Once you set your marketing plan in motion, you’re not done. You should periodically perform a nonprofit self-audit to see how your website, email marketing, and social media are performing.
Otherwise, you can spend a lot of time being busy, but not being productive.
You see, marketing is a cycle of execution, analysis, and tweaking.
What’s working? What’s not working?
What do you need that you don’t have? How are you measuring your success? What can you do to improve the metrics that matter?
When you set marketing systems in place, they don’t always work together like they should. It’s easy to lose sight of your core messaging and your audiences when you’re choosing platforms, comparing fees, and scheduling emails.
A nonprofit self-audit is a chance to back up and look at the whole picture, to see how your marketing efforts are performing and where you can improve.
The results of your self audit will show you what to refine and how to position your organization to get results.
The Four Elements of a Nonprofit Self-Audit of Your Marketing Plan
When you walk through your nonprofit self-audit, you have four major tasks: clarifying your marketing goals, taking stock of your organizational assets, reviewing your systems, and tracking your progress.
Let’s take it one step at a time:
1. Marketing goals: You must have marketing goals that are tied to your fundraising plan.
How much money do you need to raise? How many new donors do you need?
How are your marketing activities going to help you get there? What do you need from your website, your social media, your email marketing, and your print collateral?
Create SMART goals for your marketing activities so you know where you are going and what you need to measure. Your SMART goals might look like these:
- Increase our donor list by 10%—from 950 to 1,045—by Dec. 31, 2022.
- Increase our Instagram followers by 10%—from 2,342 to 2,596—by Dec. 31, 2022.
- Recruit two new sponsors for our signature event by Aug. 30, 2022.
Put all your goals on paper and include every metric you need to measure to meet the goals in your fundraising plan. You cannot get where you need to go if you cannot measure your progress.
Your goals should be bold but achievable. If you’re just starting out and only have 25 donors, you may be able to quadruple your donors to 100. But if your donor list is already large and developed, an increase of 5 to 10% is probably more realistic.
2. Organizational assets: Your assets are the things you already have in place that you can leverage to help reach your goals. You have:
- Your team: Your staff, Board, and volunteers are the people power you have to achieve your goals. You can’t do everything yourself. Invite people into the fold who have a passion for the work and help them identify the best role based on their skills, interests, and availability.
- Your story library: These are the stories that get people hooked on your mission. They are the tiny moments that demonstrate how meaningful your work is. They are the big moments you work so hard for.
A graduate of your program walking across the stage and accepting her diploma. A family moving into a house. A volunteer giving food to your 1,000th recipient.
Stories are the fuel that propel your marketing forward. A story can be as simple as a text you received from a recipient of services. Or it can be a professionally written story that reads like a feature in a magazine and includes professional quality video and photos. And everything in between.
Capture your stories! Store them in your library, so you will have them when you are ready to deploy them as part of your marketing strategy. And make sure to get permission to share the story if it reveals the person’s identity.
- Your donor database: Your donor database houses every donor who ever gave you money. Whether you use Little Green Light or Bloomerang, and whether it was $5 or $5,000, their name, giving history, and contact information get you started getting to know them.
It’s cheaper to get another gift from someone who already donated than to recruit a brand new donor! As your donor database grows, your income grows, and your programs grow. You change more lives. It’s just fundraising math!
What other assets do you have? Do you have a facility? A vehicle? A contract with your local school district? A lease from a church to house your food pantry for 10 years?
Take stock in the organizational assets you have so you can think about how to leverage each one as you work toward your marketing goals.
3. System/Materials reviews: You spent a ton of time, energy, and, in some cases, money setting up your marketing systems. You may feel compelled NOT to self-audit them out of fear you will find too many things you want to change or that aren’t working.
Put yourself in the shoes of a member of your audience when you self-audit your systems. Don’t hold yourself to the same standard as a large, established nonprofit or even a peer nonprofit. Just focus on your audience—donors— and how successful your platform or channel is at eliciting the desired response—donations.
- Website: Visit your website as a prospective donor who doesn’t know anything about your organization. Is it engaging? Are you quickly asked for your email address? Is it easy to donate? Do you want to get involved? Know more? What improvements would make a significant impact?
