevant and meaningful content that engages your audience in your mission on a deeper level. This requires authenticity and context. Your message cannot be tone deaf and (as always!) should not be organization-centric, but donor- or audience-centric. Make sure you understand your donors: who they are, what they do and why they care. And make sure you’re also considering the broader social and political context.

Social media provides profound capabilities to target your message. Do your research and preparation to make sure that your message is relevant and engaging for this person and her concerns and interests. If you’re successful in this, you’ll stand out and you’ll be extremely memorable with the donor or prospect.


As Katharine Janus explained, your messaging should be positive and uplifting for your audience. That’s especially true now, but even when times are less “uncertain,” your messaging should connect the donor to the mission and the mission to the vision. You should always be sharing how you—or more precisely, the donor—is improving the world and how the partnership between the donor and organization makes an impact.

As much as you are able, help the donor connect with the organization on a personal level, and see themselves in truly advancing the mission. To achieve that, you need excellent storytelling. Lean on Iain Bernhoft’s advice to help you craft this message.

Next, get crystal clear on your objectives.

What are you trying to achieve? What is the goal of this communication in particular? Remember how I said good social media is like a good relationship? You can’t ask for a gift all the time. Vary your objectives to include building an audience, strengthening engagement, driving traffic to your website, and deepening connection with your mission. Then vary your storytelling and approach to what you’re trying to achieve. Do you want the donor to make a gift? To read something? To visit the website? To share something with a friend? There are countless ways to engage your audience, but you need to know exactly what you want in order to make the message successful.

Finally, make sure your call to action is clear and compelling. Engagement on social media is often fast paced and fleeting—and you’re competing for attention. State clearly what it is you want the donor to do and then ask them to do it.

Personal engagement

The digital space is loud and busy. Whether you’re sending email, attracting donors to your website, or trying to engage in social media, you’re competing to stand out among the noise. To make sure you’re not lost in the crowd, tap into the potential intimacy and connection that doesn’t exist in other mediums. Our social media platforms are our “personal profiles”—so when someone reaches us on social media, it feels like a personal interaction.

To make it personal, focus on your donor as much as possible (and more!)—their likes and dislikes, their history of engaging with you, and their motivations for giving—and make sure they receive messaging that is relevant to them, inspires them with your mission, and does not cross wires with other messaging they are receiving from you.

Make every interaction is one that you’d be proud to have in real life. By sticking to “integrate, involve, inspire,” you’ll go a long way toward creating that authentic connection that ultimately serves your fundraising goals.

If you have questions about growing your social media and digital marketing efforts at your nonprofit, please be in touch via email.

For the next several weeks, Philanthropy Daily will be a resource for fundraisers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Check back daily for new articles addressing news about coronavirus and philanthropy and providing strategic and practical recommendations for weathering this storm as a fundraiser.

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