Your digital fundraising strategy helps bring awareness to your organization and is an essential addition to your overall integrated fundraising strategy. If you have been looking for a way to grow your marketing efforts or not sure what tactics to focus on, today’s episode will cover all the basics you need to get started.
Steven Aguiar is a seasoned digital marketer and founder of Good Goes Further, he helps nonprofits build their audiences and strengthen their marketing strategy. In our interview, Steven Breaks down some of the tools and strategies he suggests to his nonprofit clients like
- Using Google’s Ad Grant Program to grow your audience
- Navigating paid social media ads
- Boosting your organic SEO with a blog
- The top metric to look out for in your email campaigns and,
- How you can use email metrics to grow your donor database
Developing a digital media strategy doesn’t have to be complicated or take up a ton of your resources. As Steven shares in his interview, there are a lot of simple things you can start doing to boost your digital presence.
Hello and welcome to the Fundraising Superheroes podcast, a podcast celebrating nonprofit organizations and all the people working to make the world a better place.
I'm your host, Sabrina Sciscente, and this podcast is brought to you by Donor Engine. We're an all in one nonprofit software that makes managing your donors, volunteers and team a breeze.
You could learn how to save hours of time in managing your nonprofit by visiting DonorEngine.com and schedule a free demo.
So your digital marketing strategy is a great long term fundraising channel, and when done right, it will drive traffic back to your website, find new donors and grow your supporter base. Today we talk with marketing pro Steve Aguiar on building and executing a digital marketing strategy to improve your digital growth and performance.
Steven is an experienced digital marketer and founder of Good Goes Further, a digital marketing agency that helps nonprofits create and execute a plan for digital growth. Thank you so much, Steven, for coming on the show today.
Thank you, Sabrina, for having me.
Can you start us off by briefly explaining how nonprofits can use Facebook and Instagram to grow their audience? I know that's a very popular platform for a lot of our listeners.
Sure. I think, you know, there's a lot of ways nonprofits can use Facebook and Instagram to grow their audience, and obviously grow your audience can mean a lot of different things. On Facebook and Instagram that could mean growing the number of fans you have on Facebook or the number of followers you have on Instagram, which is obviously super helpful. My background is more in paid media management and obviously, like if you give someone a hammer, everything is a nail.
So all the ways I like to think about how to use Facebook and Instagram to grow, your audience is actually using them as sort of conduits to grow the audience that you own. So how do you use Facebook and Instagram to grow your email list, for example, or how to use them to drive traffic to your website where you'll have different calls to action to sign up to your email newsletter or donate to your nonprofit. So there's a lot of different ways you can use that.
I think one of my favourites is paid media management and the way that I use Facebook and Instagram is primarily two different ways when it comes to paid management. Number one is lead generation ads, which is a really great ad format on Facebook and Instagram that allows you to seamlessly capture the email and other contact information for a potential donor to grow your email list. And then second is to drive traffic directly to your website. And this is like more targeting, sort of your core audience of people who visit your website or are already on your email list or are already Facebook fans to donate to your organization.
So those are just a couple of ways. Obviously, there are other things you can do with paid media management. You can promote videos and get views. You can promote blog posts and get article visits. But yeah, it's obviously a big question. But those are some examples of the ways that I help my nonprofit clients use Facebook, Instagram throughout their audience.
I know that Facebook has a lot of really good tools for you to be very specific about the demographics that your ads are hitting. Do you have any suggestions on creating the ad itself? Is there any design things that can hurt or help a nonprofit? Are there any rules that they should follow in terms of the type of ads they're putting out? Should it be diverse? Should it all be like email collection ads? What's your thoughts on that?
I mean, they should try a lot of different things. My main recommendation would be to test. Be really intentional about your testing. Try a video ad versus an image, try a few different images, maybe one that's black and white or one that's colour. Try a post with a really short copy and one with long copy. So my main recommendation would be to just continuously experiment.
Don't ever stop experimenting. Make sure that you have two, three or four different versions of the ad and know why you're testing each one and take those insights and sort of recycle them back into creating your next campaign or even take those insights and apply them to things outside of advertising. So you might find that one image in one ad works better than the image in another. So maybe you can use that insight to update the image on the landing page or update the image on your banner and your Twitter profile on the and the image they use in your email marketing.
Use those insights not only to run better ads and get more effective campaigns going, but you can apply those insights to other parts of your digital marketing strategy.
How much does a digital marketing strategy fit into an organization's fundraising strategy? Can those two things work with each other?
