Non-profits are always looking for the least expensive way to market to new and existing donors so that the majority of their income can be distributed to their greater cause. With the rising price of U.S. Postal Service rates, traditional direct advertising mechanisms may no longer be cost-effective for many smaller non-profits. While direct mail should still play a role in your marketing to donors and partners, there are alternate ways to communicate on a dime:
Web site

First of all, if you don’t have a Web site for your non-profit, you’re already behind the times. Web sites don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

There are plenty of agencies out there that you can pay to develop a simple Web site at limited cost to your organization. But there are also ways for you to build and maintain your own site with just a minimal cost of hosting fees to establish a simple online presence.

For Mac users, try MobileMe iWeb applications for a do-it-yourself approach to site design and maintenance. For PC users, consider low-budget Web site builders like eNon-profits Website Builder. Or, if you have some HTML coding experience, try designing a simple site on your own. Just be sure that your Web site clearly and concisely communicates the mission of your non-profit.


In order to keep interested donors/partners up-to-date with the latest good work your non-profit is conducting, send frequent, calculated e-mail newsletter-like updates. The magic is in the timing, though, so be strategic about when you communicate and who you’re communicating to. Don’t overdo it, but be sure to stay active enough for your list to remember your name and mission.

If your non-profit already has an e-mail distribution list, you’re in luck. You won’t have to pay for additional lists right off the bat.

To acquire new e-mail addresses to your list of interested parties, be sure to have a sign-in sheet at all of your fundraising events, and feature an e-sign-up prominently on your Web site donation page and key content pages. This kind of list-gathering is going to prove more qualified than renting or purchasing lists such that you really reach the people who will take action…without additional cost.

Once you have established your e-newsletter communications on a consistent basis, be sure to survey your audience to ensure that your communications are of value to your audience and that they are submitted at the appropriate frequency to sustain target interest.

Social Media

Some non-profits may be hesitant to embrace social media, but it’s the cheapest way to maintain a presence with certain target audiences.

Build a Facebook presence with a non-profit page. Start introducing friends to the page, post relevant and timely photos and status updates to keep information fresh and appealing to new donors/partners.

Establish a Twitter account to post spur-of-the-moment thoughts, activities, and retweets of interesting articles relevant to your non-profit’s mission. Be sure to follow other major Twitter feeds in your industry to see how the pros make a success of their social media.

Consider killing two birds with one stone by establishing an RSS feed of your Twitter announcements in your Facebook status feed. Try the Smart Twitter Pages application at:

To build organizational credibility, reach out to the business-to-business crowd via LinkedIn. Make sure that your non-profit mission is clear and that all volunteers, board members, and partners are aware that your organization is present so that they can cite their involvement in the non-profit and offer commendations on the work accomplished. Also be sure to reach out to various non-profit networking sites that list non-profits and charitable organizations for additional reliability in the midst of a cluttered philanthropic industry.

Boost the impact of your live events with social media updates throughout your event by posting photos, quotes, video clips and more on multiple online fronts.


Be a thought leader. Make your non-profit shine through frequent articles related to your mission. A non-profit blog could reside on your organization’s Web site or on other charity blog sites. Discuss your most recent fundraising event. Explain your organization’s stance on legislation that impacts your progress. Provide editorial feedback on recent news pertinent to the goals your non-profit is trying to reach. Donors are listening.

Traditional Media

With all of your e-marketing communications in place, all of your traditional marketing efforts can now redirect interested parties to additional information about your non-profit online. It builds a sense of trust in your organization to have a strong online presence, but also offers traditional media outlets an excellent resource to conduct their own background checks and homework before covering your next fundraising event or donation drive.

House an entire Press Kit on your Web site for free rather than mailing out a bulky, oft-overlooked folder full of unmemorable information. Make sure that you have a representative from your organization available at all times to answer media inquiries.

In Conclusion

Do-it-yourself marketing, while cost-effective, can also be very time consuming; often requiring full-time attention. Be sure that you have sufficient staffing to accommodate all of your low-budget communications needs. And make sure you show your gratitude to those who manage all of this on a volunteer basis.

Please let me know if you’re interested in a deeper look into any of these cost-conscious marketing tips and I’ll post additional entries with more detailed information.

Wishing you success with your non-profit marketing efforts,

Jacqueline Bodet