According to the Internal Revenue Service, there are now more than one and a half million non-profits registered in the United States. The vast majority must raise money in order to survive, but with so many good causes to choose from, not to mention the more than 10,000 individuals who post fundraising pleas daily on sites like GoFundMe, it is clear that cause marketing has become big business. According to Thomas Mustac, a publicist at Orlando-based Otter PR, the hard question every non-profit must ask itself is this: Why should anyone support my cause as opposed to millions of others?
Aim for the right target audience
Mustac’s first piece of advice is straight out of Marketing 101: find your audience. “This is your organization’s core,” he says. “These are the individuals who will support your cause, whether advocating with friends and loved ones in-person or on their social media channels. Find them and get to know them well.”
Explain how your organization is helping to solve a pressing issue
Next, he says, create a sense of urgency. Many causes, like saving the rainforest or helping children in third-world countries, are (sadly!) timeless. That doesn’t make them any less worthy, of course, but the general public may set these aside for something that’s getting a lot of media attention, like a hurricane or social movement. “An unfortunate reality is that society today has too many pressing issues, and you must show why yours is a big issue right now,” Mustac says.
Understand Your Mission and Stick With It
The non-profits that have become household names have survived by making clear why their causes continue to be relevant year after year and decade after decade. According to Mustac, this timeless timeliness is no accident. “Every successful organization has a mission statement,” he says. “This helps center your organization’s direction and keep both employees and supporters aligned with a common goal or belief. For example: If you have a pro-life non-profit organization, there is no money in the world that will change that stance. You’ll lose your target audience if you change your mind every two seconds, or if they think money is your true motive.”
Make your cause visually appealing
It may seem a tad ironic for a non-profit to worry about its looks, but Mustac says that visuals are a key to gaining the public’s attention. Nonprofits should feel the same way about their website as realtors do about location, that it’s everything. “Before supporting a cause, people do their due diligence, and if your website isn’t laid out properly, it can be a make-or-break for them supporting your organization–or not,” Mustac observes.
Follow a trend or start one
Remember the ice bucket challenge? Almost everyone did it back in 2014, even if they didn’t realize why, to find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS. Thanks to videos of celebrities and normal people alike pouring buckets of ice water over their heads–or really, thanks to their often priceless reactions–which were widely shared on social media, ALS associations raised over $220 million in less than a year.
“People tend to rely on their social media to get their news,” Mustac explains. “When something like the ice bucket challenge goes viral it becomes news so there’s massive interest.” But even if you are lucky enough to have a viral moment, Mustac says you must never lose sight of your target audience. “Facebook is still the biggest social media brand in the world, but it skews older,” he says. “If you want a younger crowd, put up a video on TikTok or Instagram trends. This gets the word out about your cause or organization in a fun way that will stick in their minds. Even when you’re addressing serious issues, you’re still allowed to have fun.”