Yeah, so it's important, right? A lot of the way nonprofits get money is obviously through grants and sort of high-level support that comes in the form of big checks. The other side of the coin is the grassroots fundraising. And I would say that most of that activity, as far as grassroots fundraising goes, is happening digitally at this point.
So it's really, really important. Again, digital marketing, it's sort of like thinking, you know, thinking through your fundraising strategy as sort of a classic marketing funnel. You have awareness, consideration and decision stage as far as the marketing funnel goes.
When you're thinking about fundraising, I really don't recommend that an organization targets a cold audience, one that has never heard of you with a fundraising ask. Right. Like they don't know anything about you, why would they give you money off that first impression? So think about, you know, as far as building a fundraising strategy with digital marketing, Number one driving awareness.
For example, let's sort of map out what that could look like from a Facebook advertising perspective, you know, promoting a brand real that sort of summarizes what your organization does to a cold audience, then retargeting people that watch 75 percent or more of that video with an email acquisition to capture their email with the lead generation, like I mentioned earlier. And then once you capture that email, then you re-target them with a donation, ask right after maybe, say, a month of being on your list.
So that's sort of like how I would think about digital marketing as a fundraising strategy. Think about where your potential audience is on their digital marketing journey and sort of where they are as far as their familiarity and knowledge of what you do and then time and sort of design your digital marketing around that.
Are there other tools that organizations can use to amplify their online presence, whether it's to help with their Facebook or Instagram strategy or do something completely different that will boost their presence?
Yeah, there's a lot they can do. So one tool we've been talking a lot about social media so far, but one tool I really like on the search side is called SEM Rush. So you can use SEM Rush to do keyword research around different things that people are searching online.
So you can see how many people are searching every month for your nonprofit's brand name or people, say you're a health care nonprofit. How many people a month are searching for a health care nonprofit? Basically it’s a great tool, I think, for sort of getting search engine insights and then applying that to your Google grants account, which I'm sure a lot of nonprofits are listening are up and running on, hopefully if not, go for that and apply right now.
Ten thousand dollars a month free from Google for a Google search advertising for nonprofits. But then also you're blogging strategy. So the content that you're producing on your website that gets ranked in Google, making sure that including the right keywords so that your article ranks when people find it so so maybe say you're a criminal justice reform nonprofit and you're blogging about some new legislation that's happening within the community that you're serving when you're blogging about that, making sure that is optimized for SEO.
SEM Rush is a really great tool for making that happen.
How important is it for nonprofits to have a blog and to be, you know, producing their own content? Because I know for some smaller nonprofits it can be overwhelming, especially if they don't have somebody designated to their marketing strategy. Do you think that it's worth the time investment?
Yeah, absolutely. I think it's worth the time investment.
I think there's three primary factors that go into building up your organic SEO presence and improving it. So number one is driving backlinks to your organization. So getting other websites to link to your nonprofit’s website is how Google determines the authority of a website to see what they are linking to you. That's really good. Number two is blogging. Having content on your website and having your site regularly updated is critical because, without the content, Google has nothing to index, right? There's nothing to crawl.
Google really likes long text content. So when you're thinking about blogging, think about writing articles as long as possible. I know that sounds overwhelming from a production standpoint and having to produce a lot of long articles, but the beauty of organic SEO is that once you start ranking a few months and it takes months to build up this credibility and this ranking profile, but once you start ranking, you're bringing in organic, passive traffic to your website.
That's relevant right there and down there searching for things related to what you do and that you've written about, and that traffic is going to come for free, passively moving forward.
So it's incredibly important. I just mentioned the last third factor that I think about as far as improving organic SEO and that's technical SEO. So that's basically reviewing your website and making sure that all of the factors are in place, all the best practices are in place to rank. Well, that's your search meta-titles and descriptions for every page, making sure your website is fast, making sure that images load quickly, making sure it's mobile, responsive and works well on a phone, making sure you have a Google search console account and then upload a site map.
There's a whole checklist. And if you Google your technical checklist, I'm sure you'll find a bunch of resources on that front. So, yeah, just to summarize, you know, the three big things I think about for, again, SEO or generating links blogging, which is what your question was about, and then thirdly lastly, the technical SEO component.
Clearly, blogs are really important in terms of their social media strategy, how crucial is it for them to be engaging with other accounts? I know that it can get overwhelming when you're constantly trying to produce content for your own profiles. But, you know, like even responding on a news article on something related to your cause can that help drive traffic to their pages as well?
Yeah, absolutely. I just found this great thread. If anyone's a big Twitter user, there's a brand called Morning Brew. They have a daily newsletter and one of their community managers posted an awesome Twitter thread on how they use Twitter to grow. As you mentioned, one of the tactics he mentioned in that thread was responding to high-profile accounts relevant to your niche. The example they used in their thread was Elon Musk writes, This newsletter covered the overlap between the finance industry and the stock market and sort of Silicon Valley technology.
