What Makes Nonprofits Toss and Turn? Marketing

Survey finds organizations in generally good health

When it comes to running a nonprofit organization effectively, some basic issues keep their principals up at night, according to new research from Constant Contact.

A survey of some 300 nonprofits conducted in May found these top causes for insomnia:

  • How to attract new supporters—64%
  • How to connect and better engage with existing supporters—59%
  • Getting funding—57%.

But marketing strategy concerns had a significant showing on the list. Thirty-four percent of principals said having a more integrated communication strategy "kept them up at night"; 22% worried about making their marketing dollars go further; and 20% were concerned about how to measure the impact of marketing campaigns.

The survey found that nonprofits still rely largely on e-mail marketing, with 86% finding it to be an effective marketing tool for their organization. Also considered effective were the organization website (80%), in-person interactions (73%) and events (70%).

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said social media marketing was an important tool for nonprofits. Of those nonprofits that favored social media marketing, 88% of principals said Facebook was the most effective channel. Trailing significantly behind were Twitter (5%), LinkedIn (3%), Google+ (1%) and YouTube (1%).

While a majority of nonprofits value social media marketing, more than half said they wanted guidance in its use. And a little more than a third wanted help with e-mail marketing and their website.

Of note, nonprofit respondents thought 73% of their supporters were likely to recommend their organization to a friend or colleague—a dynamic Constant Contact said could be greatly amplified with the use of social media marketing.

“I think there’s a real opportunity here to educate nonprofits on not only the basic ‘how-tos’ of social media but also the longer view benefits of social media sharing,” Alec Stern, the firm’s vice president for strategic market development, said in a statement.

“The ability to share real-time first-person stories and images from charitable recipients, volunteers and donors, and get a dialog started among all constituents is a truly compelling way to build an engaged community.”

Nonprofit Outlook

The survey found that the health of nonprofits appeared stable or growing:

  • 67% expected membership/funding for the year to be more than last year, while 7% expected it to be less
  • 49% had seen an increase in membership/funding so far this year, while 12% had seen a decrease
  • 55% had adequate cash flow.

With growth come challenges, though. Fifty-one percent of nonprofits had increased the number of service offerings, 46% faced increased operating costs, and 35% needed more staffers but were unable to hire.

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