The Nonprofit Guide to Digital Marketing Campaigns - Part 1

The four types of campaigns your nonprofit needs to be running

We know that storytelling is integral to the success of your nonprofit’s communications.  Now it’s time to plan how to tell your stories so your audience can find them.

As part of your organization’s overall marketing and communications strategy, you need to identify specific campaigns to run during the year.  But what exactly is a marketing campaign?

A marketing campaign is a time-limited, measurable, strategic public outreach designed to achieve a specific organizational goal.  These goals include increasing awareness of your organization or an issue, adding followers or email list subscribers, increasing memberships, fundraising, selling products, offering services, and more.  The best marketing campaigns reach their audience through a multi-channel approach,, including email, social media, print advertising, TV or radio spots, and out-of-home placements.

Article by Mark Locki

These structured, strategic campaigns should be the cornerstone of your marketing plan, upon which to build the rest of your communications strategy.  4-6 well-planned campaigns a year can do wonders for your organization’s growth.

So what kinds of marketing campaigns should your organization focus on?

In this article, we’ll cover four types of marketing campaigns your nonprofit should consider running every year.


The building block of your nonprofits marketing should be awareness campaigns.  These campaigns are designed to introduce your organization to your target audience, specifically people unaware of your organization.  Awareness campaigns are crucial to expanding your reach in your community, region or world.

A typical goal of this campaign would be to get people onto your email list or follow you on social media.  As a side note, we highly recommend starting an email list if you don’t already have one – we’ll go into further details why in a later blog post.

While most campaigns should be time-limited, awareness campaigns can be run year-round if they continue to deliver results for you.

Awareness campaigns are perfect for social media, combining paid and organic, traditional media placements and search ads if applicable.

One of our favourite examples of an awareness campaign we ran was for Sustainable Kimberley, which was looking to introduce itself to the community with a community forum.  We created a video campaign that drove email signups and event registration, helping them build a name for themselves in the community.


These are our favourite types of campaigns to produce!  Impact campaigns are the big movers. They’re designed to change hearts and minds, to make a difference in your community, and to shed light on a specific issue or cause.  While impact campaigns are traditionally used by advocacy organizations, they can be powerful for any nonprofit.

Impact campaigns are designed to reach a broad audience, from people who don’t know about your organization to your most loyal supporters.  They are used to support policy changes, create compassion and empathy, open the door to funding and donations and more.

Every nonprofit should run an impact campaign at least once per year.  Think of the biggest problem or issue you want to tackle this year and plan an impact campaign around it.  In most cases, we suggest letting the campaign run for at least one month, but 6 to 8 weeks may work better.  These are great campaigns to tie to specific months, such as Poverty Reduction Month or Latin Heritage Month.

Impact campaigns should run across multiple channels, including organic and paid social, email, print, tv and radio media.  If resources and time allow, you could consider a film festival run followed by a screening tour for a documentary film; think of the impact the movie An Inconvenient Truth or any of Michael Moore’s films have made in our society!

Social Media Ad from The Will to Change Documentary

One of our favourite campaigns we’ve done is The Will to Change, a short documentary and impact campaign designed to destigmatize homelessness in Cranbrook and the East Kootenays.

For impact campaigns, what we can measure is wide open.  Engagement, shares, petition signatures, email signups, recall, and more are all on the table, and they can be designed to fit your needs.


The primary purpose of an engagement campaign is to encourage your audience to take a specific action.  This could be as simple as sharing your social media posts or creating their own videos and posting with a custom hashtag to drive engagement.  Other engagements you can ask for include becoming a volunteer or attending an event your nonprofit is putting on.

These campaigns are designed to go out to those currently engaged with your nonprofit.  Through your active supporter’s participation and some creative planning and outreach, these campaigns can spread like wildfire. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Movember are great examples of engagement campaigns.

These campaigns are ideal to run before an important event to drive signups, ticket sales, or volunteers for your event, but they can also be executed at any time.

What is the difference between an impact campaign and engagement campaign?

The main difference is the engagement campaign’s sole purpose is to get your audience to take a specific action, whereas impact campaigns primary goal is to get your audience to watch the film or story, consider the message or themes behind the film, and then take action.

For engagement campaigns, we’ll typically measure the number of shares, hashtag uses, event tickets sold or registration signups.


Fundraising campaigns are incredibly important if your nonprofit relies upon donations for the bulk of your revenue.

The fundraising campaigns’ primary purpose is self-explanatory – to raise money to help you deliver your programs and keep your nonprofit operating.

Your fundraising campaigns should only be delivered to audiences that already know, like and trust you.  Promoting fundraising campaigns to an audience that doesn’t know who you are or what you do is unlikely to be successful.  This is one of the main reasons why using awareness campaigns as the foundation of your marketing plan is so important.

We recommend running fundraising campaigns at least twice a year, up to a maximum of 6 times per year.  You do want to be careful of running fundraising campaigns too frequently, as some donors may tire of frequent asks.

Using your email list is critical for fundraising campaigns, as most donors prefer to hear from nonprofits via email. In addition to email, your organization should consider social media posts, ads, and direct mail.

The most important metric to track with fundraising campaigns is donation amounts received.  In addition to donations received, you may also want to break down your results into sources of revenue (email, social, word of mouth, etc.), average/median amount, number of first-time donors vs recurring donors and more so you can better analyze the results of all your campaigns over the year and make better decisions on where to allocate your time and money in future years.


Now you know what digital campaigns your nonprofit should run throughout the year.  A mix of awareness, impact, engagement and fundraising campaigns will help keep your message fresh, your current audience engaged, and new supporters joining your cause.

In the next article, we’ll take a look at the steps needed to plan and execute a successful campaign.

What has been your nonprofits most successful campaign to date?

Let me know in the comments section below!

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