Top 3 Nonprofit Digital Marketing Challenges

Nonprofit Planning for 2018: Your Top 3 Nonprofit Digital Marketing Challenges – And My Solutions

Julia Claire Campbell Marketing, Nonprofits, Strategy 2 Comments

Top 3 Nonprofit Digital Marketing Challenges2017 was a difficult year for many nonprofits.

Upcoming changes to the tax code, a very uncertain and unhinged political climate, a strain on financial resources, competition for attention and donations… you name it. 

These are just a few of the topical issues faced by organizations of all sizes.   

I polled several very different nonprofits about their biggest digital marketing challenge encountered in the past year, and several themes emerged.

My goal with this unscientific poll was to figure out what you are struggling with, and then offer tactical solutions – not just encouraging words! (Although those do help from time to time.)

Here are the top 3 nonprofit digital marketing challenges encountered last year according to you – and my proposed solutions. 

#1 Challenge: “We don’t have enough staff capacity to manage digital marketing.”

This was far and away the most common problem cited by nonprofits.

Staff capacity is a huge obstacle to creating impact, and it should come as no surprise, since many nonprofits fear paying “too much for overhead” and thus get caught up in a dangerous starvation cycle.

Examples of this starvation cycle can be found almost everywhere.

The Agitator posted a review of my book Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits. One reader commented, “Would like to get Julia’s book, but Amazon’s $38.73 price is out of my nonprofit range.”

I felt terrible reading that statement, but the reality is this: If your nonprofit does not have $38.73 to spend on a resource that will help you raise more money and do your job more efficiently, what is the solution?

DROP EVERYTHING and focus 100% of your efforts on fundraising.

Determine the amount of money that you need to raise to “stay afloat” or increase your staff capacity in digital marketing. This way, when you approach potential funders, you can present them with your plan for 2018.

Pick a number for 2018 – what amount of money do you need to accomplish what you want to accomplish?

What small steps can you take each day to get to that amount of money?

If you truly have zero, nada, zilch, negative staff capacity for marketing – and this is a real struggle for many organizations – get off social media and get on the phone with potential donors.

If you are trying to keep the lights on and meet payroll, get your Board to pound the pavement, make calls, send emails, have coffee with everyone you know, and raise that money.

Digital marketing campaigns should get put on the back burner until you get your finances stabilized and you build up your staff capacity.

Do you need a Strategic Online Communications Plan for the New Year? Join me on a live webinar where we will create your plan and get your specific questions answered! 

#2 Challenge –  “We can’t seem to create consistent content and post regularly.”

This challenge is most likely rooted in lack of staff capacity, clarity of message, and confidence.

Success in digital marketing requires 3 things:

  • Content creation – coming up with unique, interesting, valuable stuff to share with your supporters
  • Content curation – researching other people’s relevant, interesting, valuable stuff to share with your supporters
  • Measurement and analysis – to figure out what is resonating with your supporters and doing more of what works, less of what doesn’t

The solution to the challenge of posting regularly is to conduct a brief Digital Marketing Audit.


  • Which channels are we currently using? List all of them: Website, email, blog, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Which channels are working best?
  • Which ones do we enjoy using?
  • Which channels could be improved if they were used more purposefully and strategically?
  • Which channels could be scrapped? Read: 4 Signs Your Nonprofit Should Quit a Social Network
  • Do we need to be on all the channels?

Consider what it REALLY takes to be successful on a digital marketing channel.

You must be able to:

  • Understand the channel – each channel is a different country.
  • Listen and do some research on the language, the best practices, the idiosyncrasies, the etiquette, the standards, the culture, the demographics.
  • Create unique, interesting content DESIGNED for the channel.
  • Research and share relevant content for the channel.
  • Constantly measure results, analytics, tweak, and improve.

You also need a Content Strategy – read: How to Create Your 2018 Nonprofit Content Strategy in Just 2 Steps.

Do you need a Strategic Online Communications Plan for the New Year? Join me on a live webinar where we will create your plan and get your specific questions answered! 

#3 Challenge – “We lack a plan. What should we be focusing on?”  

Does this sound familiar?

“We have a Twitter account that I only have time to post on a few times a month. If we are not using Twitter the correct way is it worth it to even have one? Shouldn’t I be posting 5 times a day?”

“I also feel like blogs are such a time drain for little reward.”

“I am learning all I can to be more effective with communicating our services, products, events, and fundraising campaigns.”

Nonprofits often come at digital marketing thinking tools first – which platforms should we use, how many times should I post, which is the best website platform, etc.

You have to determine your goals FIRST.

You must come at marketing with an audience-first mindset.

Don’t think about marketing as a broadcast medium where you simply advertise your events and your needs.

You have to earn attention, trust, and authority.

Then you can ask for an action – when it makes sense and to an audience primed to take action.

Join me for a live webinar on this very topic and create your Strategic Nonprofit Online Communications Plan for 2018. When you join me live, you will have the opportunity to get your specific questions answered. 

Learn more and secure your spot.

Don’t miss it! Let me know what you have in store for 2018.

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