How to Adapt your Non-Profit Digital Marketing for Growth

Logo for Housing Opportunities Made Equal of VA - non-profit digital marketing

Written by Karen Carps

June 2, 2020

In a recent blog post, we talked about the importance of having an easily adaptable marketing strategy. When uncertainty settles in, such as with our current pandemic, businesses must adapt the way they think about marketing. But what about non-profit organizations? Should they continue with “business as usual” and still expect to keep afloat? The answer is a resounding… NO! Today, let’s dive in to how a local organization, Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME) approaches their non-profit digital marketing to keep themselves aligned with the community and its needs.

HOME’s Mission

On their website, HOME states the following as their mission:

Our mission is to ensure equal access to housing for all people.

They are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization focused on making sure all people have access to safe, reliable housing, regardless of race, income, marital status, or any other factors. In addition to making sure landlords adhere to fair housing laws, they research, investigate, advocate, and educate on issues related to equal housing in Virginia. They also offer services to help first time home owners and those faced with threats of foreclosure. Since the organization covers the entire state, they face varied challenges depending on the locality. For instance, fair housing issues would vary greatly in a city vs. a rural farming community.

Their Non-Profit Digital Marketing Strategy

I spoke to Mike Burnette, HOME’s director of communications, about their digital marketing strategy. After several conversations, I discovered that their strategy is very fluid. Because of this, they have been in operation for over 50 years. Where many non-profit organizations and their boards become attached to one way of doing things, they constantly evaluate and change based on community needs. They definitely do not subscribe to the “That’s the way we’ve always done it” approach to marketing. Here’s what Mike says about their approach:

As the landscape of fair housing changes, we change our marketing to reflect the trends so that those most impacted are being educated on their rights.

In their campaigns, HOME tries to reach audiences for varied reasons. On one hand, they want to reach those they can help to let them know that there IS help out there. On the other hand, they hope to educate the public on the existence of fair housing issues. Not only does this bring the problems to light, it also garners support for their cause.

Adapting to Changing Needs: COVID-19

Example of non-profit digital marketing for HOME targeting Asian Americans during the Coronavirus pandemic.

As you can imagine, the current pandemic has brought new fair housing issues to the surface. HOME constantly monitors the current landscape and adjusts its marketing accordingly. For example, toward the beginning of the pandemic, they noticed a spike in discrimination against those in the Asian community. Why? The virus originated in China and some in our government referred to it as the “Chinese Virus”. They responded by running social media campaigns, etc. targeting Asian Americans and letting them know that they had rights.

Additionally, the pandemic has brought other issues to the forefront, such as sexual assault and domestic violence. For example, they recently shared an article on their Facebook page highlighting a story about a young mother who had difficulty paying her rent. In this case, the landlord proposed trading sexual favors for her to keep her housing.

Since schools have closed during the pandemic and more children spend their time at home, they have also noticed discrimination against families with children. HOME recently concluded a long investigation into a landlord who did just that. In this case, they filed a federal lawsuit. You can read more and hear incriminating sound clips in their press release.

Anticipating and Adapting

Because of the pandemic, rent and mortgage freezes have been put in place across the country. That brings HOME to their next challenge. Once these are lifted, renters and homeowners will be responsible for money owed during that time.

As the evictions and foreclosures will certainly spike after the pandemic restrictions are lifted, we are gearing up to handle the additional need with funds and staff.

Mike Burnette, HOME Communications Director

Their marketing will then focus on educating renters and homeowners on their rights and placing themselves as a solution to help those with these issues. Check out this example:

Image saying "Know your mortgage payment options during Covid-19" from HOME of Va
Source: HOME Facebook Page

Takeaways for Your Non-Profit Digital Marketing

You may wonder how all this has worked for this organization. Well, the fact that they have been around this long speaks volumes for their marketing effectiveness. Not only do they do a great job reaching those they can help, they also reach enough supporters and receive grants to keep themselves afloat. So here are a few actionable items you can apply to your own marketing, non-profit or otherwise:

  • Be flexible. Stay away from the phrase “this is the way we’ve always done it.” Look for new and different ways to reach your desired audience.
  • Pay attention. How have current events changed the need your organization addresses? How can you highlight those problems? Point them out and let people know both how they can help and how they can get help.
  • Anticipate. Don’t just focus on the problems that happen now. What do you see coming on the horizon and how can your organization help? Plan ahead so your marketing reaches the necessary audience.

If you have a non-profit organization, I’d love to hear more about your marketing and what you do to reach your supporters, along with those you can help. Drop me a line in the comments! In the meantime, keep swimming along!

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