Ep 99 | Why your Nonprofit should operate like a For-Profit Business

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When it comes to your mindset around your organization do you feel like you're spinning your wheels trying to retain your donors? Creating a great customer experience and thinking about your organization like a for-profit business can make a big impact.

In this episode you'll learn:

→ reasons for why this mindset works.
→ ways to think about your customer experience.
→ why your donor avatar matters.
→ different marketing techniques you can implement 

Want to skip ahead?  Here are some key takeaways:

[5:00] Customer aquisition is the same as donor aquisition. And then retnetion is the name of the game. Really reaching out to your donors where they are and making them feel like they see themselves in your organization is a great place to start. Its also important to niche down and really think hard about the donor pool you're reaching out to.
[7:20] Brainstorm and think hard about your donor experience. What can you do to make it similar to companies experiences that they give their customers. Think about your favorite companies and why you keep coming back for more. Have fun with it and think outside the box.
[12:53] Revisit your donor avatars. Who are they? How are you targeting them? How are you tailoring your donor experience to be something that they'd find benefit in?
[20:20] Market intentionally. You don't have to do all the things! In fact we encourage you not to. By understanding who your customers are and hitting them where they are you'll have better conversions and spend less time doing it. But maketing needs to be done consistentely and be just as important as the other donor tasks you have on your list.


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Full Transcript

[INTRO] Hey everyone, Sami here, your host of the digital marketing therapy podcast. And today we're talking about why you should run your nonprofit as if it was a for profit business. Now I understand that there's definitely different things at play when it comes to how you make your money, how you know, the taxes, all that good legal mumbo jumbo, [cough] excuse me, but when it comes to your donors, when it comes to the people that utilize your services, the people that you support, really thinking about your business, as if it were a for profit, can help with a lot of things like messaging, retention, you know, repeat customers, how do you get in front of new customers, all of that good stuff. And so that's what we're going to talk about today.

This is something that I've talked about on a couple different episodes, but just thought I would, you know, do one just on this and kind of drive it home. And just give you some reasons why I think this can make an impact on your organization and increase the especially the retention of your donors. And then depending on the products or services that you sell, or services you provide, it can also keep them coming back. And I know that some of the language might seem different, and depending on your situation may be a little bit cold. But just bare with me, and let's just, you know, pull our missions together polar visions, pull the great work that you're doing together, and think about it from a different perspective, so that you can continue to serve more people, because you have more stability in your organization in your fundraising. Okay, so just come along on this ride with me, even if you're skeptical. And just think about it for a minute. Okay, that's all I ask.

But before we get into it, this episode is brought to you by our digital marketing therapy sessions. So if you are listening to this, and you're thinking, Okay, yeah, we might need some ways to kind of brainstorm this, I'd be happy to sit with you for 30 minutes, and walk through what your goals are, what you're trying to do what you're currently doing, and see if we can't help you tweak some things and tweak some language, tweak some outreach, whatever it might be, to help support some of the things that we're talking about in this episode. You can sign up for those at thefirstclick.net/officehours. Again, it's a 30 minute zoom call, we'll record it, get it over to you and you'll have everything that you need. Okay, so let's get into this episode.

[CANNED INTRODUCTION] You're listening to the Digital Marketing Therapy Podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sammy Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing, and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.

[BODY] So when I started my consulting company, four years ago, you know, we were working with a wide variety of clients, we were working with people in the naturopathic medical space, we were working with schools, we were working with nonprofits, we were working with commercial cleaning companies, right. So all across the board, and I just became a sponge and really wanted to learn everything, I knew the things that I needed to do.

I started learning some skills on some other things like back end tech things I started researching anyway, I just started taking everything in, because I really wanted to learn from people that had come before me not reinvent the wheel, not go crazy and, and just kind of put some systems in place to be able to be effective to run my business to support my clients. I just really wanted to be able to support my clients in their website design and development in their marketing. And we tried all the things right. And you've heard me talk about that a lot on this episode, to get me to the point today where I am really focused on nonprofits and loving it, right. I mean, I've always loved my clients and my business. But anyway, and we do have clients, I'M rambling. We do have clients that are not in the nonprofit space still, but you get my drift.

