For-profit and nonprofit organizations both use similar marketing techniques to help them raise awareness of the goods and services they provide, but their end goals are very different. The key to any nonprofit campaign’s success is understanding how nonprofits are different from for-profits and what tools they have at their disposal.

As the name implies, a nonprofit organization, also called NPOs or 501c3 organizations is an entity that is created and operated for charitable or socially beneficial purposes rather than for profit-making purposes. In the U.S., 501c3 nonprofits are granted tax exempt status, meaning that they pay no taxes on donations or money earned through fundraising activities.

There are nearly two million nonprofits in the U.S., including 1.8 million 501c3 tax except organizations. The range of types of nonprofits vary greatly. Nonprofits include organizations that focus on a range of issues including children, healthcare, military/veterans, environmental/green, poverty/human services, education, animals, elderly, disaster relief/preparedness, arts & culture, financial, community development, racial justice, LGBTQIA+, sports, faith-based organizations, and so much more.

Nonprofits are primarily different from for profits in the way that they measure success. For profits exist to encourage people to buy a product or service. Nonprofits exist to fulfill a mission and part of that mission is encouraging people to give to support their cause. Typical marketing KPIs for nonprofits vary and can be categorized in different ways.

Marketing & Communication KPIs

  • Awareness of the nonprofit and its mission (increases over time)
    • Aided & Unaided mentions
  • Knowledge of specific elements such as key messages being promoted in advertising
  • Advertising recall
  • Advertising likability
  • Likelihood to choose
  • Target audience/consumer behaviors
  • Website/landing page visits & conversions
  • Digital click-through rates, direct mail & email response rates
  • Social media engagement and amplification rates
  • Hashtag usage
  • Earned media (PSA campaign airings, social, press mentions)

Fundraising KPIs:

  • Average donation/gift size, gifts secured per year, donor engagement/conversion, donation growth over time, donor retention rate, donor churn
  • Amount raised by individual donors vs. corporate philanthropy vs. recurring gifts
  • Amount raised by media vehicle (online, social, DM, in-person, etc.)
  • Fundraiser participation rate, fundraising return on investment, cost per dollar raised, donor lifetime value
  • Donor satisfaction and impact ratings
  • Donor trust

Program KPIs

  • Number of people served
  • Number of volunteers/volunteer hours
  • Employee, volunteer, stakeholder, board engagement, participation, satisfaction & retention ratings
  • Event attendance & participation
  • Employee, volunteer, board diversity

While the basic approach to nonprofit marketing is similar to for profit marketing, there are some elements that differ. Click here to view Williams Whittle’s approach to nonprofit marketing.

The three key elements that define nonprofit marketing are as follows:

  1. 501c3 Status Advantages: 501c3’s have many advantages that for profits do not. Nonprofits can get 25-70% off rate card for paid media with savvy media negotiation. They can also take advantage of free space in TV, radio, print, and out-of-home media through PSA campaigns. Google offers $10,000 a month or more for in-kind search advertising through Google Grants
  2. Mission-Driven Storytelling: It is no secret that storytelling is a valuable tool when it comes to marketing. This is even more relevant to nonprofits. The number one driving force behind donations is believing in an organization’s mission. By simplifying the mission and tapping into emotional storytelling using individual stories of real beneficiaries, nonprofits can demonstrate a tangible impact of donations.
  3. Encourage Action: In order to accomplish their mission, nonprofit marketers utilize one or more of the following eight key call-to-actions. Nonprofits must make it easy for their target audiences to take one of these actions in multiple touchpoints.
  1. Donate/Give
  2. Support
  3. Volunteer
  4. Educate
  5. Advocate
  6. Share
  7. Partner
  8. Sponsor

To effectively create meaningful impact, nonprofits must leverage their 501c3 status advantages, the power of mission-driven storytelling, and encourage action. Click here to view the 10 Insights that we have distilled from decades of nonprofit experience.

For nonprofit marketing inspiration and ideas that generate change, explore our portfolio of past campaigns across various industries here.