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Marketing trends nonprofits should know about

A business professional with a mask looking at their phone

Like so many other business entities, nonprofits face a lot of challenges this year. Many have seen business activity slow down dramatically over the course of 2020. Many have lost employees or partnerships as a result of last year’s numerous difficulties. And as some studies have noted, there are concerns about the mental health of nonprofit staff as well. All of these factors make for a tricky year ahead.

Maybe the biggest challenge of all will be figuring out ways to spark growth and rebound from such a hard year. This is something that the best-run nonprofits are already hard at work figuring out, as they plan their 2021. For the most part, it comes down to marketing. In this regard, it’s actually tempting to overcomplicate things—to look at the situation and ask how marketing trends can perfectly address concerns and overcome present obstacles. But the truth is that no such perfect, all-encompassing solution exists.

Rather, nonprofits looking to rebound should simply take a diligent approach to following the latest marketing trends.

Data analysis

Data analysis is nothing new in business marketing trends. But it is becoming a more popular option for smaller businesses and nonprofits, due to the simple fact that various relevant tools and software programs have become more affordable and accessible. Small and medium-sized enterprises and nonprofits the world over have quickly realized that taking advantage of data analysis tools and techniques gives them the best chance to compete with larger companies and for-profit rivals. And given that competition will be that much fiercer this year, it’s safe to say that data analysis will still be “trendy.”

Data analysis can be used for a lot of different purposes. It can help to identify a target audience; it can improve recruitment efficiency and effectiveness. It can also help to drive a content strategy. The greatest benefit of employing data analysis practices, though, is an increased ability to track key performance indicators (KPIs). Nonprofits have unique KPIs to monitor (like volunteer sign-ups and online donations), and robust data analysis is the best way to track and make sense of them.

Professional social media help

As you may well know, social media in nonprofit marketing has been prominent and successfully used for well over a decade now. Because spreading messaging and brand awareness via social media can be done on a shoestring budget, it has always been a good way for nonprofits to spark growth without tremendous capital investment. At the same time though, social media marketing has grown vastly more complex and demanding in just the past few years. The emergence of new platforms and the growing sophistication of marketing campaigns now call for a professional touch.

The good news in this regard is that the growing need for sophistication has produced tremendous demand for communications professionals. Many have flocked to digital courses and even online masters programs for communications leadership in order to efficiently gain the right qualifications and certifications. And as a result, nonprofits can now find plenty of candidates to fill roles related to social media marketing, such as communications directors, social media managers, digital media directors, and so on. Such a candidate will be qualified and trained to navigate the evolving social media landscape, and because this is so deeply important, we expect to see more nonprofits pursuing the option.

Video emphasis

An emphasis on video material in marketing campaigns has been building up steadily in recent years. But after 2020, we expect to see video advertising becoming nearly ubiquitous across all active businesses online, including nonprofits.

The logic is simple. Until now, video marketing has been growing for a combination of reasons. One reason is that people are exhibiting shorter attention spans and less willingness to sit and read content, but will often consume short, clear videos instead. Secondly, people spend more time on mobile devices, watching a video can simply be a more convenient option than reading or otherwise engaging with non-video marketing campaigns. It’s that last factor that matters moving forward. Various surveys and studies have shown that people spent more time on mobile devices than ever before while stuck at home in 2020, and the trends is widely expected to continue even as the coronavirus (COVID-19) recedes. It will therefore be more important for nonprofits to meet audiences where they are and to produce video content that can easily be consumed via mobile.

Email audience segmentation

In an effort to re-establish growth, nonprofits will also be focused on maximizing their outreach efforts. Many cannot afford imperfect efficiency or wasted effort, which means it is important not just to design effective marketing strategies, but to filter them to the right audiences. This is where audience segmentation in email marketing comes into play.

The emergence of email marketing strategies started a few years ago in earnest, but has become far more popular over the course of the last year or so. And though specific strategies differ, the basic idea is to break down an email list into smaller target groups, and tailor marketing materials specifically to them. While it requires more analysis and effort, it is proven to increase engagement when done well. In the context of nonprofits continuing to plan their 2021, it’s an excellent way to make sure every effort counts.

These aren’t all the trends that will be in effect for nonprofit marketing moving forward. But they represent some changes we’re already seeing, and together represent an excellent start for nonprofits seeking growth.


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