Start of Main Content

If you work in communications at a mission-driven nonprofit or NGO, “marketing” can sound like the wrong word to describe what you do with your website. The term evokes gimmicky tactics to increase shopping cart sales—tactics that don’t align with your organization’s strategies and goals.

Of course, there are differences in how to design your website and write for it when your organization doesn’t sell a product. However, you still sell messages and use calls-to-action on your site, so your messaging and conversions are equally important.   

When we talk to clients at NGOs and nonprofits, they sometimes have misconceptions about how to best sell their key messages and get their audiences to act. To help you with that, here are some common digital marketing myths we’ve heard from mission-driven clients, and ways you can change your organization’s thinking to dismiss them. 

Struggling to sell your messages to your audiences? Reach out.

We’ve worked with mission-driven nonprofits and NGOs for over 20 years, so we know how to craft inspiring messages and calls-to-action that drive results.

Myth #1: Our Audience Hates Being Marketed to

Often nonprofits and NGOs are reluctant to employ the same conversion tactics as B2B and B2C organizations. We understand that someone coming to a nonprofit organization’s website has different intentions than buying a pair of shoes. But all website users consume content for personal and professional reasons, so certain tactics catch everyone’s attention and inspire action.  

While you should value a sleek design for your website with refined messaging, you shouldn’t sacrifice features/functionality that have proven results across all industries—even if they feel a bit too much like traditional marketing. Sometimes the next step isn’t clear to your website’s visitors. Assuming your audiences will naturally take the actions, you want them to, without a nudge, can lead to less-than-desirable results.

In fact, a large grantmaking foundation client significantly increased email newsletter sign-ups after following our recommendation to introduce a pop-up sign-up in addition to their more subtle inline sign-up. This new component outperformed the original component, and now we’re seeing great success with leveraging both features.   

Myth #2: Our Audience Uses More Sophisticated Language Than the Average User  

Every industry has insider lingo. And while it’s not wrong to show primary audiences that your organization knows the vernacular, it can be detrimental to your organization’s digital visibility to sacrifice clear, straightforward language. Using plain language isn’t “dumbing it down” for audiences. Plain language is your best tactic for attracting search engines and new traffic to your site.  

When writing content for the web, think about both search engine optimization and editorial style. If content over indexes on industry terminology, or too many topics, search engines won’t know how to categorize your well-written articles. Your site will get passed up by search engines in favor of content with a clearer more focused topic. It’s possible to balance what feels like two opposing ideals—writing for robots/SEO vs. writing for your audiences—by keeping a clear focus and incorporating keywords that are most natural to how audiences would search for that topic.   

Myth #3: Our Social Media or Other Digital Marketing Efforts Are Separate from Our Website  

Internally, the communications officer responsible for your social media or digital campaigns might be different than the person responsible for your website. But to your audience, this is all one digital experience with your organization. We often remind our clients to think of how users want to experience something (not themselves). In this case, thinking like a user means considering your entire digital ecosystem one experience. And how can someone grasp your organization’s call-to-action if it’s not consistent from one channel to the next? How will they know their appropriate next step?  

Your website should complement social media and paid campaign efforts, and vice versa. Your “product” is your call-to-action, and a consistent, cross-channel marketing plan/execution ensures that your message gets heard by your audiences so they take the right action.  

Dismissing These Digital Marketing Myths

By learning how to dispel these three myths within your organization, you can help it build a better website. Marketing is necessary to connect with your audiences. Embrace it in service of increasing visibility with your audiences. Learn from the tactics used by other industries and their successes to find the right ones for your organization. Employing proven marketing tactics doesn’t mean plastering “DEALS!” messaging across your site. It means knowing the specific message you’re trying to send and the action it should inspire. Then optimizing your digital experiences for both. And don’t forget, your website isn’t an island. Your messages and calls-to-action should be consistent across your digital marketing channels to achieve consistent results with your audiences.

If you’re looking for advice on you can make your nonprofit or NGO website more effective, contact us. You can also learn more about our experience with mission-driven nonprofits and NGOs to see how you could benefit from our services.


Latest Ideas

Take advantage of our expertise with your next project.