Farra Trompeter: Welcome to the Smart Communications Podcast. This is Farra Trompeter, co-director and member-owner at Big Duck. Today we’re going to ask the question, “How should you evolve your approach to digital marketing?” You know, I have been doing marketing, communications, and fundraising for nonprofits for almost 30 years, and I got my start early on doing a lot of website marketing and learning how to use email to raise money and engage audiences. And I love talking about this because what was tried and true back in the 90s actually still is very much in use now, but of course, there are so many more channels and things we need to think about when we’re using these tools to reach our communities.
Farra Trompeter: And I’m really excited to have Geraldine Zamora here with me today. Geraldine, who uses she/her pronouns, is an account director at Community Boost, a digital marketing agency that helps nonprofits reach their audiences and raise money online. Geraldine has experience in Facebook and Instagram ads, Google ads and grants, SEO, or search engine optimization, web development, email marketing, and more. Before she started at Community Boost in 2019, she worked for organizations in the San Diego area including Kitchens for Good and Mama’s Kitchen. Geraldine has a Master’s in Nonprofit Management and Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego, and she’s used all of these experiences to merge traditional marketing tactics for nonprofits with digital platforms. Geraldine, welcome to the show.
Geraldine Zamora: Farra, thank you so much for having me today. I’m super excited to dive into some of the questions that you’ve prepared for us and to share some of my insights from Community Boost and beyond.
Farra Trompeter: Love it. Well, before we get into the latest and greatest with digital marketing, I wanted to ask you how you distinguish marketing versus communications. This question comes up all the time, and back on episode 78 for our podcast fans out there, Sarah Durham, our founder, interviewed Samantha Campbell, who was then at the Apollo, on this very subject, and together they discussed how communications make sure that the organization has a clear and consistent voice that helps build mindshare, whereas marketing tends to be more specifically focused on getting people to sign up or participate in something. And I’m curious, Geraldine, how do you define communications and marketing? In what ways do they relate to the work that you do at Community Boost?
Geraldine Zamora: Yeah, I think those are great points. I absolutely think that both of them, in collaboration, form what we call just overall tactical marketing, where we can start from an approach of, who is the organization? How are you communicating your mission, your brand, and the work that you do? And then, how do you actionize on that? How do you get people to buy into the mission, buy into the work, to donate, to volunteer, or to contribute in some sort of capacity that’s going to be meaningful for you and your team? So I think the importance of both is that you can’t have one, in my opinion, without the other.
Geraldine Zamora: Communication is what’s going to set you up for ultimate success when you start to make an online presence. So you want to have your vision dialed down. You want to have your mission dialed down so that when you start making that online appearance, you have a very cogent way in which you’re branding yourself that people can fully trust and can start to also share with their network, become a brand ambassador for you, to be able to speak on your behalf and to be able to share your work with the greater community, overall.
Geraldine Zamora: I think both of them are symbiotic in their ways of being able to just share information with everybody who is involved, but without the other, I don’t think you can have ultimate success. So, at Community Boost, we really do dig into how to form that cohesive branding and communication standpoint before you start getting out there and advertising in different digital marketing platforms.
Farra Trompeter: Great. That’s really helpful. And I think we can both agree that marketing and communication should be helping nonprofits engage their community. And I know audiences are always really key as well as really thinking about what’s going to get those audiences to take action. So when developing marketing strategies and tactics for organizations, how do you determine who you’re trying to reach and what terms or lines, or messages you should use in your advertising?
Geraldine Zamora: Yeah, great question. I think, to start, what are your goals? What are you looking to achieve? Who are you looking to reach? And identifying that this might change depending on a specific program, an event that you’re hosting, or let’s say you’ve traditionally had a younger demographic and you’re wanting to tap into an older demographic or vice versa, that’ll ultimately determine the different types of platforms and the approach to your overall marketing strategy.
Geraldine Zamora: So, I think when you’re looking at creating a marketing strategy, starting with that, what am I trying to achieve? Am I trying to gain volunteers? Am I trying to gain monthly donors? Am I just trying to let people know that we exist? And sometimes that’s where most nonprofits are getting started – is just trying to make a name in marketing, and it’s very saturated, right? You have so many organizations that are advertising. So being able to identify yourself and make a name for yourself in this space is step number one. From there, then you move into, okay, which platforms am I going to be able to use to be able to achieve that? How do I get my overall communication out in a way that is going to get people to garner overall interest?
