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How local and regional nonprofits can invest in brand marketing

We see thousands of brands in a day – just think about how many you’ve already interacted with in the past few hours. A lot, right?

Each one of those brands has its own logo, colors and messaging – and they’re all trying to break through the clutter.

This rings true for nonprofits, also. There are an estimated 1.8 million nonprofits in the U.S. today, and each is vying for the attention of a shrinking donor pool. And every nonprofit has its own brand.

How do local nonprofits, like food banks, hospitals, rescue missions and animal welfare organizations, stand out in this crowded space? Especially those in small geographical areas?

We all know that staying relevant in donors’ minds is important. And while the big push for fundraising is equally important, neglecting your brand can harm fundraising efforts in the long run.

Think of branding like a hot water heater. It needs to be kept warm to be effective. If you let it run cold, you’ll have to spend time waiting for your brand to heat up again.

Are you just coming off a hot fundraising campaign? This is the perfect time to utilize strategies to keep your brand awareness up among donors and prospects.


People give to organizations that touch their most intense areas of interest, which we call “passion points.”

The mission is the largest, most effective component of a nonprofit’s brand. Aside from logos and colors, having a clear mission is what ultimately resonates the most with donors.

Donors must feel they are familiar with the organization and trust in their mission to want to give. This is crucial in today’s environment where public trust in nonprofits is sinking to new lows.

Through research, we can determine which messaging is the most persuasive to current and potential donors, allowing you to establish your brand and build a multichannel marketing plan to promote your brand throughout the year – not just during peak fundraising periods.


A great way to market your mission is through online media. Social media, native ads and Google Grants are all viable options to promote your mission throughout the year.

Whether paid or organic, social media can be a valuable tool when it comes to donor acquisition and donor retention. Throughout the year, your organization can share key updates and branded messaging, building a consistent presence.

If you’re not utilizing Google Ad Grants, now is the time to start. Although there are some limitations to the program, this can be a great avenue for smaller organizations looking to get started with brand marketing when paired with paid search.

All of these channels can not only be used when promoting specific fundraising initiatives, but also to promote evergreen content. These evergreen ads can be run throughout the year, with no seasonal messaging, to keep your brand top of mind and continue to grow your audience.


When the American Bible Society needed a new strategy to improve prospecting and awareness, RKD increased reach and site engagement through the use of targeted native advertising. Native ads are a great traffic driver and allow you to target specific audiences.

Using their current audience, we were able to target similar demographics to find the ideal potential donor.

Our engagement-focused strategy generated 5,297 sessions, with an average session duration of 18:59 minutes. Because of the targeting and placement capabilities of native advertising, American Bible Society was able to reach not only a new audience, but the right audience.

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RKD worked with St. Labre Indian School to build a multichannel strategy that included social media.

St. Labre regularly shares social media updates about the children they’re helping at the school, which deepens the connection with their followers. Within this strategy, they include occasional asks for donations.

When you look at the results, you can see just how effective this strategy is.

In one year, St. Labre increased their Facebook following by 26.1 percent through organic and paid efforts. Their average monthly engagement rose 17.49% year over year – meaning more people got involved through their online community.

Not only did this component improve brand awareness, St. Labre’s donation revenue also rose across all channels.



We highlighted this in our 2020 trends piece. However, it’s important to note when considering brand marketing strategies.

When the marketing and development teams are working in unison, nonprofits can achieve great success through coordinated communication and strategies.

Consider repurposing your marketing budget toward fundraising. You still get the brand awareness you’re needing, but it comes with revenue in return. Everybody wins!


Ann & Robert H. Lurie’s Children’s Hospital knew they needed a strong, coordinated effort between their marketing and development teams to help lift charitable giving.

RKD worked closely with the Lurie team to develop real, honest and compelling stories and messaging through a multichannel strategy in both marketing and development messages.


With a unified front, Lurie reached five-year highs in several categories:

  • 4% boost in YOY total annual revenue
  • 6% increase in donor value
  • 9% lift in average gift size

When you invest in your brand year-round, your donors are more likely to remember you when it comes time to donate – whether that’s during your giving day or at year end.

Tonie Howard

As Senior Vice President at RKD Group, Tonie Howard works with food banks to provide innovative mail, digital, phone, research, major gifts and planned giving strategies for clients. A strong champion of RKD’s donor-centric philosophy, Tonie and her team consistently exceed clients’ fundraising goals. She brings more than two decades of experience and leadership to her role of providing multichannel fundraising and marketing services to organizations that market at the local and regional level.

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