The VPM Blog

Profits for Nonprofits: Inbound Marketing 101

Posted by Melissa Cook on Mar 20, 2018 5:00:00 AM

If you're a nonprofit or government-funded entity and I asked you what you are selling, could you answer? You might think practically and say tickets to get into a National Park or t-shirts to support a cause. You may even tell me that you aren’t selling anything and try to explain to me how a nonprofit works. Depending on how you answer, you are doing one of two things: 1) thinking too small or 2) ignoring the fact that everyone is selling something, whether you realize it or not.

Don’t believe me?

Let’s use 2 examples today: A National Park and a nonprofit organization that provides after school and weekend lunches for children. What are these examples selling?

Easy. For the National Park, you’re selling an experience and an idea. You’re selling people on the beauty of nature and the necessity of it in our lives; you’re selling conservation and preservation. It’s so much more than tickets and parking passes. For the nonprofit, you’re selling a cause. You’re selling the lived experiences of these students and selling the need for change. For both of these causes, you need to build relationships and work to help them bloom.

So, what does that look like practically?

You’ve heard us talk about the Inbound Methodology and the use of Inbound Marketing for Nonprofits before. If not, it’s pretty simple. It’s broken down into 4 categories: Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight. These stages are directly correlated to the buyer’s journey, which describes where people are in the buyer’s process. Think about it. When you’ve made a large purchase, how did you decide to buy that particular item? You researched, learned more, made a decision, and purchased it. The Inbound Methodology is the marketing side of that decision-making process. For a more detailed explanation of the Inbound Methodology, click here.

Inbound Methodology

So, let’s take our two examples through the Inbound Methodology.


In this stage, you are inviting people to learn more about you and your brand. You aren’t trying to have them donate their time, treasure, or talent. You are just trying to earn their attention in this crowded, busy world. So how do you do that? With stellar content. First and foremost, you need to be on social media. Each demographic is different, so covering all your main bases (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook) is key. Once on these platforms, give your followers something of value.

Examples of “Attract” killer content:

  • National Park: Images of the park (get artsy with it!), information booklets or blogs about the best trails in the Southeast, camping tips, etc.
  • Nonprofit: Images of volunteers in the community, blogs about nutrition facts for kids, kid-friendly recipes on a budget, etc.

These pieces of content may seem irrelevant to the overall goal, but what they are doing is showing your followers that you care. You are adding value to their lives by giving them information about the topics they care about. This will encourage them to continue to engage with you because they see value in following you.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 12.53.36 PM


Now that you’ve earned their attention, convert. In this stage, you’ve shown them you have value, but you need to continue to show them that. Through the use of CTAs and Landing Pages, place heftier content offers behind forms so you can capture their information. This allows you to gather their information, which continues the relationship-building process and allows you to give them more interest-specific content.

Examples of stellar content for landing pages:

  • National Park: Best ways to recycle, benefits of spending time outdoors, camping packing and preparation 101, etc.
  • Nonprofit: How to reduce food waste, 5 kid friendly recipes, best family meals on a budget, etc.

These landing pages do two very important things for you: 1) it gives you contact information for people who are interested in you, your content, and your organization and 2) helps you give them better content. If they want to learn about recycling and not camping, you can better tailor the content you send them, so it remains relevant and of value to them.


Remember, this is a relationship. That doesn’t mean the second you get to close you send them a thousand “Donate Now!” emails and scare them off. You continue to show value and through that, they see you and your cause, experience, etc., as valuable. That way, when you do ask for the donation, visit, etc., it’s a no-brainer to them because they see you as something valuable, so why wouldn’t they give, volunteer, or want to be involved?

Remember how in the “Convert” stage we talked about the importance of gathering their information and giving them content specific to their interests? That comes into play even more in this portion of the Inbound Methodology. In this stage, using workflows is key. Once they have downloaded one offer and have given you their information, you are able to then email them content they deem valuable. Once they’ve read or downloaded additional information about you and you’ve established yourself as a thought leader, you go for the sell.

Examples of rockin’ workflows and sells:

  • National Park: how to recycle landing page and email containing information on ways to reduce your carbon footprint and send information on an event you are hosting about the importance on conservation and preservation and invite them to join and learn more.
  • Nonprofit: 5 kid friendly meals landing page and email containing information on nutritional needs for children between the ages of 5-15 and send information on your cause/a family testimonial that is struggling, with a CTA to donate to the cause or a way to sign up to volunteer.

At this point, the person you are selling to knows your value and has seen the importance of having you in their lives. It should be an easy sell, and that’s the best kind, right?


So, they’ve donated to your cause, come to your event, booked a camping trip at your park, volunteered, whatever you asked for, so now you’re done, right? Wrong. As anyone in donor relations knows, it’s all about the relationship (hence, “relations”).

Continue to offer content that matters to them. When they donate to a cause, show them where their money is going. If the money went to funding after school programs, highlight them. Post images of the amount of lunches you were able to make and deliver thanks to their generous support, both financially and through volunteerism. Show them that their donations are valued and are being used. This encourages them to give more, because they see the value in what they do and feel as though they are a part of something, which is something we all crave. If they came to a conservation event, continue to send them information valuable to them and invite them to participate further. Keep building that relationship, you never know where it will lead.

See? Just because you aren’t selling a product doesn’t mean you aren’t selling something. Your "something" is just more abstract, but still has the need for marketing, growth, and relationship building. Finally convinced that you need to build those relationships? Download our free eBook! This eBook will show you the ins-and-outs of all we just talked about and will teach you how to craft your perfect inbound marketing campaign.

New Call-to-action

Topics: Inbound Marketing

The VPM Blog

How do we know blogging regularly works? Because Verge Pipe Media began as a blog and grew into East Alabama's first HubSpot agency partner, that's how!

Join us as we share lessons learned, best practices, thoughts on leadership in the social media and mobile world of today and more.

Worried about missing something? Sign up for our monthly(ish) newsletter and you'll get to see the best of the best delivered right to your inbox.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Popular Posts

Posts by Topic

see all