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4 forms of free nonprofit advertising that stand out

Bonterra Author
April 30, 2023
Three businesswomen sit at a shared desk covered in papers and tablets while exploring different types of free advertising for nonprofits.

The work your nonprofit organization does is important and it’s imperative that people know about it. Whether you’re a large nonprofit looking for ways to amplify your purpose or a small team trying to stretch your marketing dollars, it makes sense to first seek out free advertising.

In this guide, we’ve rounded up four types of free nonprofit advertising so you can effectively promote your cause, build brand awareness, and attract more supporters without incurring significant costs.

1. Social media marketing

Building a social media presence is a low-cost and easy way to reach a wider audience of supporters. Here are four tips for nonprofits looking to use social media as a free form of advertising:

  • Leverage multiple social media channels. Set up accounts on multiple social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.) to maximize visibility across different demographics. Then, cater to each platform’s specialty. For instance, Twitter is ideal for sending quick updates and starting hashtag campaigns, while TikTok is better suited for sharing video content. 
  • Use compelling visuals. In the world of social media, visual content is a powerful tool for telling your nonprofit's story. Use high-quality images and videos to showcase the impact of your work.
  • Remain consistent. Make sure to use the same branding and messaging consistently across all platforms you are present on.
  • Engage, don't broadcast. Approach social media as a two-way conversation, not just a platform to promote your organization. Engage your followers by replying to comments and sharing user-generated content. This will foster a sense of community and build trust.

To take your social media strategy a step further, consider partnering with a nonprofit influencer. Influencers are highly regarded figures or subject matter experts who’ve amassed a large following online. Having an influencer advocate on behalf of your organization provides a stamp of credibility and allows you to appeal to their audience.

2. Google Ad Grants 

Qualified nonprofits can receive $10,000 in credits each month (or $120,000 each year) to spend on Google Ads. As far as free nonprofit advertising goes, this program lets you:

  • Target your reach and increase digital visibility.
  • Run multiple campaigns concurrently.
  • Track your nonprofit marketing efforts using complimentary analytics.
  • Drive online traffic to your website for fundraising, recruiting, and more.

The best part is that, unlike other grant programs, you’re not competing for limited funds! Any number of nonprofits can participate if they meet the eligibility criteria.

To apply for a Google Ad Grant, your nonprofit must:

  • Meet the Google Ad Grant eligibility criteria. To be eligible, you must be registered as a nonprofit organization. In the U.S. this means you need to be a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. If you’re outside of the U.S., you’ll need to meet the requirements of your country.
  • Register your organization with TechSoup. Once you have registered, log in to your TechSoup account and claim your validation token. 
  • Enroll in Google for Nonprofits. Have your Tax ID Number/EIN and your TechSoup validation token handy, so you can sign up for Google for Nonprofits. 
  • Apply for the Google Ad Grant. After you sign into your Google for Nonprofits account, verify that your website is secure with HTTPS and then complete the Ad Grant eligibility form. Google provides this 20-minute assessment to confirm that your organization meets eligibility requirements and to get a better sense of your organization.

Once approved, your nonprofit can start creating text-based ads that will appear in Google search results. You can use these ads to promote a specific program or event and raise meaningful support for your cause. 

3. Partner with other organizations

Another avenue for free nonprofit advertising is to partner with a local business. People like to see businesses support social causes and the byproduct of a partnership can lead to new customers for the business. 

For nonprofits, a corporate partnership can come in the form of:

  • Cause marketing: A business sells a product or service and donates a portion or all the profits to a nonprofit.
  • Pro-bono work: A business provides services at no cost to an organization and, in return, the organization features the business’s name on promotional materials and shouts them out on social media.
  • Employee volunteering: A business encourages employees to volunteer at a nonprofit; not only does this boost morale but helps to positively shape brand perception.

Whatever your arrangement, the key is to find a business that aligns with your interests, industry, and values. For instance, an animal shelter might partner with a local pet grooming business because they share similar target audiences and services. 

4. Host events

Hosting events is an engaging way to build brand awareness, as it gets your cause in front of a live audience. For free and budget-friendly events, consider hosting:

  • Walkathons: Find a venue that will allow the event to take place for free, such as a public park or hiking trail. Then, seek in-kind donations from supporters to cover the costs of supplies like t-shirts and water bottles, and recruit volunteers to help with event coordination.
  • Webinars: Lead an online seminar that showcases your thought leadership by selecting an online conferencing platform, like Zoom, and preparing content relevant to your purpose. For instance, if your focus is to mitigate food insecurity, you might host a series of webinars showcasing different community-based approaches to ending world hunger. Be sure to engage with your audience and be prepared to answer questions.
  • Community service projects: Organize a community-wide event for which people can sign up to help with local projects or initiatives, such as cleaning parks, planting trees, or painting buildings. This can be a great way to gather support for your cause and make a positive impression on the community. 

By creating regular opportunities for people to get involved and participate in your cause, you can build brand awareness and attract new donors and volunteers to your nonprofit. 

A final note about free advertising for nonprofits

Free advertising opportunities like the Google Ad Grant and collaborative strategies like hosting events and partnering with other organizations can give your nonprofit the boost it needs to recruit and retain more supporters, which will ultimately help power your purpose.

Whether you’re trying to attract donors, recruit volunteers, or raise awareness, Bonterra is here to help you leverage free advertising for nonprofit organizations. 

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Written by

Bonterra Author
    Supporter Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing