Your organization is established, and you know that you’re accomplishing great things. But you haven’t yet been able to establish a large following, and sometimes it can feel like you’re speaking into the void when you send an email or publish a blog post.
It’s not easy to grow an audience of loyal supporters. But finding your people is the first step to developing and nurturing that devoted community that cares about your cause and wants to help you move your mission forward.
So how do you find the right people and convince them to follow along?
Spell Out Your Ideal Audience
Before you can expand your audience in any meaningful way, it’s important to outline who your ideal audience is made up of and why they should come to your site or subscribe to emails.
I love creating target audience personas for this. Each persona you create should highlight a typical member of your target audience. You might have one for recurring donors, one for volunteers, one for advocates, one for major donors, etc.
While you don’t want to have too many people that you’re talking to through your marketing (that starts to tangle communications and cancels out the benefit of directness that personas bring), you do want to accurately represent your complete ideal audience to the best of your ability.
Ways to Grow an Audience
There are a few tried and true ways you can grow an audience from a small circle of friends to an active community of supporters for your nonprofit. If your nonprofit subscribes to marketing funnels to map out a persona’s journey, these strategies would line up with “top of the funnel” tactics aimed at bringing more people into your funnel.
Create a content promotion plan
Are you surprised that making a plan was the first thing on our list? What can we say? We’re a team that melts for a well-thought-out strategy. Create a plan to promote the types of content that you create most often. That means blog posts, press releases, program or organization updates, new projects, events, and anything else that you share (or would like to share) on a regular basis.
Your plan might be different for each type of content, but it’ll likely include things like an email to your whole list or a segment of your list, social media posts, outreach to partner organizations to spread the word to their audiences, and other methods of communicating in your toolbox.
Your plan can include any number of promotional methods, even a few of the ones outlined below as additional ways to expand your audience. But make sure that you’re promoting your organization and its work regularly and making the most of all of the content you’re already creating with a content promotion plan.
The next most important part is that you follow said plan, making adaptations as necessary depending on the particular piece of content. To get you started, see how we recommend promoting blog posts and event or campaign landing pages.
Get active on social media
These days, just about everyone is on a social media platform in some capacity. It’s a great way to get your message out and build a group of followers to communicate with regularly. And the more active you are on social media, the more people see your posts and can learn about what you do. Create or update accounts on the platforms that your target audience personas are likely to be active on, then build a schedule for posting.
To expand your reach on social media even further, you might start a social media ambassador program to reach the followers of your followers or experiment with running ads on the platforms you care most about.
Create entrance points for your email list
When you’re just getting started growing your audience, it’s important to try to capture as many people who visit your website as possible for future communications through your email list. That could mean including an email sign-up form in the footer of your website or the sidebar on popular pages for newcomers. You might also create a pop-up for pages without other important actions, like your Donate page or event and volunteer pages.
Wherever you ask people to join your list, make sure that you’re following through with your promises to keep them updated on what your nonprofit is doing and the impact you’re making in your community. There’s no point in spending time and money to grow your list and reach new people if you’re not going to use it!
Start a blog on your website
We are huge fans of blogging here at Wired Impact, and we’ve seen the difference it can make in growing a nonprofit’s audience. Nonprofit blogs are a great way to keep your community updated and informed about your cause and to keep people coming back to your site on an ongoing basis. Because once you publish a blog post on your website, you can share that post with your audiences on social media, email and wherever else you’re promoting your content.
And to attract new people initially, blog posts are an excellent place to put keyword research for search engines to good use. Which brings us to …
Optimize content for search engines
Search engines are the number one way that new people find our content and website services. We’ve also seen a wide range of nonprofits, from religious organizations to rare disease researchers, optimize their websites and exponentially increase their reach. You can make it work for your organization, too. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a way to drive people to your site who are looking for the type of work you’re doing, but not for your organization specifically.
You’ll first need to get your hands on some keyword research. And once you have a list of potential target keywords, you can start optimizing your website content to appear for those keywords within search engine searches. Many nonprofits opt for outside support when it comes to keyword research, but there’s no reason you can’t learn to do keyword research in-house.
Like I mentioned above, blog posts are a great opportunity to target keywords that may not fit easily within the page names of your standard website content.
Experiment with peer-to-peer fundraising
Peer-to-peer fundraising involves recruiting current supporters to fundraise on your behalf by appealing to their family and friends, often using their personal social networking accounts and email. It’s a great way to help new people learn about your cause from people that they already know and trust — plus it brings in additional donations that you may not otherwise have been able to close.
But don’t forget about your MVP supporters and fundraisers! Have a fundraiser retention strategy around to ensure they feel supported and appreciated enough to stick around and continue fundraising through future peer-to-peer campaigns.
Run Google Ads
Have a Google Ad Grant or interested in applying for one? The grant gives eligible nonprofits $10,000 per month in free Google Ads that appear along with normal search results. If you’re not able to break into Google searches through SEO work, these ads are the next best thing and who can turn down free ads? Check out our resources for getting started and managing your account for success over time. Just remember that ads are only the first step: getting people to your website. Put an equal (if not more) amount of energy into capturing their interest and email once they get there.
- Getting Started With Google Ad Grants
- How to Manage an Ad Grant Account
- 6 Ways to Maximize Your Nonprofit’s Account
While you likely don’t have the instant capacity to kick off all of these ways to grow an audience for your nonprofit, you can create a content promotion plan that strategically outlines the best options for promoting your organization on a regular basis. That looks a little different for every organization, but I often find myself recommending that folks looking to grow an audience start with one or two social media sites, a blog and multiple entry points to their email list.
What ways have you used to grow an audience for a nonprofit? Any other methods you’d add to our list? Let’s circle up to chat about them in the comments below.