Inbound marketing for nonprofits is not a new idea: Hubspot, the company that created the concept of inbound marketing, has a document written specifically for nonprofits, introducing inbound and how it applies specifically to nonprofits. Their theory is that anyone can benefit from the strategy, even if you’re not in the business of selling a product.

Big name nonprofits (the Sierra Club, UNICEF), have no problem with marketing — you recognize them and their mission, even though all I’ve done is written their names. It’s the small nonprofits, local charities in your neighborhood, that need the help. They’re the ones that don’t have the resources to get their name anywhere and everywhere. They’re not sponsoring local foot races or sending out calendars with cute pictures every winter; they’re hardly able to provide any service at all.  As the saying goes (sort of), “the spirit is willing, but the wallet is weak.”

Empty Wallet for Nonprofits
This doesn’t have to be your organization. (image: Anna H-G)


So what can an inbound marketing plan do?

  • It’s open to any kind of promotional push: the most fun thing for a lot of nonprofits is being among their beneficiaries, seeing them take advantage of what the nonprofit is offering. Post pictures of events, when they’re happening, even before, while you’re setting up for the day.
  • It encourages constant updates: board members and staff are already on the computer, doing web searches for grant opportunities or coordinating meeting times. Add a quick description of what’s happening that day to show the organization is active, even when it’s not time to look for funds.
  • The Delight phase: one part of Hubspot’s plan is the “delight” phase, where a group using inbound marketing methods can help someone achieve a goal, solve a problem and go beyond. Solving problems is why nonprofits are founded (for-profits, on the other hand, are founded to sell you a product or service; if it solves a customer’s problem, that’s great, too). And going beyond that is easy, especially once the nonprofit sees other ways it can help — and there’s always other ways to help.

What goes into an inbound marketing plan, one for a small nonprofit without a lot of money? Plenty that’s already there, if the staff and board are willing to spend what they do have: time.

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