Fundraising. Ah yes, that word. Online seminars, national conferences, countless articles published all dedicated to that word. A complex, oftentimes elusive requirement all nonprofits must face. The most prominent issue keeping nonprofits up at night just so happens to be the straw that stirs the drink.


While there are a few different factors as to why fundraising has gotten increasingly difficult even in the past five years, there are a number of marketing tactics organizations can adopt to stay ahead of the curve.

Why Do Marketing & Fundraising Go Hand-in-Hand?

Nonprofits have so many reasons to communicate: information to share, policy change to affect, programs to fill and, as Robert Egger, Founder of L.A. Kitchen, explains, marketing is not only an outlet to disseminate information, but also a platform for organizations to maintain relationships with its loyal following:

“In America, 70 million people volunteer, and there are over $300 billion in donations annually. There’s clearly an enthusiasm for what we do, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t looking for something deeper…I think that’s what people don’t recognize about marketing is that it’s almost repaying Americans’ generosity with a sense of momentum…. Good things are happening, and I don’t think people [in the nonprofit world] really recognize how hungry people are for that.”

Sounds simple enough…So, what’s preventing nonprofits from investing sufficient resources into marketing?

Fundraising marketing budget challenges for nonprofits

1. Limited pool of internal resources

The majority of nonprofit marketing dollars are spent on trying to attract donors — nearly two-thirds of budgets are devoted to direct fundraising yet around 50 percent of the nation’s nonprofits are operating with less than one month’s cash reserves. As more and more nonprofits continue to merely tread water, marketing efforts tend to fall by the wayside.

But financial hurdles aren’t the only challenges that inhibit marketing initiatives. Sarita Brown, President of Excelencia in Education, a non-profit focused on accelerating Latino success in higher education, discusses the challenges in engaging and communicating with donors online due to personnel shortages combined with the organizations steady growth:

“We are not active in attracting donations online. It’s there, but it’s there like a dress you don’t fit into shoved into the back of your closet. We’re not ‘anti’ this, but we have a small team and a national scope, and we acknowledge that this is something that we need to do.”

Competition for online donations

2. Saturated Market

When asked to share his biggest fundraising hurdle, Mircea Divricean, CEO of the Kostopulas Dream Foundation, said There is a lot of noise, so much competition. How can we be different?” And he’s certainly not wrong. With over 1.5 million registered charities in the United States, up 55% from 2013, fundraising has become an increasingly challenging necessity in today’s ultra-competitive landscape. Valerie Buickerwood, the Director of Development at Hopeworks ‘N Camden remarks, “With a limited pool of resources and a lot of really great causes, fundraising is an uphill battle.” Increased competition means many nonprofits are vying for the same donor pool causing fundraising expenses to grow exponentially.

Effective marketing for nonprofit fundraising drives

3. Not enough Emphasis on Marketing

Marketing communications needs to be recognized as a necessary part of moving an organization toward fulfilling its mission; an investment into your brand and website is a vital, yet often overlooked aspect of what enables nonprofits to succeed. Without this recognition, marketing communications will continue to be viewed as a luxury and an unnecessary expense, or even a “bad word”, which can hold nonprofits back.

One solution to address these market realities is redesigning your website. Your website plays the role of program officer, development associate, fundraising manager, community organizer etc. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Each visitor that finds your website is an opportunity for your nonprofit to establish or deepen a relationship with a potential donor. Nonprofit website strategy, design, and content will be a huge factor in the success of online fundraising moving forward. And if it’s hard to read and interact with a website, let alone locate where and how to make a donation, users will give up before they’ve even started.

According to Qgiv, donors are 34% more likely to donate on responsive websites and a whopping 75% of young donors (aged 18 to 34) are “turned-off” by out-of-date websites. Nonprofits are now responsible for communicating to many audiences, on many devices, with many different user experiences, the cost of ignoring these changes is only going to grow.

Marketing and fundraising are two halves of a whole. When marketing and fundraising are working in conjunction with one another, organizations like Hopeworks ‘N Camden are able to expand while also investing resources back into its brand and website. “We are growing our development staff, rebranding and redesigning our website in an effort to increase online giving,” notes Buickerwood. But when they don’t operate that way, the outcome of each leaves much to be desired. It can diminish an organization’s ability to engage its base and to make its desired impact on the world.