Check your metrics, focusing on overall numbers and growth. Look at how many visitors your site gets and how much time they stay on the site. How many join your email list or make a donation? What changes could you make to grow these numbers?
- Social media: Go through all your social media channels as a prospective donor. How likely would you be to engage if it was your first time on the channel? Consult the metrics for every site and write down three things you can do to grow your metrics. Can you post more frequently? Mix in more videos? Come up with juicier content?
- Email marketing: Your email marketing probably accounts for a significant slice of your fundraising pie. Maybe you use Mailchimp, or maybe you are among the many nonprofits heading over to Mailerlite. Whatever tool you use should provide you with some metrics to evaluate your results each time you hit “send.”
Review your recent emails. Do they grab the reader? Share interesting information? Do your appeals make it easy to give? And tell the donor how their donation would be used? Are you using best practices for subject lines? Do you have compelling photos and videos?
Look at your open rates, but pay more attention to the click-through rates. Write down three changes you can make that will lead to more people clicking and taking the action you want them to take.
- Appeals: Read your most recent appeal as if you are a lapsed donor receiving it in the mail. How compelled are you to open it? To read beyond the first sentence? To donate?
Experts have studied appeals and shared what works. It’s not a mystery. Follow best practices and you’ll get better results. Write down three things you can do with your next appeal to get a higher response rate and more donations.
- Other print collateral: Gather up your print collateral and take a long, hard look. Is the messaging crystal clear? Is it engaging? Would it make you want to learn more about the organization? Give yourself a grade for brand consistency. Do you consistently use your logo? Do you stick to brand colors and fonts?
Write yourself a three-point memo outlining what you will do differently next time you create some print collateral. But don’t create new stuff just because you see room for improvement! Only create what you really need.
4. Tracking progress: What Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can you track to measure performance? Number of people reached through speaking engagements? Number of people reached through news stories?
Don’t spend time tracking a data point that isn’t informative. Focus on the KPIs that tell you whether you are making progress toward your goals.
Think about nonprofit marketing as an engagement funnel and track the metrics that help you get prospective supporters funneled down to the level of consistent donor and advocate.
When someone makes a donation, what actions do you take? You send them a thank you note or maybe a new donor welcome kit. How many of these donors make a second donation the following year?
You meet people at a community event, and they give you their email address. What do you do from there? Send them a welcome email? How many donate based on that email?
When someone volunteers at an event, what do you do? Send them a personalized thank you and ask them to consider a donation? How many give?
When you’re first learning how to raise money for a nonprofit, you are hit with so many metrics you need to track. Track the metrics that matter the most! You can add more down the road as your marketing operation gets more sophisticated.
Your nonprofit may not be big and established enough to have every marketing strategy in place and humming along, but you are still funneling. We are all funneling! We are all meeting new people and nurturing them in a journey toward becoming an advocate for our organization!
Whew, that’s a lot to keep up with! When you fundraise for a nonprofit, there are so many tasks to keep up with every day.
A checklist is my best friend. It’s how I keep myself on track. It’s how I keep myself from getting overwhelmed. It’s how I keep from leaving off something important, like putting a deadline on my calendar.
Let’s take a look at what a checklist looks like.
Marketing Self-Audit Checklist
Your marketing audit checklist will give you the step-by-step to-do list you need to chip away at your nonprofit self-audit in manageable chunks.
Set up a checklist for your nonprofit self-audit and work through it step by step. Attach deadlines to help keep yourself moving forward.
Here is a sample checklist:
Set marketing goals, Thursday, May 19
Share with team, Thursday, May 19
Edit marketing goals based on team feedback, Tuesday, May 24
Put marketing goals in deck, Tuesday, May 24
List organizational assets, Wednesday, June 1
Share with team, Wednesday, June 1
Edit list of organizational assets based on team feedback, Tuesday, June 7
Add organizational assets to deck, Tuesday, June 7
The Bottom Line
A self-audit of your marketing might seem like a tall task when you feel like you barely have a marketing plan in place. But marketing is a cycle: Make a plan, execute the plan, evaluate your results, and refine your plan.
There are always new marketing strategies to try, and there are always ways to improve the strategies you have in place!
Your nonprofit self-audit will help you strengthen your marketing efforts so you can reach more people, let them know about the important work your organization does, bring in more money, and change more lives.
Because that’s what it’s all about!