One thing that I noticed as I was really diving in between the nonprofit and the for profit space is the pain points are the same. And the growth online is happening the same way. And nonprofits are just not caught up to most caught up to kind of what these for profit organizations are doing. And that there was some tools that the for profit industry was using. That could have really could be really beneficial for the nonprofit space. And so I just saw the synergy and it just kind of started to really make sense to me in my brain and we treat our clients the same

So the strategy that we give to both sides is the same. And the reason being customer acquisition is very similar to donor acquisition, right? And getting them to trust your organization, getting them to pick you over the competitor. And then donor retention is very much the same as customer retention, wanting to keep those customers coming back for more, because we know it's more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to just retain an existing one that you have, when it came to ways that nonprofits were marketing. I mean, this is definitely becoming even more apparent, with the last year that we all went through and getting in the online space.  And then really, where I saw a kind of a hole was in in nonprofits knowing who they were really targeting. So you know, it's a lot about niching, down or niching, down whichever way you want to say it. So in the for profit space, we work a lot on that in our organizations. Who do we serve? Why do we serve them? Why do they want our product? What is the customer experience that we're giving them?

And the same thing is true in the nonprofit space, because there are tons of donors. And if we just cast this wide net, and just say, hey, anybody who cares about animals, or anybody who cares about kids education, or anybody who cares about music in the arts, right? Every organization has a different way of how they solve the problem that they solve. And when you can be very direct and clear about that and targeting a specific donor. It's way easier, and you can be way more successful. And a lot of organizations get scared by that. Because they think if I shrink the pool, right, then I'm going to have less access to funds. But that just will not be the case, I promise you.

So I started really working with organizations and treating them as if they were a business and talking with nonprofits, about a few key things. And so we've already brought up a few of them. So I want to go through some of them again and give you kind of some examples.

But the first one really that's important to me is customer experience. What kind of experience do you give your customers or your donors? And you can think about this on both sides, right? If you're a pet adoption, nonprofit, what is that experience? How do you make it seamless when new families are coming in and donating? What does that experience look like? How do you go above and beyond? How do you support them so that either they'll come back and adopt another pet in the future or also share with their friends and family like, okay, these people were taking great care of their animals, we really liked the way that we were treated when we were there, we really liked the way they made the process easy and simple, to help continue to build that network for you.

And then on the donor side, it's it's very similar, I think we often think that our donors are giving to us, and they should give to us because we have a really strong mission, as opposed to flipping it to being like we know you could choose at any number of organizations to give your money to you chose us and we're going to give you the best experience with our organization, we're going to call you once in a while and just say thank you and check in and see how you're doing, we're going to keep you updated on what's happening with our organization, because we know that we want to stay top of mind and give you value we're going to you know, create experiences for you to engage deeper with our organization, whatever it might be, whatever makes sense. Um, you know, and it can be different for different things.

So maybe you're a museum and so you give, you know, your donors, a free pass every quarter to come in, check out the new new exhibit. Or maybe you're an arts organization and they get a free ticket to something things like that, that can make them feel special and like they're part of a club and we are very much fans of a monthly donor program because it really provides stability for your organization, for example, but it also really allows you to create this elite club, VIP club special club where they get special perks and bonuses. And I want to challenge you again here whether they give you $5 a month or they give you $500 a month or they give you $5,000 a month. Wouldn't that be nice? That we treat them all the same? Because some of those donors that are are coming in at a lower dollar amount. That's not because that's the capacity of which they can give. But they're testing you out, right? They want to see, what are you going to do? How are you going to treat me? How are you going to show me the impact that you're making, and that that's really key. So there's an opportunity to walk those people up. But if they're willing to give to you monthly, that's a commitment to your organization. And you need to commit back to them. So creating that customer experience, right?

