nonprofit-marketing.jpgAs people spend more and more time online, many nonprofit organizations are discovering the ways they’ve always done their marketing, isn’t working as well anymore to attract donors and volunteers. Traditional marketing, like direct mail “asks” often goes straight into the trash. Newspaper, TV and radio ads are expensive, and yield nominal results. And while most organizations have a website, and use email and social media, many struggle to use these channels to their full potential.

Inbound marketing is a marketing methodology that is geared to attract visitors as they spend their time online, then convert them into contacts, donors and evangelists for your nonprofit’s cause.

The Inbound Marketing Methodology for Nonprofits


Let’s break down each of the steps of the inbound marketing methodology, and look at what a nonprofit can do to Attract, Connect, Engage and Inspire constituents.


The first step in the strategy is to attract strangers to visit your website with online content. There are lots of different kinds of website content, but for this phase we’re talking mainly about blogs. Blogs are short articles that you publish frequently on your website that talk about a specific topic related to your cause.

Keep in mind, most of these informative articles should not necessarily be about your organization. Instead write about topics that address the problems or answer the questions that someone may have, that your organization can solve.


Getting visitors to your website is great. Sadly this is where most marketing campaigns stop. The advantage of inbound marketing is its method of converting those strangers into supporters and growing your contact list.

Imagine a visitor finds a link on their search engine result page and clicks to one of your blogs. They read your blog because it provides the helpful information they are looking for. At the bottom of your article, you have an offer for more detailed information that the visitor can download on a landing page where there is a web form for them to provide their name and email address. Once they’re in your contact database, you can reach out to them again from time to time with offers for more of the information they’ve already indicated that they are interested in.


Most of your website visitors are not ready to donate, volunteer or join your organization. But they have shown their interest in what you have to offer. So, the next step is to continue to engage them with more of the information they found helpful. This engage phase nurtures your contacts through their giving cycle until they are ready to give to your cause.

In the “for-profit” world this is referred to as “conversion,” and is defined in terms of sales or product or service inquiries. As a nonprofit, you’ll define conversions in a similar way, except you’ll measure different outcomes, advocacy, volunteering, donating, fundraising, etc.

Email is the primary tactic for this lead nurturing activity, but social media is becoming more and more important to engage your supporters. Automated social media posting tools like HootSuite and Hubspot and email marketing tools like Constant Contact and Mailchimp are great to push out consistent messaging, it’s also important to monitor conversations and respond in “real time.”


Inspired advocates no longer need to be nurtured through your marketing funnel, so instead of giving them the content your other constituents receives, create content tailored specifically for them to share. Here are a few ideas:

Take photos and video from the field and share them with your advocates on Instagram and Facebook

  • Write blog posts that feature your advocates and their work.
  • Create infographics that illustrate the impact of their donations
  • Let them know your goals, and how they can help you reach them, and how their work has impacted your organization and the people it helps.
  • Give them free swag: t-shirts, water bottles, hats, VIP passes to upcoming events.


Those are the four phases of the inbound marketing methodology for nonprofits. Attract, Connect, Engage, and Inspire. And I’ll add one more, and that’s measure. Using online software, like Hubspot, to implement and monitor you inbound marketing strategy provides the analytics to show how well your marketing activities are working and prove results to your board of directors.