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5 Best Nonprofit Marketing Strategy Tactics in Metro Detroit

October 17th, 2023 | 5 min. read

By Michele Potts

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A smiling woman helps two young children as part of a nonprofit organization

A little marketing needs to go a long way in the nonprofit world. After all, 88% of nonprofit organizations spend less than $500,000 per year on their work.

For nonprofits in southeast Michigan, this number hits close to home. The pressure to do more with less is a constant reality. That’s why optimizing your limited marketing dollars is critical. A good rule of thumb is to devote 5%-15% of your budget to marketing.

At Zoe Marketing & Communications, we understand. Our sister company Metro Parent has helped Detroit area nonprofits maximize those budgets for nearly 40 years. Whether you’re looking to build awareness, funding or volunteers, your message and tactics are critical.

Here, we’ll detail what your audience cares about most. We’ll then cover five top nonprofit marketing strategies:

You’ll get a fuller sense of the benefits of each tactic. And you’ll feel empowered to use these methods to help your nonprofit grow.

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What metro Detroit donors want to know before giving to a nonprofit

Out the gate, nonprofits often ask for two precious commodities: people’s money or time. Plus, you’re competing for their limited attention — against other nonprofits seeking it, too.

Simply put, people want to know why they should give to your organization. They also want to know what the donation will be used for. What percentage of their donation goes directly to the cause, who benefits, and how will it make a difference?

Of course, some people are looking to donate specifically; many aren't. So it’s also essential to:

  • Use marketing that can target people who are likely to donate or are known donors
  • Focus on ads that emotionally resonate with people and make your work feel worthwhile

An effective nonprofit marketing strategy is about reaching out to the broader southeast Michigan community — and making them feel connected to your mission.

5 top nonprofit marketing strategies for Michigan organizations

Marketing for nonprofits is a unique beast, especially in a region as diverse as metro Detroit. A combination of content, search engine marketing, programmatic ads, email marketing and social media can make the most impact — even when resources are limited.

Example of a Sponsored content article on top of an image of teammates putting their hands in the center of the group circle1. Blogs, sponsored content and videos resonate with Michiganders

Content marketing is more than a tactic; it’s a long-term strategy. While it can take more time and effort to create, it can have a powerful effect over time. Common approaches include:

  • Blogs: These are articles you publish on your website. You can deepen the connection with your potential audience by telling compelling stories showcasing your work. 
  • Sponsored content: These articles are published and often written by a publisher partner aligned with your audience. For instance, Metro Parent highlights nonprofits throughout metro Detroit whose mission aligns with our parent/women audience.
  • Videos: Showing your work in the words or images of those who have benefited is highly impactful. Reels and similar short-form videos fall into this category.

Create content around the three pillars of awareness, funding and volunteers. Be sure to focus on what you do. A good rule of thumb is to mention your organization only 20% of the time. Your involvement is implied because you’ve made the content, which builds trust.

Finally, keep in mind that consistency is crucial, whether you’re posting content twice a month or per week. Consider an in-house content manager or marketing agency partner to help.

An example of a Search engine with "non-profits in Detroit" in the search bar2. SEM, especially Googe Ad Grants, maximizes your local visibility

Search engine marketing, or SEM, helps you appear higher in search results for keywords metro Detroiters are searching for. Google Ads is the most popular tool — and its Google Ad Grants are a must for nonprofits. Let’s take a closer look at both pieces.

SEM with standard Google Ads

As a baseline, devote a certain amount of your budget to SEM each month. These should focus on broader messages like “join us” or “volunteer,” using simple headlines (e.g., “Your Donation Can Change a Detroit Child’s Future”). Pair with a direct call to action (e.g., “Give Now”).

SEM with Google Ad Grants

Google Ad Grants is a special opportunity for 501(c)(3) nonprofits providing up to $10,000 in free ads each month. You’ll need to be a qualified nonprofit to apply (about 80% are).

Grants are particularly useful for promoting donation pushes. However, it’s also more intense than traditional SEM, requiring a 10% click-through rate to maintain the grant.

In our experience, nonprofits get $6,000-$8,000/month. It’s extra money well worth pursuing.

An example of programmatic ads on two different screen types3. Programmatic ads target charitable givers in metro Detroit

Programmatic ads appear to potential givers on websites and apps based on their browsing habits. These digital ads let you get very specific with your targeting — and retargeting, too.

For instance, you could deliver your ads to people in the Detroit metropolitan region who have American Express cards and have donated to charities in the past year. And for those who clicked but didn’t give, you can retarget them with more ads.

These campaigns are very proactive, reaching prospects as they browse around. So fine-tune your message to your top goal. For instance, a YMCA might focus on marketing their organization’s services; a humane society could highlight pet adoptions.

An man checking his email on mobile4. Email marketing campaigns reach new and existing donors directly

Email inboxes are one of the most personal places to reach people — including your current contacts and new prospects.

First-party email marketing

Start with your existing past donors. After all, about 40%-45% of people who give to a nonprofit will give again. Connecting with them increases the odds of repeat giving.

Send a newsletter or series of emails to update them on what their donations are making possible. Also, spotlight upcoming drives for donations, again focusing on personal stories.

Targeted email marketing

Similar to programmatic, targeted emails allow for detailed audience targeting. You can hone in on spending behavior and demographics and retarget those who clicked but didn't donate.

These ads reach a more “cold” audience, so keeping messages brief and poignant is essential. Give a clear sense of why people should give, where their money/time goes, and how to give. That applies to both the subject line and body content.

a phone screen showing the different social media app icons5. Social media builds your presence and engagement throughout Michigan

Last but not least, social media offers a cost-effective way for nonprofits to reach a broader audience — and, especially, share video content. There are two key aspects:

  • Organic posts: Regularly post announcements, stories and inspiration to your feed. This tactic is free and builds a foundation of awareness.
  • Paid ads: These expand your reach significantly, and you can tailor them based on region, behavior and interests, making your ads more impactful.

Social media ads on Facebook and Instagram are a great place to start due to the sheer volume of users on these popular platforms. Since both fall under Meta, you can run ads for both in the same spot and with the same budget, with Meta maximizing your dollars.

Remember that you’re competing with other nonprofits — and people can get oversaturated. So focus on positioning yourself as a trusted brand, linking to your quality content.

Next steps to improve your nonprofit marketing strategy in metro Detroit

Navigating Michigan’s nonprofit marketing landscape can be challenging. But with a blend of the right strategies, you can see significant results — even on a limited budget.

You’ve learned how content, SEM, programmatic, targeted email and social media can deliver success. Now, it’s time to explore the best mix for your organization’s goals.

Need guidance? Talk to us here at Zoe and Metro Parent. We’ll use our expertise to craft a plan that maximizes your investment. Or, if you’re not quite ready, explore these essential next steps:

Ready to Reach More Customers?

Connect with your best prospects — and drive more conversions — with a custom mix of digital ads, content, email, streaming ads, SEO, creative services and more.

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Michele Potts

Michele Potts is sales director for Zoe Marketing & Communications. Constantly evolving during her 20+ years in the field, she values building trust and helping clients in various industries understand the basics of complex digital marketing.