Like I think about shoes, and Nike versus Adidas, right? Now, they could make two shoes that look exactly the same, perform exactly the same, but maybe, but you're probably going to be a Nike or an Adidas person, like you bought into that culture, that style that the way that they treat the program that they've created, whatever it is, so we want to create that, like loyal raving fan. And the biggest thing with customer experiences is to make sure that you're making it about them and not about you. Okay, yes, you're sharing your mission, but how can you personalize that to where it's okay, so let's say you support and after serving your organization is an after school kids program. So maybe you segment your donors, and when you're talking to them, you're reaching out to certain people specifically about the arts programming that you did, here's some really cool artwork that just came out of our after school program. And maybe for others, it's music, and so you're sending them sound bites of the stuff that the kids are learning, maybe it's stem. And so you're showing them kind of the cool advances that you know, now, the kids that have come through our program are performing, you know, 20% better than they were last year, whatever it is. So the more you can personalize that to what your donors are interested in. That's creating that customer experience. And with automations, and email, and your CRM, and your donor management, all of those things, these things are possible and very easy to do. It just takes a little bit of time to set up. But it pays off big.

Okay, so customer experience, I want you to really sit with your team brainstorm, think about what can we be doing to make our donor experience more personal, more exciting, more engaging, and really specifically, so we're reaching out to them, often, without an ask, but just to make them feel like they're a part of our organization. So that's gonna lead to higher retention and donor growth when we all want that, right. higher retention of donors is so important. And I think just something that people don't pay enough attention to.

And we talked about donor avatars a little bit ago, and which is really just creating, like, Who is that person? Who is that ideal person that you want donating to you? Is it you know, a mom in her 40s with, you know, two kids that are in school, and so she has time, you know, she's a work from home, or a stay at home mom, or work from home mom, so she might have some time in the afternoon to come volunteer your organization? Is it a highly successful, you know, 50 or 60 year old woman who has disposable income and might be retiring soon because of that, and, you know, maybe needs to find something else to do with their time now that they're not going to be working all the time, is it you know, a young guy in their 20s, who you want to start getting engaged in the organization, you know, as a volunteer, and then you know, that you'll be able to step them up as they grow in their career. I mean, whatever it might be, there's all sorts of things is it in any type of industry that people work in that would be most easy for you to reach out to?

And companies do this all the time, right? You see this with their ads on TV, the people that they have in the ads, the language that they use in the ads, all of that is very specifically tied to who they think is the best market to go after for who's going to buy their product. So by knowing this, you can tailor the language that's going out in your emails, what you put in your customer experience, right? Like what's going to entice and engage them where you advertise and where you market where you promote.

And you might have two different sets. So you might have one for your donors and one for the people you serve, right like so if we go back to the after school program, for example, you might be targeting the like, maybe you serve high school students. And so there might be a way that you can target them directly to say, hey, we've got this super cool program. So they're going to their parents to say, Oh, I want to sign up for this. And then you're also targeting parents that are looking for a place for their kids to go. So they're not, you know, they're not to be sport, whatever, you get what I'm saying. So really think about that. So that it can help you pull together everything where you're talking to people, how you're talking to people, and, and what kind of ways how often and who they are.

Because we want to make people feel like they land on our website, when they see our ads, when they read our newsletters when they see social media posts that they're seeing themselves. And they're connecting on a personal level instead of being spoken to like, here's all the things that my organization does really awesome. Like, okay, great. Instead of it being like, Hey, we adopted 50 pets this month. Whoo, like pat us on the back.

Like, let's say that was a social media post now that yes, that's great, like, celebrate that all day long. Nonprofits don't celebrate enough. That's a whole nother topic for another day. But instead, wouldn't it be better if your posts were imagine walking in the door after a long day of work and being greeted by this fluffball snowcat and having her greet you and say hello, and help you relax at the end of a busy day, or running the trail is fun by yourself. But wouldn't it be more fun if you could have, you know, Jack with you running alongside you helping you keep your pace? I think you get what I'm saying right?

Or I'm having. So we we adopted a dog, Lulu, and the thing for us was it was to help our daughter sleep better with anxiety, right. So that's another personal story. So telling those personal stories of how these types of people can identify with what it is that you're doing, makes it so much easier for people to decide to give or to participate with your organization. And having the donor avatars is a great way to do that. Because you know who you're speaking to, you have your stories, okay, so start with a few, and then you might build them up as you go.