Farra Trompeter: I want to just play a scenario out for you because I love what you just said. What if my organization is trying to build monthly donors, right? Really revamp those ongoing sustainers, and just a side note, we did a great podcast about monthly donors not that long ago that we’ll be sure to link to in the transcript, but let’s say I’m trying to build those monthly gifts, and I’m trying to reach, like, maybe existing donors who’ve given to me year-over-year. I’m trying to reach new donors who I think might be interested in joining at that monthly level, different ages, different preferences. How do I go about doing that when I have different audiences for the same goal? What would be an example of where you would specialize if you were trying to do monthly donors for an organization?
Geraldine Zamora: Yeah, I think to start, start with your lowest hanging fruit, right? Who is already donating to your organization? Maybe at a $5-$20 range or even beyond that, and how do we get them to make that donation a consistent one? So they’re already buying in, let’s say $20 here and there. I know there’s some organizations, even I donate to them, and I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to go make a donation to this organization for $20, and if somebody asked me to donate monthly, I probably would.” I just, I’ve never been asked. So I think starting with that lowest hanging fruit and then identifying how you’re going to go about marketing that, right?
Geraldine Zamora: So I would probably start with Meta. Getting on Facebook and Instagram and pulling a donor list. I want to target all of my donors who donate three times a year, and I want to make them monthly donors. I’m going to create a specific campaign to go after those donors who have made these three donations, and I’m going to start building more of that trust and pushing them further down the digital marketing funnel to eventually take that action to become a monthly donor. And the way that we’re asking for that is very transparent. The ads are literally going to say, “Hey, turn your $5 donation into a $10 monthly donation and have your impact go a long way,” or triple your impact, quadruple your impact, whatever that call to action might be. But just being transparent with what you’re trying to achieve and what you’re asking for is definitely a big priority to achieving that overall conversion goal.
Farra Trompeter: Yeah, I really appreciate the idea of first being clear and specific on who you’re trying to reach and being transparent in your communications as well as trying to be compelling. So thanks for lifting up that idea of transparency, too.
Geraldine Zamora: Yeah, absolutely. Transparency is one of our core values at Community Boost, and I think it really does go such a long way in being able to garner trust in the long run with your donors and with prospective donors.
Farra Trompeter: I love that. Well, so, last year, Community Boost released a free report titled The Nonprofit Acceleration Report: The Future is Digital. We’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes. But in that report, there were insights from a survey conducted among 439 organizations about how they approach digital marketing to get a better understanding of where nonprofits are succeeding and growing into digital strategies. The findings in the report included that most nonprofits are using a lot of unpaid or low-cost digital strategies like organic social posts, birthday fundraisers, and email strategies, more than they are doing paid targeted advertising on specific audiences, using platforms like Facebook and Instagram or Meta, as you noted. It was also noted that the likelihood in 2022 of organizations using or investing in Google Ad Grants, social advertising for fundraising, paid digital ads for fundraising like Google, YouTube, and Bing, trying TikTok for advertising for fundraising, were likely again going to be on the rise. And I’m curious, now that we are into 2023, which of these digital marketing tactics have you seen be the most effective for the nonprofits you’ve worked with?
Geraldine Zamora: Yeah, great question. And honestly, it really depends on the nonprofit. We work with over 250 to 300 nonprofits a year with missions from saving the turtles to supporting children to supporting people in local communities, and what we see is, really, when you take the time to find a custom approach and strategy for an organization and for the goals that they’re trying to meet, that’s when we see most platform success. So if you have, let’s say, compelling content and video content, yeah, let’s get that on YouTube, let’s start sharing that with a very key audience who’s going to be vested in the work that you’re sharing. Or if you’re wanting to take advantage of free ad spend, why not get on the Google Ad Grant and get your $10,000 of free ad spend or the Microsoft Ad Grant and get the $3,000 of free Microsoft spend and start building your strategy from there?
Geraldine Zamora: I will say omnichannel marketing is where we see most success because we start, and I mentioned the digital marketing funnel earlier, but it typically takes about seven to eight touchpoints for someone to make a conversion and it’s not always monetary. For someone to even just sign up for your newsletter or to inquire, it takes work. So when you have that omnichannel marketing approach, you’re able to say, use the traffic that you’re garnering on the Google Ad Grant to then drive your campaigns within Meta or to remarket on Google Display. It’s all connected on the backend, and it’s all in alignment with getting users to eventually convert. So ultimately, all of these platforms can be successful.
