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Develop a nonprofit marketing action plan in 8 steps

photo of Patricia Rivera

by Patricia V. Rivera, Hook PR & Marketing

Running your nonprofit without a fully formed marketing plan is like driving without a map. Maybe you arrive at your destination, but not without detours and roadblocks. Use the right path by developing a marketing action plan.

These 8 steps will get you going:   

1. Know your goals  

You need to know what success will look like before you think about tactics. Ask yourself:

  • What are your organization’s strategic goals? 
  • What will marketing success look like? 
  • How much time can we realistically commit to marketing?  

2. Practice empathy mapping 

You can always learn more about the wants and needs of your customers and donors. Empathy mapping is a tool that enables you to understand your audiences’ feelings. Without this empathetic understanding, your team might develop messages that meet their own needs — not the needs of your ideal customers or donors. To practice, ask, and answer questions that get your team inside the minds, hearts, and feelings of each persona you want to engage.

3. Research your competitors

Conducting competitive research is a way to expand your services. It’s more than researching your direct competitors; it’s looking at your entire digital competition. Study their websites, blog content, and ads.

4. Promise to solve a problem

People want better versions of themselves. They want what they believe will help them feel good, achieve a goal, get relief from pain or discomfort, avoid a sticky situation, or prepare for the future. Match your messaging to the solution and the transformation.  

5. Move prospects through the customer journey

Buying habits have changed so dramatically that we need to organize behavior instead of creating demand. As certified Duct Tape Marketing consultants, we believe the seven connected stages of the customer journey are:  

  • Know: use content to spark interest
  • Like: nurture leads by sharing knowledge and useful resources
  • Trust: share customer-generated videos, case studies, social media, and success stories 
  • Experience or Try: offer an easy way for your target audience to see what it would be like to engage with you
  • Donate or Join: orient new customers or donors, exceed their expectations, and surprise them
  • Repeat or Delight: ensure your customer or donor receive and understand the value of staying engaged with you
  • Refer: create a remarkable customer experience that compels them to share your mission with others

Your marketing should include content and tools that help move customers through their journey with you. 

6. Use content as the voice of strategy

Content creation is the hardest job for a marketer, but planning content using your hourglass can lead to a big payoff. Content touches all aspects of your marketing. It powers the entire customer journey.

Use content as your voice of strategy: produce content that focuses on education and inspiration. Build trust at every stage of the customer journey.

7. List quarterly priorities, follow the calendar

As a nonprofit leader, you have plenty to do. Ensure that marketing needs are ingrained in your organization’s routine. 

Plan what needs to be done and when. That’s how you stay focused on activities that will give you the highest ROI. Start by listing the highest-impact items to implement each quarter. 

Then, live by the calendar. If it isn’t on the schedule, it probably won’t happen.

8. Measure what matters

You can measure engagement metrics, social metrics, content metrics, conversion metrics, growth metrics, and more. One of the hardest tasks is determining what you should measure. 

You can’t measure what’s easy. You must measure what matters. 

Patricia V. Rivera is a marketing consultant and founder of Hook PR & Marketing. Hook’s consulting services help nonprofits resolve marketing issues or learn to DIY. To learn more, visit or call 302 858 5055.