Why Non-Profits Need SEO Too

For most non-profits, the idea of dramatic changes to funding strategy or even just taking on one more responsibility can be daunting and risky.  Before I came to work at Full Media, I worked in the non-profit sector for several years, and let’s be honest: when you are working on a shoe-string budget with a skeleton staff, you have to prioritize what new initiatives and trends are really worth it and what will give you the best return on investment for your money and staff time.

By now, everyone knows that the Internet is the new frontier for outreach, communications and development.  Your non-profit probably has a website, a Facebook page and maybe even a Google + page if you are particularly savvy.  But when it comes to where non-profits are investing their money, educational pamphlets, posters, and direct mail campaigns just aren’t what they used to be.  Your community is moving online and SEO is essential if you want to reach them.

1.       The Internet is the future of donor recruitment. 
Many organizations are struggling with the question of how to recruit the next generation of donors.  I have heard several discouraged Development Directors say that young people just don’t give the way older generations did.

Most young people in their 20s and early 30s prefer to learn about non-profits through their website, social networks, and email newsletters.  Less than 20% of young people said that they preferred to learn about organizations through print mediums or in-person conversations.  Your older donors may still appreciate a printed annual report or feel more comfortable sending a check in the mail, but younger generations consider the Internet the most reliable and trustworthy source of information.  Being found on the Internet and maintaining a good, user-friendly web presence is integral to recruiting and maintaining donors.  It is also an important way to give your donors a sense of ownership over your projects and mission.

Sure, a website will never replace dinner with your big donors or your signature event.  Face-to-face interactions will never lose value over time when it comes to maintaining donor relations.  But your best bet for casting a wide net and recruiting new donors is the Internet.

2.       Your online presence can help fulfill your mission.
The key to maximizing your online efforts is to NOT just think of your efforts as a PR tactic to show everyone what good you are doing off-line.  Event invitations and press releases are great, but original content meant for the web is what will make the difference.

If any of your programs are based around education and outreach, the Internet can play an integral role in accomplishing the goals of your programs.  Non-profits serving homeless populations can create emergency financial help walk-throughs online for families on the brink of losing housing.  Animal shelters can post photos of adoptable animals and educate pet owners about how to control undesirable behavior to lower owner-surrenders.  Environmental organizations can publish online studies about pollution levels in local waterways. 

The Internet has revolutionized information-sharing and given anyone around the world access to a limitless audience. Write grants for online education.  Count how many people actually click through to that study on water quality and tell your funders.  These metrics count just as much if not more than how many pamphlets you printed and passed out around town.

3.       Just because you build it does not mean they will come.



It may have worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but the Internet can be a competitive place.  You will be swimming in a much bigger pool than ever before, with giant non-profits gobbling up expensive ad space and gaining wide networks of young people who will share their content and donate their limited dollars.  Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing are the key to reaching the right audience, crafting the right appeal, and getting your information and resources out to more people.
 
Optimizing your web presence can really make an impact on your donations and your program work by ensuring that your amazing resource-filled website doesn’t sit pages down in the search engine rankings.  Using SEO to optimize your website can also direct all of those new users interacting with your Facebook page or reading your articles toward your donation or membership page and drive up your conversion rate.  The end goal is always to engage your user and invest them in your work, and careful internet marketing can help you build meaningful relationships with your online audience by urging them to get involved on a deeper level.
 
4.       Done right, you can save money in the long run.
Cutting down on your printing costs and putting those resources toward SEO can generate big savings.  Not to mention, getting a head start on building those valuable donor relationships early will pay off big time down the line when those 20-somethings are in their prime earning years.

This is one of those penny-wise and pound-foolish situations where making an investment in SEO now and developing a relationship with your online audience will impact your reach big-time down the road.  Learning how to market on the Internet is integral and the for-profit world is already moving rapidly in that direction.  

For more information on how SEO can help your non-profit organization, please contact Full Media.

By Rachael Watkins
Internet Marketing Team Leader
Rachael serves as Internet Marketing Team Leader in Full Media's Atlanta office. She is a graduate of Indiana University where she received a degree in international studies and religious studies. Prior to Full Media, she worked for a number of non-profits, taking on everything from student political organizing to human rights issues in China to private foundation work.