But just I think that's really important. I already said a little bit about this, but providing value is huge. And you might think I don't know what I'm gonna do to provide value. Let's go back to the museum example. You know, it could be that your donors get weekly newsletters or whatever monthly newsletters that have, maybe you're a children's museum, so maybe you send out an extra module, or a free training to parents that have been kept donated for activities they can do with their kids. Or maybe you're an art museum and you send out, you know, like, here's some information about this artist that's being featured some behind the scenes stuff that's happening or like unpacking art, whatever, just different things that they can kind of get that better experience with. And maybe you're doing research environmental research on something, then, you know, it's, hey, here's here's real time stuff that we're seeing that we're not publishing anywhere else yet. So you guys get access to kind of see what thing we're figuring out and what we're finding ahead of time. You know, if people are giving to your cause they care about what you do. So giving them those little snippets, those sneak peeks giving them extra, you know, if you're that after school program, right, like maybe it's sending home worksheets, or emails or or extra activities, or, you know, maybe they get coupon codes to discounts on your partner programs, right businesses that are geared towards kids.

So just think about all those things, and how can you provide value. And I had a client that has a community garden. So I said, What if you sent out recipes, from the things that you that you can make out of the things that they grow in their community garden, because then it's doing dual purpose, right, you're able to talk about your community garden and what you're growing and kind of your mission stuff. But then you're also giving them like a cool thing to get in their inbox, right or gardening tips like here's what we're doing right now for to get ready for spring and things like that.

Okay, so to provide value, it makes it so much easier when you ask because they've been taken along on this journey as far as your mission goes, and they feel stronger, a more strong connection with you. And I just, when you make that ask, then it's like, okay, yeah, that's it, that's a no brainer, because we've already seen all the amazing things you've been doing along the way.

And then when we get to marketing, I think this is a big differentiator between the for profit and the not for profit space. So marketing, especially online is a really just, it just is the name of the game these days, it's something that you have to do. And it doesn't mean that you have to do all these things, it doesn't mean that you have to do them all right away, or spend a lot of money even. But I just want you to consider.

So nonprofit websites, having a website, again, is just a no brainer. It's something that you have to do. And I think it's something that most organizations need to streamline and kick up a notch, just being honest. And especially donation pages and making things easy. So your customer service, or your customer experience is interwoven into all of these things, right? When they land on the website, they're seeing themselves, they're really clearly understanding what it is that you do. And they have a space in easy space to go make a donation, they have an easy space to go register for whatever services you offer to buy tickets, like all those functionality, things that although for profit companies have as a standard, if you can do that you're stepping ahead of a lot of organizations, many probably better in your space. And just making that user experience so much easier. You're also saving staff time. So you think about the customer service experience that you get from your favorite companies, right, the live chat option, easy returns, I can find the FAQs for things I don't need to make a phone call, I can easily send them an email, just I would just pick one of your favorite companies for customer service that you have out there and see what they do and incorporate some of that.

Yes, some of the things that you're going to be getting asked are going to be different. But if you can Wow, somebody with customer service and the way that you respond, if it's something as simple as changing an address so that they get their tax receipt delivered to their new place. Or maybe they need to change the designation for their donation. Maybe they want to up their month like something as simple as up their monthly donation, like how can we make these things easy? How can we follow up quickly, and how can we really make them feel special, I think the for profit space to their great job of this because they have to. And if you can do this too, it helps just to elevate your organization and make you stand out above the rest.

So then, after your website, the big thing for me is email marketing, email, email, email, email is my favorite thing. And I think a tool that is so powerful and useful. I talk about it all the time. It's not expensive, and it doesn't have to be overwhelming and cumbersome. So just have a plan, get things in place, set up your welcome emails, I can put some links in here for some other episodes that we've done.