Geraldine Zamora: I would just bring it back to what content do you have, right? And Big Duck and Farra, I think that’s where you come in. Like, what’s the branding content look like? Do you have the collateral and the creative to be able to make that online presence? And from there, starting to bring it down to, okay, what can we actually show up on to be able to get people to buy in and to believe in the work that we’re doing?
Farra Trompeter: That’s really helpful. Now, for groups out there who are newer to digital marketing, let’s say it’s a staff person who just started at an organization, or it’s an organization that hasn’t really had a chance to invest a lot of time or funds into this, are there any channels or approaches that you think are the best places to start?
Geraldine Zamora: Absolutely. I mean, I know I love free things. I love getting anything with free ad spend behind it, I think is always just ideal. And a lot of nonprofits don’t realize that the Google Ad Grant gives you $10,000 of free ad spend per month and that Microsoft just rolled out a very similar program with $3,000 of free ad spend per month. So that’s $13,000 in free ad spend that you could be using, and that’s per month, right? So $13,000 per month that you can be using to start driving traffic to your site.
Geraldine Zamora: From there, you don’t just want to drive the traffic and just say, “Okay, cool, we raised all this awareness, we have all this traffic coming,” you want to look into how are these people performing and how are they interacting with your site. Are you seeing an increase in donations? Are you seeing an increase in newsletter signups? And if the answer is no, how can you start making your content more relevant to the users that are coming to your page? And these platforms will tell you how people are looking you up, how people are finding you, the kind of content that they’re researching to get to your page. So taking all of those insights to build an even stronger site and to have a stronger appearance is such a great way to start in a cost-effective manner as well. So that’s always my main priority or main recommendation, rather, when nonprofits are looking to start somewhere is to start with free ad spend and build from there. And really, once we start garnering awareness, then start making those goals even bigger and get on Meta, get on paid platforms. But I always think that’s a really good place just to get started off.
Farra Trompeter: Yeah, I didn’t know about the Microsoft Ad Grant, so thanks for that. And I’m just curious before we sign off, do you have any other hot tips or suggestions for our listeners out there? You’ve just given some great ideas for how you can get started. What about for folks out there who’ve been doing this and are trying to evolve their approach to digital marketing? Anything that they should make sure they do or don’t do, especially if they actually want to raise awareness for their brand or generate donations?
Geraldine Zamora: Yeah, great question. For those who have a little bit more experience and who have had an online presence for quite some time, I think I would start looking at, “Okay, what have we been doing that’s been working, and what have we not been doing that could also leverage our platforms?” So a lot of the time what we see is we have organizations come in and we work with some of the largest nonprofits in the United States who’ve been spending, let’s say, $100,000 on digital advertising per month. But what we tend to see sometimes is that people forget about the organic traffic and the importance of having an organic online appearance.
Geraldine Zamora: So we see all of this money invested in Meta or YouTube or TikTok or what have you, but then SEO has been on a downward trend because what’s been happening is you’ve kind of been placing this bandaid on SEO with paid strategy and you’re no longer optimizing your website. So I would say for organizations that have a strong digital marketing foundation, start looking internally at the organic approach and what does that traffic look like? Have you ever done any type of conversion rate optimization work? Are the calls to action on your site even what people want to hear? Do you have a donate button on the upper right-hand side of your page? You probably do because most people do, but is that the most effective way to ask for a donation? So, starting to look at some of those small fine-tuning pieces that can be made on a website and from an organic approach, I think is a great way to continue to expand the digital marketing work that organizations have been doing for some time if they’re at that level.
Farra Trompeter: Well, thank you so much. If you’re out there and you’re listening and you’re excited to do more with your digital marketing, you can learn more about Community Boost’s work with nonprofits on their website at CommunityBoost.org. I’ll also note they host some great conferences, which we’ve had the pleasure of speaking at. So you can check out their website. You can also follow them on Twitter and Instagram at CommunityBoost, all one word, and you can find them on LinkedIn at Community-Boost. You can also connect with Geraldine on LinkedIn there, if you search Geraldine J. Zamora. Geraldine, thanks so much for being here.
Geraldine Zamora: Yeah, Farra, thank you so much. Just wonderful to be on here with you and to share a little bit more of these insights with everyone. And of course, if anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact me.