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8 New Things Nonprofits Need to Know from State of Inbound 2015 [Full Report]

Posted By Tony Fraga on 10/15/15 10:19 AM

If you work for a nonprofit organization and have anything to do with communications, donor relations, or member engagement, you have likely heard about inbound marketing. (If you haven’t, you will soon!)

Many nonprofit professionals I speak with are familiar with the need for a better website, or a better plan for social media, or the desire to get more out of digital communications. There is certainly more pressure today to get on board with new methods for engagement vs. just doing what was done in previous years.

But you need to make a good decision with your limited budget!

You need to know what the real ROI is when you consider any communications strategy—and specifically whether an investment in inbound marketing will be worth it in 2016 and beyond.

That’s why you need to know what to take away from HubSpot’s latest report—State of Inbound 2015—which includes new research gleaned from surveying 3,957 marketers from over 150 different countries! (And no, these are not just HubSpot customers.)

If you have about 54 minutes, go ahead and skip to the bottom to download and read the full 73-page report. Oh, wait...I’m sorry...you work for a nonprofit and probably don’t have time to finish this blog post! That’s why I took the time to summarize key statistics you should take note of, including images of the best charts and graphs.

Here are 8 key findings for nonprofit executives to pay attention to:

#1. Website Management is the Top Challenge for Nonprofits

This should not be a surprise since most nonprofit organizations are either about to revamp their website or recently completed a facelift. And when you get your website into the 21st century you eventually figure out that websites can no longer be just “digital brochures” about your organization.

Your website needs fresh, updated content that provides valuable resources to your personas. So it makes sense that many nonprofit professionals agree that managing all of that website content takes a lot more work than the board may realize!


#2. Increasing & Converting Prospects is the Top Priority for Nonprofits

Much of the State of Inbound 2015 report is devoted to lead conversion, which for nonprofit organizations means “prospects”—as in prospective donors, volunteers, members, advocates, etc. Interestingly enough, the top two priorities by far across all industry types were “Increasing number of contacts/leads” and “Converting contacts/leads to customers”.

#3. Inbound Marketing Works Just as Well for Nonprofits as For-Profits

As with most of the best nonprofit communications strategies, inbound marketing was birthed in the for-profit B2B and B2C industries first. And because of that, it’s common for nonprofit folks to look at this new strategy with some skepticism.

I understand the hesitation, and I get this question often from fundraising and membership professionals alike. And believe me, there are marketing strategies that simply work better for businesses than for nonprofits. But in this survey of nearly 4,000 marketing professionals, here’s what they chose when asked their preference between inbound vs. outbound marketing approaches:


Inbound had a 75% likelihood of being the marketing approach of choice, while outbound had only a 25% chance. This 3:1 ratio remained consistent across all company types (B2B, B2C, and nonprofit). 


Bottom line—inbound marketing is the preferred approach for nonprofits to engage constituents in the digital age.

#4. More People are Outsourcing Content Creation

Compared to 2014, more marketing content is being written by freelancers and agency partners. Although in-house staff is still the largest source of authorship, that number is decreasing in favor of outsourced solutions.

#5. Nonprofits With Smaller Budgets Rely More on Inbound

At Direct Development, we often consult with organizations about the right mix of inbound and outbound marketing campaigns. Both can be effective, but they need to be integrated the right way.

The chart below is very revealing because it highlights the challenge that many small and medium-sized organizations face when allocating their marketing budgets. Put plainly, unless you can afford to do enough traditional outbound marketing campaigns to get a positive ROI, they are simply too risky.

#6. You Need to Know Your Metrics

One of the most significant problems for nonprofit executives, managers, and staff members is that they simply don’t know what they are getting from all of their digital communications. They know general information, but often they do not know which communications are generating website activity and leads.

Was it the social messages? Was it the video? Was it the blog post? Was it the mailing?

It’s not enough today to just have Google Analytics running on your website. You need to know your metrics in order to understand how your content is working for you, to know which topics are getting the best results, and to make better decisions to adjust your strategy week-to-week (Yes–THAT frequently!).

#7. CRM is Plagued by Manual Data Entry and Lack of Integration

The State of Inbound 2015 report goes deep into marketing and sales processes, which for nonprofit organizations means communicating with constituents and engaging prospects to take a desired action—donate, subscribe, join, volunteer, advocate, RSVP...whatever!

CRM systems are critical to enabling communications teams to quickly and easily nurture prospects through the Advocate Journey. So when survey participants were asked what their biggest CRM challenges were, the top two choices were “Manual data entry” and “Lack of integration with other tools.”

If you are a nonprofit executive, director, or president, you need to consider how your CRM may be holding your staff back from making better connections with your constituents (and ultimately nurturing them towards the desired action).

#8. Budgets Aside—Everyone is Winning with Inbound

I found the final key stat that I want to leave you with smack dab in the middle of the SOI 2015 report (page 25). I saved it for last because I think it is arguably the most significant chart to pay attention to right now because it effectively settles any argument about budget constraints.

I’ll let the chart just speak for itself…

Marketing communications professionals big and small, nonprofit and for-profit, are seeing higher ROI from inbound vs. outbound marketing. No, this doesn’t mean you should stop your outbound campaigns—but for those of you who are on the fence about starting an inbound communications strategy, the results are here to support making that move.

You just have to be willing to put in the time and effort to see the results grow over 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, etc. And if your organization is addicted to the instant-gratification of short-term, 60-day outbound campaigns, you really need to help them look further down the road in order to experience higher ROI.

Topics: Nonprofit, Inbound Marketing, Nonprofit Marketing

The Nonprofit Marketer

This blog is dedicated to sharing innovative trends, best practices, and case studies for fundraising, donor development, and nonprofit marketing professionals. Our content comes from our partnership with nonprofit organizations both large and small, and the lessons learned from the implementation of marketing technologies for constituent development.

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