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September 14, 2018

7 For-Profit Marketing Best Practices Your Nonprofit Can Use

Wouldn’t it be great if you had an unlimited professional development budget? You would be like Luke Skywalker wearing Yoda as a backpack in Dagobah during his Jedi training — with your favorite marketing and fundraising gurus nearby to impart years of wisdom and experience. And because of all this training, your strategies would honor your donors and raise more funds for your important mission.

That is a dream best left in the galaxy. In reality, budgets are tight, and many fundraisers are only able to attend one conference each year.

But, there’s a wealth of untapped information in the for-profit sector you should be paying attention to. While for-profit companies are not competing with you for donors, they are competing with you for people’s attention.  


From this year’s top marketing conferences, here are 7 tips from for-profit marketing experts that you can apply at your charity:

  1. Ann Handley1, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, reminds marketers to “Value the inbox. Consumers are fully in control of their inbox, and they’ve invited you to be there.” A thoughtful donor newsletter is a great way to connect with your donor via email to let her know the impact of her gift. And Ann reinforces, “The most important part of a newsletter is the letter, not the news.”

    Check out our on-demand webinar: “Love Thy Donor: 10 Commandments Donor Newsletters Should Follow.”

  2. A slow website is a death sentence. Google’s 2018 Speed Update2 confirmed that page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches. And, according to Kissmetrics3, 47 percent of consumers expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less. While this is unachievable for most organizations (even for-profit ones!), a few best practices can get you on the right track, like AMP or condensed picture sizes.
  3. Not all goals should carry the same weight,” says Leslie Carruthers4, President of Consider assigning monetary values to your goals. For example, a new “like” on Facebook might have a $5 value, but a visit to your impact story’s landing page might be worth $50. You can work backward from a typical donor’s long-term value (and the path to their first donation) in order to determine these values.
  4. In his session “Everyday Behavioral Sciences for Content Marketers,” Brian Massey5, Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences, explained the Novelty Effect: “Because something’s new and cool, we believe it is more effective. That isn’t necessarily true! Which is why we must test.” At TrueSense, we love a good test. Your assumptions (and those of well-meaning board members, volunteers, and even donors) can often be wrong, so it’s important to let data drive your strategy.
  5. Experts across the marketing industry agree: SEO can’t be an afterthought. How are you driving traffic to your website? This impacts your charity’s reach beyond donors — to potential patients, pet adopters, students, caregivers, and community partners looking for information online. Ideally, your target audiences should be able to find you online without your brand terms (i.e. the name of your organization). What non-brand keywords do you need to focus on to connect with people in your community?
  6. Storytelling is a hot topic at nonprofit and for-profit conferences alike. Brands recognize the importance of storytelling, and many are great at telling their brand’s story. But you have an even better story to tell of lives redeemed, patients healed, families fed, veterans honored, and animals defended.

    Just starting to tell your charity’s stories? Check out our storytelling guide.

  7. Cassandra Campbell6, Content Marketing Lead at Shopify, reminds marketers that you can’t do it all. “The less time you have, the more ruthless you have to be. What’s going to drive the most impact?” This is even more pertinent to fundraisers, who often wear multiple hats. Successful people often become successful by saying “no.”


These are just 7 of the for-profit trends you can apply to your fundraising. We know you’re busy, and staying up-to-date on fundraising industry trends and best practices might be difficult as a result. But, we want your nonprofit to be competitive for people’s attention. To stay in-the-know, be sure to subscribe to Heroic Fundraising to receive a monthly email with all the insights you need to win, keep, lift, and grow your donors.




1. Connect with Ann Handley, Wall Street Journal best-selling author and Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs.

2. Learn more about Google’s 2018 Speed Update.

3. Read Kissmetrics’ article about site speed.

4. Connect with Leslie Carruthers, President of, on her company’s Twitter.

5. Brian Massey, Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences, tweets about behavioral sciences that help marketers know their audiences.

6. Check out Cassandra Campbell, Content Marketing Lead at Shopify, on Twitter.



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