Put Inbound Marketing to Work in Your Nonprofit: Here’s How!

This post originally appeared on Heroic Fundraising.

Most of direct-response fundraising is outbound marketing — sending out emails, direct mail pieces, and telephone calls to acquire, retain, and cultivate your donors. Those efforts are the cornerstone of successful annual fund programs, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

But wouldn’t it be great if donors came to you first? For-profit organizations have been attracting clients with inbound strategies for years. By adding inbound marketing to your direct-response program, you can make the most of your digital fundraising.

Inbound marketing is the process of pulling in your prospects and donors to your website through relevant and helpful content that builds trust and credibility in your organization.


Here’s how inbound marketing works:

Your website’s content marketing pages (like landing pages or blog posts) should teem with relevant and helpful content that people will organically find as they search online. This content should be related to your charity’s mission and provide value for the reader.

Inbound marketing relies heavily on sound keywords strategies.

For example, a rescue mission might create a content marketing page about the connection between foster care and homelessness. According to the LA Times, “More than 25% of former foster children become homeless within two to four years of leaving the system.” In this example, a rescue mission could be introduced to a new audience of donors who are passionate about helping foster children by donating to rescue mission programs that help kids who have aged out of the system.

Make sure that your content marketing strategy complements your mission. It can be related topics, like rescue missions and foster care. But be thoughtful that the content you’re producing is related to your organization’s mission. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for a food bank to have a content landing page on polar bears. While polar bears might bring new traffic to your website, those visitors are unlikely to convert into donors or subscribers since polar bears aren’t your thing.

If you are running paid search ads for your content marketing page, make the landing page copy relevant to the keyword your search prospect was seeking. One of the key metrics that determines your paid search Quality Score is how relevant the landing page copy is to the keyword that was searched. Creating meaningful content that is related to search terms is one of the ways to keep your Quality Score high on the 1 – 10 scale.

Consider conversions beyond a donation.

You know that not all website visitors will make a donation, but there is still a meaningful way to convert them. Strong content marketing pages for charities have both a primary and secondary call-to-action (CTA):

  • The primary CTA is for the visitor to make a gift.
  • The secondary CTA is for the visitor to provide their contact information because you’ve provided them something of value (like a blog subscription, answers to a fun quiz, event tickets, etc.).

For example, an inbound visitor to an animal shelter’s website may have landed on the site by searching for “ways to housetrain an adopted dog.” While the visitor may not be ready to make a gift, she found your tips for housetraining so helpful that she subscribed to receive dog training tips via email. This is still a win!

Secondary conversions are akin to an introduction. They ignite the relationship with your potential donor and enable you to continue to deepen her trust in you. Then, when she’s asked in the future to make a gift, she already knows her money will make a difference. Like all good fundraising, inbound marketing is all about the donor.

3 reasons why you should add inbound marketing to your fundraising strategy.

  1. Turn strangers into donors. Every time a user enters a search query related to your work, you are presented with an opportunity to engage a potential donor. There are people who could be transformational donors to your nonprofit that you won’t be able to find — they’ll have to find you. Make sure they can!
  2. Augment your Google Grant or paid search strategies. Did you know that your paid rankings are influenced by the content on your website? Strong content marketing pages will help both your inbound marketing and your paid efforts. Position yourself as a search matter expert in your field by leveraging both!
  3. Stand out from your competitors. There are over 1.5 million charities in the United States. How are you distinguishing yourself from other local charities or groups with similar missions? A strong inbound marketing program can set you apart in a crowded space.

Inbound marketing is a long game. On average, it takes two years for a content marketing page to build enough organic search credibility to show up on the first page of a search engine result, according to Ahrefs. Just like donor acquisition, it will take time to see the results, but the investment can pay huge dividends.

If you have a strong direct-response fundraising program, adding in thoughtful inbound tactics can take your charity to the next level and attract an entire new group of supporters who are searching for you.

To learn more about inbound marketing, check out HubSpot. Ready to go pro? They even offer a free inbound marketing certification course.