And Elon Musk is probably like the peak representation of that overlap. So they use a screenshot, an example of them replying to an Elon Musk tweet, was something like super witty and clever as like a funny joke or playoff whatever he tweeted. And that tweet that that was just a reply to his got a ton of engagement. And they saw the Twitter account added, like three thousand followers just off that tweet.
So, yeah, like the ability, like you mentioned, in social media to be able to reply to influencers. When people see that that famous person tweet or that big publication tweet and they look at the replies, you're sort of riding that momentum, right? You're in the replies. If it's something good and a lot of people are favouriting it, they'll engage with it. And it sort of gives you just sort of riding the wave. You're sort of riding on their momentum and reach and tagging along with your reply. So, yeah, engage with influencers on social media that can be really effective for that reason.
You know, I think for me as a marketing person, it might be intimidating to reply to a social media influencer with like over a million followers and is a huge name. Do you think that they should just cut through that fear? And even if you are like a small new non-profit, you know, tweet them anyways, reply to tweets, repost their content?
Yeah, totally. I think they should go for as long as it feels like on brand and on message and you're not sort of, you know, not being authentic. I say go for it.
So a lot goes into creating and executing a great marketing strategy. What is the one thing you feel should be at the top priority for organizations?
Yeah, obviously there's a lot of priorities to juggle. And I think this is a pretty hard question because there are so many important things going on with marketing. And I think you could think about it both from like sort of lag metrics as far as like revenue and fundraising and stuff like that, versus lead metrics, which are things that you're sort of waking up and doing every day, like having a quota for blog posts or social media posts.
If I had to pick one thing, I would say growing your email list, I would say that is where a lot of nonprofits see great conversion from subscribers to donors is through email. Also, email lists are basically a data set that you own, which is important because we saw sort of like this reckoning on Facebook over the last ten years or people invested a ton of time and money and growing their Facebook page to a million likes. Then, suddenly, Facebook was like, OK, now you're only going to be able to consistently reach two percent of this audience.
And so email is sort of this neutral platform that is a little bit less susceptible to changes in algorithms like Google as a search algorithm. Facebook has a social algorithm, email, sort of a little bit less susceptible to the changes that could affect it, like, for example, when Gmail rolled out the promotions tab that affected a lot of open rates. Right. Like some things could happen that could affect your deliverability or ability to reach people via email.
But in general, it's a little bit more resistant to those to those changes. Email sort of like the first sort of social network and it still sticks around and still plays a really important role.
The ability to reach someone directly in their inbox is so valuable. I would say email. I think email sort of still the workhorse of a lot of audience development strategies. And if I had to pick one thing that I would say is the most important, I would say growing the email list.
Yeah, every interview I have, and we discuss the most important way of reaching and connecting with their donors. The answer is always email. You know, it's an old way of doing things, but it's it's held up, you know?
When nonprofits send out emails in their email strategy, what's the top metric they should be looking out for?
I would say the top one is open, right. So I think that sort of people aren't opening your emails, then what's the point? Right. And it's also sort of a reflection on sort of what people are expecting from the email. I think there's a lot of reasons to go down. I think the open rate reflects the quality of the email and the quality of your emails in general because if you're sending boring emails, people will stop opening them.
It's something that can be easily optimized through AB testing, and again, without people opening the emails, whatever you ask you have inside doesn't make a difference. So I would say obviously growing the list also is important, but the one metric I would keep the most attention on is open rate. And just making sure that that's above 20 percent is sort of what I look for as like a good open rate. And if it's like slipping below 15, then you should start looking at how we can maybe only send to active subscribers or suppress people that haven’t opened emails from us in a year or longer.
How can we get those folks off our lists or maybe send a re-engagement campaign to see if they're still interested in receiving emails from us? So cleaning out those inactive users essentially, you know, doing more AB testing with everyone to see what it is about our subject lines that are getting people to open?
I guess the interaction that donors are having with your emails is a great donor metric, because exactly what you're explaining, it does let you see maybe if they're not the most giving financially the ones that are most engaged with your cause, the ones that are really interested in hearing from. Which could, you know, with the right stewardship strategy, lead to larger donations or lead to more frequent donations or even a subscription to the monthly giving program.
Exactly. And we do a lot of cool things outside of email off your email list. So, for example, again, going back to the paid advertising thing, one thing I've done in the past, nonprofits is retarget your email list with Facebook and Instagram ads. That’s pretty effective for driving donations because you're hitting your core constituents. And so what you can do is basically segment out in those ad campaigns, your active email subscribers versus your inactive.
