Nonprofit Marketing Trends for 2023

The world of marketing, particularly digital marketing, is always changing. As you build the budget and promotional strategy for your nonprofit organization, you need to plan as much as you can.

That’s easier said than done, especially in an environment as volatile as this. As with so many other industries, COVID-19 turned the nonprofit sector on its head and inflation and the threat of recession have kept it from reaching a new equilibrium. Add that to the already rapid change of pace in online marketing and predicting what’s next on the horizon becomes more complex and challenging than ever.

Top 10 Nonprofit Marketing Trends for 2023

We’ll give it our best anyway! Below are the top 10 trends for nonprofit marketing in 2023, all based on both external research and our own experience in the field. Let’s dive in.

Nonprofit Marketing Trends in 2023

1. Nonprofit Marketing Strategies Are Increasingly Digital

While COVID-19 threw a major wrench into the workings of nonprofits everywhere, especially those that were most dependent upon in-person events, the pandemic actually increased total charitable giving in America in 2020 and 2021. That trend line has changed, and giving levels are back to where they were in 2019.

What hasn’t changed, however, is the new world of online giving options that the lockdown helped usher in. That’s why it’s more important than ever to make it easy to donate online and to hone your digital marketing strategy. Here’s what you need to know about digital nonprofit marketing in 2023:

  • Giving that was related to COVID-19 related causes (mostly in human services and healthcare) has largely faded away, while other causes are starting to see a lift again (like arts and climate).
  • Men and married couples have especially increased their share of donations, opening up new audience opportunities.
  • Millennials are giving more than ever, as donor audiences continue to get younger and younger (or nonprofits get smarter about marketing to younger audiences).
  • Travel and volunteering mean in-person activity has resumed, although digital engagement is still a vital part of your nonprofit marketing strategy.

2. Gen Z Has Entered the Nonprofit World

Charitable giving increases are also driven by a new generation entering the audience mix. Generation Z is growing up and ready to contribute to society.

Gen Z refers to the generation born in 1996 and later, meaning its oldest members turned 25 in 2021. That, of course, is the prime age to become regular donors for charitable contributions to their organization of choice.

Another factor: most social scientists believe Gen Z to be the most socially conscious generation yet. If they believe in you, they’ll become loyal members and contributors.

Are you ready for this generation to make a tangible difference in your audience mix next year? You’ll need content that’s accessible to them, including short and succinct statements of value and worth. This is the time to make sure your channels and messages are prepared for Gen Z.

3. The Social Media Mix for Nonprofit Marketing Is Shifting

Speaking of Gen Z: with new audiences come new marketing channels that are important to leverage. Yes, your website remains your centerpiece online, and Facebook remains an important part of your mix. But what about going beyond those channels?

Some interesting social media channel trends to watch:

  • Instagram, which crossed 2 billion users in 2022, is the most widely used platform across all generations, spanning Gen Y to Boomers.
  • TikTok is now more popular among Gen Z consumers than Instagram.
  • LinkedIn has one of the highest-earning and most educated bases on social media — 51% college-educated with half of users earning more than $75,000 annually
  • 2022’s Facebook usage and activity are down to 33 minutes per day on average (versus 39 minutes daily in 2017).
  • The platform formerly know as Twitter might be a wreck right now, but Threads is a great new opportunity for nonprofits to get in on the ground floor of a growing new platform.
  • According to the platform themselves, 7 in 10 Pinners say that Pinterest is their go-to place to find products or services they can trust.
  • SMS marketing, with 75% of consumers now saying they are comfortable receiving texts from brands.

Put it all together, and it’s clear that as we move into 2023, nonprofits will struggle with effective use of all of those channels (time to find that social media coordinator, fast!). It’s time for nonprofit marketing leaders to take a close look at their channel mix and make tweaks that continue optimizing their budgets and efforts for their environment.

4. Audience Segmentation is Key to High-Performing Nonprofit Email Marketing

You know about email as one of the core ways to communicate with your audience online. But email marketing for nonprofits is rapidly changing, and 2023 is shaping up to be the tipping point for separating good email marketing from bad in the nonprofit world.

The driving factor: audience segmentation. Simply sending push emails to your entire database no longer yields results. After all, we now send more than 300 billion emails every day. Get this channel wrong, and you’ll get lost in the clutter and noise of the average email inbox.

Instead, relevance is the name of the game. Each email you send should be personally relevant to the people receiving it. That, in turn, is only possible through effective email list segmentation. And you can start that process now.

Take a look at your database, and begin to split up your audience into relatively homogenous groups. Current and frequent donors may be one group, but don’t be afraid to go deeper. Similar demographics (like the Gen Z note above) can further help you segment your lists to personalize your appeals.

Tools like HubSpot let you track and segment your contacts more easily than ever before. When someone visits your website, clicks on an ad, or makes a donation, you can place that contact in a custom-tailored workflow that helps you send personalized nudges and reminders when they’ll be most effective.

5. Increase Donations through Personalization

Speaking of personalization, segmentation is only the first step. If you’re not personalizing your nonprofit marketing messages in 2023, you might be in serious trouble.

It’s not just about entering a first name in your email salutation, either. Three-quarters of consumers now feel frustrated if their website experience isn’t personalized to their needs. Meanwhile, 72% of them only engaged with messaging personalized to them.

