By Kelly Callahan-Poe, President, Williams Whittle

We began 2021 hopeful that the pandemic was behind us. With the rise of the Delta variant this summer, a fourth surge and the implementation of a third booster, many are starting to talk about the reality that COVID may be here to stay. Nonprofits have been impacted heavily by the pandemic. Organizations have adjusted to remote work, shifted events and fundraising efforts online, and relied heavily on digital and social marketing to keep donors engaged with the mission.

We have seen a wide range of impacts from COVID-19 on our own client base. Some nonprofits have had their best fundraising year yet, while others have lost valuable employees in the “great resignation” and others, especially nonprofits unrelated to healthcare, are hibernating until the pandemic is over.

Below is a list of the 10 biggest trends we are seeing among our own client base.

1. Flexibility is key – Media buying has traditionally been done on an annual basis at the beginning of the year to gain the biggest nonprofit discounts with an upfront commitment. We are now seeing buying being done several times a year, because consumer behavior has changed so drastically since March 2020.

2. The KPI Pivot – Every nonprofit has a set of key performance indicators to measure progress in the fulfillment of its mission. From basic brand awareness and donations to website users, social media engagement and press hits, KPIs vary widely. Because comparisons are difficult to make against last year’s unusual shifts, most nonprofits changed, reprioritized, or expanded KPIs due to the pandemic.

3. Digital-first approach – Media plans have finally shifted from traditional media to non-traditional media with a lens to mobile-first communications. Cable TV has moved to CTV/OTT, terrestrial radio to digital radio, print to online advertorials, and so on. Why? Better targeting and tracking, and lower cost. EXCEPT in one case.

4. The rise of direct mail – With everyone shifting to nearly all digital media outreach, email is on overload. Direct mail is having a resurgence, with most clients now planning quarterly or even monthly drops. Have you noticed your mailbox being fuller lately? It still works.

5. QR Code mania – One of the positive things out of COVID-19 is the rise of QR codes. Since restaurants began using them last year, everyone including your grandparents now knows how to use them.

6. Hyperlocal “Near Me” – Historically, hyperlocal has been all about driving foot traffic to a specific location to capitalize on smartphone “near me” searches. This requires an optimized Google My Business page, a mobile-friendly website, and reputation management for online reviews. For nonprofits, this starts with Google
Ad Grants for Nonprofits. Because nonprofits must maintain a click-through-rate of 5% to maintain the Google Grant, many nonprofits also have a paid campaign for those keywords that do not reach the benchmark and for banner ads on the Google Display Network. By layering in geofencing, nonprofits can reach prospective supporters in specific geographic areas. In combination with Google, direct mail, and email marketing at the same time, a geofencing campaign that can deliver ads on all devices (desktop, mobile, tablet, connected TV) is the true
meaning of cross-channel localized coordination.

7. The marriage of paid + organic social media – Social media networks regularly adjust their algorithms to downplay organic reach knowing that advertisers are more than willing to pay-to-play. The average reach of an organic post on social media is between 2% to 10% per post depending on the platform. The average click-through-rate of a Google Adwords paid post is about 2% depending on the vertical. That means your best strategy is a hybrid of paid and organic with a different strategy for each.

8. Snackable Content – From short videos, podcasts, audiograms, and blogs to infographics and gifs, nonprofits want a range of high-quality content that can be easily digested and shared in different formats for all marketing channels.

9. The year of experimentation – The pandemic drove digital transformation at a rapid pace. Clients are now more open to the shiny penny. From geofencing and behavioral targeting to programmatic advertising and remarketing to Instagram reels, augmented reality, user-generated content, and virtual events, 2022 budgets should include buckets for experimentation.

10. Insights + Innovation = Business Growth – Insights are real customer experiences and actionable information gleaned through primary research about your target audience. Innovation can be found in a range of activities from improved processes and/or technology solutions that increase productivity or reduce costs, enhancement of a product or service, or even shifts in the marketing mix. Insights and innovation are essential to driving business growth.

Looking ahead, digital marketing will continue to change dramatically as marketers find alternatives to third-party cookie-based targeting strategies as consumers demand greater privacy protections.

In marketing and in business, the only constant is change. While these ten marketing trends reflect the preferences of our clients, nonprofits will need to continuously monitor consumer behavior and explore new opportunities in 2022 and beyond to stay ahead of the curve.

For more on “Ideas that Generate Change for Nonprofits”, visit our website: williamswhittle.com.

Williams Whittle is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.

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