And so, like you mentioned, like identifying those active subscribers, people that open your emails consistently and retargeting them on Facebook is a really good idea. And on the inactive side, it might not work as well. But at least again, these are people that at one point signed up and even though they're inactive, you're still able to reach them through Facebook advertising.
So, yeah, I think there are some cool things you can sort of playoff on in terms of assessing the engagement for different user having and and thinking about how that how you engage them.
Before we go today, I'd love to learn more about the ad rants we discussed earlier on in the podcast. It's a great resource for nonprofits. How and why should they be using their ad grants? How can they really drive donations and get traffic from using this resource?
Yeah, so if people aren't familiar, Google Grants is a program where Google provides nonprofits with ten thousand dollars a month and free Google search advertising. They actually just reduce the number of steps to apply from 14 to 2, we just help the client go through this new process. And they got approved really quickly relative to the past. And they also just, I think, pledge two hundred more million dollars to the program this year in light of covid. So it's a really good time to apply if you haven't
Now, ten thousand dollars a month in free search advertising sounds great, but there are actually many strings attached. Google has a much higher sort of expectations or standards for companies that run. How about grants, accounts versus companies that pay Google for the advertising with cash? Basically, you have to have certain things right about your account structure to ad groups in every campaign, to ads, in every ad, in every ad group. The other thing to keep in mind is that if you're optimizing your campaign for clicks, you can't spend more than two dollars per click.
And so some more competitive keywords are sort of off the board and there's some ways to get around that don't want to get into too much detail. But the long story short is actually a lot harder to spend that ten thousand dollars than than it sounds. But a lot of nonprofits get to have more success doing it. So basically, how can nonprofits use this address account to drive donors is, again, use a tool like SEM Rush or Google even as Google keyword planner, which is free, and do some research on different keywords related to what your nonprofit does.
For example, if you're a criminal justice reform, maybe you want to see how many people are searching for criminal justice reform nonprofit. And basically you're going to be able to target those keywords with your with your Sd Grants account so that your organization shows up in the yard placements and then you can get that traffic to your website. So it's a really good sort of thing to have in place, especially if you're organic SEO isn't strong. If you're not organically ranking for keywords that are related to your nonprofit address is a great opportunity for you to start showing up for those keywords and bringing relevant traffic to your website.
So that's how I would recommend nonprofits think about it. And again, bringing in that traffic, that relevant traffic for keywords that are related to your service opens up a lot of opportunities. Sometimes people will give the first time they hit your website, which is great. Maybe they are. Just want to sign up for your newsletter, which again is great, because then you can give them a donation ask in the future. And when they hit your website through search, you can then again retarget them on Facebook and Instagram.
So bringing in this traffic just opens up sort of a world of opportunities as far as how you're able to nurture that person towards becoming a subscriber or a donor in the future.
That's interesting. I didn't know that Ad Grants put caps on some of the features, but I guess if you're using the tools, like you mentioned, SEM Rush and being very strategic with it, it can go far.
Yeah, exactly. So they did do the cost per click of two dollars. But one interesting thing that they change is that if you optimize your campaign for conversions, you can actually break through that two dollar per click limit. And so it's a little bit complicated, like I think your first launching out your Ad Grants campaign. Try optimizing it for clicks first. Just you can build up, make sure you have conversion tracking set ups or conversion tracking is where you set up some code so that you can tell Google when someone donates and counts conversion to Google ads.
And once you have that set up and I think Google's threshold, is about 15 donations or 15 conversions over the course of 30 days. Once you get 15 conversions over the course of 30 days, you can switch your optimization from cost per click to cost per conversion.
And those 15 out of conversions of 30 days is now giving Google enough data to say, OK, we can optimize your campaign for conversions. And at that point, they will actually break through that two dollar limit. So I've seen nonprofits get see costs for clicks more like four or five dollars because they're optimizing for conversions. But you can't get there unless you have your conversion tracking set up and are already driving conversions in the first place.
So it's a little bit complicated. I don't want to make it sound too complicated, but but you're right. I mean, overall, there is this limit is something to be mindful of, but there are ways to sort of work around it if you know what you're doing.
Well, thank you so much, Steven, for joining us. For those listening, he gave us a ton of great information and you still want to learn more about your marketing strategy. You can contact Steven and learn more at his website. GoodGoesFurther.com for marketing tricks. And you can also follow at goes further on Facebook and they have their own Facebook group, and all of that is linked in our podcast description box.
Thank you so much for listening and we'll see you next time.