How can you speak directly to your audience? The closer you get to that one-on-one conversation, the better. That’s especially the case given the other trends mentioned in this article — Gen Z expects personalization more than any other generation before them. The new virtual nature of marketing has taken some of that personal touch away.

So this is it. Invest in systems that allow you to build customized messaging for your audience, regardless of channels, like HubSpot (which offers a 40% discount to nonprofits!).  Utilize programmatic advertising and highly segmented lists to deliver creative campaigns that are targeted specifically to on-the-fence members of your target audience.

6. Use Video to Build Relationships with Donors and Volunteers

Using videos to tell your story has been a growing trend in nonprofit marketing for a while, but we’re finally past the tipping point. If you don’t leverage video messages as part of your marketing mix, you’re missing the mark on fulfilling (and exceeding) audience expectations.

According to Cisco, video is expected to make up 82% of all online traffic next year. A clear majority of people online expect marketers to produce more video.

It’s time to keep up with and ride that trend. Videos work particularly well for nonprofits because they let you tell your story clearly and vividly. What better way to demonstrate what your organization does than by interviewing the people you’ve helped or showing footage of volunteers in action. A behind-the-scenes video of your organization at work or a feature about the impact of donations — these can powerfully convey your organization’s mission and create a personal and emotional connection with viewers.

Don’t forget about the power of live streaming, either. More than 150 million people watch live stream videos every month. For inspiration, check out the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ Extra Life campaign, which has generated millions of donations through the power of live streams.

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7. Make Donating Easier across Multiple Marketing Channels

How easy is your donation process for both new and existing members of your nonprofit? The answer to that question could change the way you’re thinking about the process. In the recent past, we’ve seen drastic improvements to the process, including (but not limited to):

  • Social media fundraisers that allow you to donate without ever leaving the platform.
  • One-click buy opportunities similar to Amazon’s button that leverage technology like PayPal, Google Pay and Apple Pay.
  • Giving using crypto and other non-traditional financial methods.
  • Donations via text messaging, right from mobile devices.

Here’s the challenge — can you meet your donors on their favorite channel, and make donating take 30 seconds or less? It should be your goal to build a giving platform that doesn’t require someone to get up and find their credit card. That’s what your audience expects.

8. Re-Engaging Lapsed Donors Limits Audience Variability

It’s easy to forecast that your existing donors will matter more than anything else through the rest of 2023. As inflation and recession fears limit financial flexibility, donors will return to their “comfort zone” and give to the institutions they’re already familiar with — organizations they know can make a difference.

But what about people who’ve given to you in the past, but no longer do? Now is an opportunity to build a strategy for them. They may have been short on money or turned their attention to other nonprofits. And yet, at some point in the past, they recognized you as worthy of their donations.

Re-engaging these lapsed donors is a crucial way to limit your variability and rely on audiences that have proven to bear fruit in the recent past. But you’ll need to have a few pieces in place to get there:

  • A database or platform that easily identifies your lapsed donors and segments them into a single audience group.
  • Analytics and reporting tools that allow you to find the unifying characteristics of this lapsed donor audience group.
  • A compelling message at the ready that prompts lapsed donors to start considering you again.
  • An easy check-out process that remembers their past information and moves them through the process at their preferred pace.

9. Build Relationships with Donors to Grow Your Sustainers and Increase Predictability

Lapsed donors should be among your most important audiences. However, it still doesn’t quite reach the highest priority group: your sustainers, the reliable every-year givers who make up the foundation of your fundraising strategy.

As audiences narrow, this group should become your bread and butter. That means two things above all:

  • Keeping your current sustainers engaged to ensure they will remain loyal and close members of your core audience.
  • Spending significant effort to grow new sustainers from your occasional donors.

That last piece might be the most difficult. It means locking donors into multi-year commitments, turning them from one-time to regular contributors in the process. Only a succinct value proposition coupled with consistent, engaging communications specific to these audiences across channels can make that possible and realistic.

When you get there, though, the benefits are significant. The more sustainers you can count on your side, the more predictable your revenue will become.

10. High Quality Content Marketing Moves from Desirable to Essential

According to one survey, 92% of nonprofit marketers use at least some form of content marketing, while 65% of them have increased their content production pace.

In other words, nonprofit content is crowded. It’s no longer enough to simply create it; instead, high quality content is becoming essential.

We’ve started to see leading nonprofit content marketers leverage storytelling through some options mentioned above, including video and platforms like TikTok. The rise of LinkedIn and Instagram Stories has further aided in that capability.

But at its core, it’s even simpler than that: no matter what content you publish or what channels you leverage, quality comes first. Every piece of content should give your audience some insight about your cause and organization, or some takeaway that actually helps them solve their pain points. If you can accomplish that, you’re already winning.

“We need really good storytelling embedded into our organization. It’s not just Marketing’s job anymore, it’s everyone’s.”
– Justine Burke, VP of Marketing at Metropolitan Ministries

Finish 2023 with a Strong Nonprofit Marketing Strategy

As #GivingTuesday and the holiday season approach, there are only a few months left to finish 2023 as strongly as possible. A strong framework now will make all the difference as you end the year and move into 2024.

Fortunately, you’re not on your own. Having the right marketing partner by your side will help you build a strategy for success moving forward.

Contact us to learn more about our expertise in digital marketing, particularly in the nonprofit sector. Let’s work together to build a digital marketing strategy designed to help your nonprofit organization thrive.

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