But you get emails from the for profit space all the time. And you know, most of them if you're like, if it's retail, or e commerce, most of them are related to making a purchase. But you know, there's a lot of organizations that are doing things really well with their customer experience and sending out weekly emails that provide value going back to providing value, communicating and sharing, giving people information, giving them you know, more touch points, keeping you top of mind so that, you know it could be you don't even ask them to make a donation, but they've been thinking about making a donation to an organization. You've kept them in the loop. You've kept them you know, knowing what's going on. So they're like, Oh, yeah, we'll give we'll give to them because they they've been awesome in they've been, you know, not asking all the time and not making me feel. You know, like all I'm getting is an ask. And this is especially important because I think I mentioned this earlier, if you're if you're not emailing your list ever your donor list and I'm sure you have a good one. And then all of a sudden six months I haven't heard from you I gave you a gift got my tax receipt that was great. And then the next email I get a six months later that says hey, you know, a time for annual giving campaign will you give to us? Well, you know, maybe I will but probably not because I don't know what you've been up to for the last six months and nobody called me or did anything or said anything and so I have no idea what you've even done with mu money. So I just I think email is super important.

And beyond that, obviously, nonprofits have the amazing opportunity to take advantage of the Google Ad grant, which is a perk that you guys have that the for profit industry does not have. I will again link that episode in the show notes that we did with Grant hensel nonprofit megaphone, in case you don't know about the Google Ad grant. That's an amazing tool. And then let's go back to your donor avatars and figure out where else you're going to participate.

So if you're going to do social media, if you're going to do content on a regular basis, which I also recommended that in the form of a podcast, is it better to do a YouTube channel? Is it better to just write blog posts every other week? Whatever it is, within the capacity of your team to be able to get those things done? But then also, who are your donors? And how are they going to most want to consume that content, and it might be a combination of both, right? So my podcast show notes, or my podcast is audio. And then I have show notes on my website with a full transcript so people can take it in in both ways. We've contemplated playing with video, but for now, that's just not something we're ready to do. So figure out what works and and get out there.

You'll see, you know, like food bloggers do this really well, I know, you might hate them, because they had these big long blog posts. And then they have like the recipe at the very bottom. But you know, they're also creating that customer experience, they're going after the the demographic that is going to want to be a part of their life, right? feel like they're in their kitchen. Like, they're talking about what their dog did that was super cute, and how it inspired them to create this recipe, and they're taking you on this whole journey in this whole story. So how can you do that with your with your content and your marketing? How can you do that on your social media? Where do you go on social media. And again, I think we all feel the need to do all the things. So we have to be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, all of them. Don't do that. Just start small and start with your donor Avatar and go where they are already playing.

Okay. the last thing that I'll say about your marketing is be intentional with what you're doing and be intentional with who on your team is doing what and make it just as important as some of your other fundraising activities. Because your marketing needs to be consistent and ongoing. Just like we don't want to email our list once every six months. We don't want to like, just show up on Facebook once every six months either. So commit to what it is that you're doing and make it a priority. So don't overcommit don't say we're going to all of a sudden start doing four blog posts a month, we're going to send four emails, we're gonna post on Facebook and Instagram every single day like just don't do that. But think about think about it. And again, um, the action item that I want you to take from this episode, specifically, is to sit with your team, take a look at some of your favorite organizations that are not organizations, well, some of your favorite for profit companies, that where you love their customer service where you love the customer experience that you get when you shop there, or go there and start to take some notes about what it is that they're doing great, why you go back there over and over again, as opposed to some of the other competitors, and how you might be able to take some of those things and integrate them into your nonprofit customer donor experience. Okay, that's the action item I want you to take, then you can come back and maybe re listen to it and figure out what is the next step? Like what are you going to add? How are you going to tweak some things and take it one baby step at a time, right, because we're in this for the long haul. We're in this to be around for a long time. So we don't need to do everything all at once. We want to do things successfully test them and move on to the next thing. Okay. So customer experience to lead to retention, make sure you know who you're speaking to, and providing value to them on a regular basis. And then that your marketing is supporting all of those activities in a way that your team can support.

And that's really it. So if you want to share your brainstorms and your aha moments with us, you can do that in our private Facebook community facebook.com/groups/thefirstclick. We are a fun community of nonprofits helping support each other in our digital marketing and website needs and growth. And for now, I hope you subscribe wherever you listen to this podcast, so you don't miss out on a single episode. And if you wouldn't mind leaving us a review over on Apple podcasts, we would so appreciate that as well. Thank you so much for listening. I am so thrilled we're gearing up for Episode 100 next week, which is a great milestone that we will be celebrating and hope that you'll celebrate alongside us. But for now, we'll see in the next one


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