According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are nearly 2 million non-profit organizations registered in the United States. Tens of millions of additional charitable organizations exist worldwide.
Common wisdom is that if you want to help a charity all you have to do is volunteer your time or donate money. While time and money are important, I believe what non-profits really need is your professional digital marketing services (at a discount or for free, but more on that in a minute).
Several months ago, I guest lectured to a “Social Responsibility and Business Ethics” class at Wilkes University in my hometown of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, on the topic of “Digital Marketing for Non-profits”.
I spent considerable time preparing for the lecture and in the process unearthed incredibly valuable information that I believe is little known to non-profits and digital marketing agencies and SEO professionals alike.
The purpose of this post is to layout a plan for non-profits to benefit from programs that exist at YouTube, Google, Facebook, and Twitter while also setting the stage for digital marketing professionals and agencies to get involved and help non-profits succeed with digital marketing.
Why is Digital Marketing Important to Non-profits?
Digital marketing in the form of YouTube videos, Google search marketing, and social media on Facebook and Twitter provide platforms for non-profits to easily and inexpensively “tell stories” of impact, share important information, and solicit charitable donations.
Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?
If you were like me (and millions of others around the world) you took the challenge by dumping a bucket of ice over your head (and challenging your friends to do the same) and/or donated $100 to the ALS Association.
From July through August 2014, the campaign raised over $100 million dollars. Not a bad effort for two months, considering the New York Times reported the ALS Association generated less than $20 million in all of 2013. Millions of people videotaped their challenge and posted videos to Facebook, YouTube, and dozens of other websites.
The various digital marketing campaigns went viral and not only raised an incredible amount of money for the ALS Association, but also shined an international spotlight of awareness and education on the rare and misunderstood disease referred to as ALS.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge demonstrates the power of digital marketing for non-profits.
However, as I explore in a minute, almost all non-profits lack the resources and expertise to execute a digital marketing campaign alone. In fact, while any non-profit can leverage digital marketing, many are unfamiliar with where to start, how much to do, and what if any resources are available to help.
Have You Ever Heard of The Giving Pledge Started by Bill and Melinda Gates?
The Giving Pledge is an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their will. Wow!
What if professional SEO and digital marketing experts stepped up and joined together with a single, formal commitment to provide free or discounted services to at least one non-profit every year?
The impact would be incredible! Here is more information based on my research to help non-profits with digital marketing.
Top Digital Marketing Platforms Available to Non-Profits
Based on my research, the most powerful digital marketing platforms for non-profits include: YouTube, Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
YouTube is free and allows any non-profit to quickly and easily upload video. The most powerful non-profit videos are the ones that tell stories of the people and families impacted by the causes the non-profit is fighting to serve. In most cases the non-profit can use inexpensive video equipment to shoot video. In my opinion, non-profits should avoid over producing videos – instead, the focus should be on the story and the person or family impacted by the cause.
If you are a video production or editing professional (or even quasi-professional) I strongly encourage you to offer your services to your favorite non-profits for free or at a considerable discount.
YouTube provides non-profits with helpful tips and strategies to leverage its platform to tell compelling stories through video. YouTube also allows eligible non-profits to add a Donate button to YouTube videos. Learn more here.
Here is a short video explaining the YouTube Non-Profit Program:
Google For Non-Profits
Non-profits benefit by ranking higher in Google’s free and paid search results.
On the paid side of search marketing, eligible non-profits can benefit from the Google Ad Grants program.
Google Ad Grants is the non-profit edition of AdWords. Google Ad Grants empowers non-profit organizations, through $10,000 per month in in-kind AdWords™ advertising, to promote their missions and initiatives on Google search result pages under “sponsored results.” Non-profits should read the Google Ad Grants Non-Profit Guide and watch the short YouTube video below to make sure they are eligible for admittance into the program (if you are a registered 501(c) non-profit in the U.S. you likely qualify).
Here’s a short video by Google explaining more information about the Google Ad Grants program.
However, managing and optimizing a Google AdWords account is challenging, and most non-profits do not have the resources to hire a pay-per-click management firm or professional to assist. In addition, if the non-profit is unable to spend $10,000 per month on Google AdWords the remaining budget does not carry over to the next month. This means that while it’s an incredible opportunity to have access to such a powerful program, the program itself isn’t enough (in my opinion). Non-profits need professional assistance manage a Google Ad Grants budget.
There are two immediate solutions I recommend.
The first solution is for pay-per-click professionals and firms to reach out and offer free or discounted management services to non-profits (take my pledge above right now). If every pay-per-click firm and professional across the United States makes the commitment to provide non-profits with discounted or free professional pay-per-click management the impact would be extraordinary.
The second solution is for a volunteer or employee of the non-profit to get Google Adwords Certified. The Google AdWords certification is a professional accreditation that Google offers to individuals who demonstrate proficiency in basic and advanced aspects of AdWords. Learn more about Google AdWords Certification here.
In order to truly maximize the benefit of the Google Ad Grants Program, I highly encourage all non-profits to either find a professional to offer assistance or have a volunteer or member of your staff get Google AdWords certified.
Facebook is a powerful tool for non-profits to connect with potential donors and volunteers, but has several drawbacks non-profits must be aware. For instance, according to Facebook, when a non-profit (or any business or person) posts to Facebook it only reaches only about 16% of its intended audience.
This means that if a non-profit Facebook page has 10,000 “likes” only 16% or 1,600 fans are reached when a post is shared.
To connect with a larger audience, non-profits must buy Facebook Ads and currently Facebook does not have an ad grants program. However, there is a petition drive over at Change.org to encourage Facebook and its incredibly philanthropic CEO Mark Zuckerberg to create an ad grants program to help non-profits reach and grow their audience.
Sign the Facebook Ad Grants Petition here.
While Facebook lacks an ad grants program like Google (and Twitter, as you’ll soon see) they do allow eligible non-profits to add a “Donate” button to their Facebook Page. Once approved, the donate feature will appear beside Posts in News Feed shared by participating non-profits and at the top of their Facebook Pages.
Non-profits may apply for a Facebook Donate Button here.
Learn more about resources for non-profits on the Facebook Non-Profits Page.
Twitter is a powerful tool for non-profits to build followers, create awareness, and raise money from donors. Similar to Google Ad Grants, Twitter provides free Twitter Advertising and “verified account” status to eligible non-profits.
However, unlike the Google Ad Grants program, there is very little public information about the qualifications necessary and the structure of Twitter’s non-profit advertising program.
In order to find out if your non-profit is eligible, you can direct message Twitter @nonprofits or send them an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out the Twitter for Good Blog here for updates on Twitter’s commitment to non-profits.
I hope my research on this subject matter generates awareness that there are various programs available to help non-profits succeed with digital marketing.
If you are a digital marketing professional I strongly encourage you become more acquainted with the various programs mentioned above and to make a formal commitment of your valuable time and expertise to help non-profits succeed with digital marketing.