Growth Hack Your Nonprofit

In so many cases, a buzzwords’ buzz is unfounded. The word picks up steam for hours, days, and weeks and eventually tapers off into the sea of multimedia. In contrast, Growth Hacking is a term that for the last few years has remained sticky and for good reason.

Simply stated, growth hacking is the idea of using non-traditional marketing methods for user acquisition, growth and retention, at a marginal or non-existent cost. Rather than looking at mass scale, it focuses on locating niches or key customers, attracting them, and allowing them to organically leverage their networks for you. It breathes and thrives on data, as should you.

Done right, growth hacking can help a non-profit pay for technology investments, grow fundraising dollars (inside and outside of campaigns) and cultivate a more supportive, engaged constituency without shelling out vital funds on “theoretical” methods.

Here are some quick data points to ponder:

  • 23.7% is the retention rate of first-year donors
  • 72% of charitable donations come from individuals
  • 63% of donors want to know how money will be used
  • 21,788 avg. Twitter followers for a nonprofit in 2012
  • 3,352 avg. Twitter followers for small org in 2012
  • Say “Thank You” no matter how slow—50% of donors want a thank you and don’t care about speed
  • $25 billion-amount of donations not loyal to an organization-open for switching/migration

Stats from npengage.  

From our standpoint, the first and last two points are critically important. These points highlight that donors aren’t engrossed, want experiences and do not enjoy being treated as ATMs. If there was ever an opportunity for savvy, scrappy NPOs to make an impact, now is the time to capture the fray! Growth hacking is the path of least resistance. Here’s how to start:

First and foremost, research and learn, who and where your donors are. You need to know, intimately, if their penchant is for social media or email. Do they lean toward blogs on a specific subject matter? Donate outside of campaigns through recurring donations or major gifts? No matter the case, nobody should know your constituents (past, present and future) better than you.


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Once you’ve identified the constituent psyche, use that information to fine tune copy on your website, landing pages and keywords for easier discovery on search engines. All of these tasks have free or inexpensive options for completion. Google AdWords, Google Trends and Google Analytics can help to focus your copy, keywords, while inexpensive utilities like Optimizely and Crazy Egg can offer heat maps and land page testing to ensure that you are converting visitors into ENGAGED subscribers and into SUSTAINABLE donors.

After your website tune-up, turn your attention towards content for your blog. Build upon your newly found keywords, supporters and copy analytics, and produce consistently. Smart, new, content not only can help your search ranking, but also enhance organizational credibility and retention. However, make sure not to rely on anyone tactic for eyeballs. Never be afraid to be clever or innovative. Simple ideas such as touting your blog in a signature or putting your blog link in social media profiles are great simple hacks for growth.

Lastly, focus your efforts to social media. Commonly the go-to, it is best not to underestimate the power of social media. Posts should be well timed, worthy of attention and in-line with brand and mission. Be sure to refrain from obsessing over mass follower counts, this is not as important as an engaged supporter base. Follower or Like counts are vanity metrics, try to move past them. Hard charging advocates tend to provide impressions that convert at a higher level, so focus social media on connection, not just distribution.

These quick tips and services are a jumping off point. More detail remains on topics specific to social media, conversion rate optimization (CRO), copy tuning, landing page optimization etc.  The goal of this post is to propose strategic integration of the growth hacking mantra to non-profits. Take a cue from those billion dollar startups think growth, acquisition, and retention: it will help you save the world! 




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