What Businesses Should Learn About Marketing From Nonprofits

HubSpot has released the 2022 nonprofit digital trends report. Businesses should read it too.

Dr. Shani Horowitz-Rozen
5 min readMar 22, 2022
Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

It’s no secret that one of nonprofits’ main goals is fundraising. Using an online presence to grow their outreach and fundraise has proven successful in 2021. In an increasingly digital and post-pandemic era, when meeting customers became less important, businesses cannot afford not to learn from nonprofits’ online fundraising success.

The funnel of online donations has been growing constantly. Between 2014 and 2018, overall online fundraising increased by 77 percent. Fifty-two percent of people prefer giving online in Asia, compared to 43 percent in Europe, and 63 percent in the US. Donors also prefer online channels over traditional methods, with about 70 percent of adult donors worldwide saying they prefer to donate online.

HubSpot’s latest insights about fundraising, marketing, and digital strategy trends in 2022 reveal just how important it is for nonprofits to upscale their online presence and expand it. But HubSpot’s insights can be a game-changer for businesses too. Nonprofits want to fundraise, raise awareness, upscale their activity and develop their brand. Businesses want that too.

Online fundraising is a community-based marketing strategy businesses should follow

Nonprofits excel in community-based marketing. The increase in online fundraising demonstrates the power of nonprofits to build communities of loyal customers. What nonprofits are demonstrating is a clear and proven ability to engage customers and drive action. The lesson nonprofits are teaching for-profit companies is that an effective digital presence is not, and should not be seen as, a mere external outreach designed only for broad awareness and marketing purposes. Rather than a linear, top-down messaging channel, this online presence spearheads the community-based marketing efforts.

Websites are spheres of conversation, not a brochure

The HubSpot report reveals how important it is, in 2022, for businesses to measure the level of engagement their websites encourage. Nonprofits need this engagement for their immediate budget and actions. Companies cannot afford to lose this engagement either.

One of the core aspects of shifting the mindset of online engagement from a linear path into a community is adopting the view of websites as another actual office in the corporate building, where businesses can host meetings and interact with different audiences. Carrying a metaphorical brown-bag lunch or just as a casual walk-in, visitors to websites are coming to learn, ask questions and search for information. The website’s online presence should welcome your visitors and offer them the answers they are looking for: just as if they had walked into your physical offices and asked for information, direction, or advice.

The online fundraising perception views the website as a sphere of conversation and engagement. The numbers support this view. For example, the no. 1 reason Gen X might not donate to an organization is because of an outdated website. This is a long way from the traditional view of commercial websites as an extended brochure of information, with a channel to leave customers’ details.

What can you learn from nonprofits about how to build communities?

Nonprofits form communities more intuitively than businesses because it’s easier for their followers to align with their social missions and causes. Nonprofits are centered around specific causes and are passionate and committed to raising awareness to these issues on all platforms. In fact, creating awareness is part of nonprofits’ mission and advocacy. This speaks authenticity in volumes.

Nonprofits intuitively identify and emphasize the shared purpose that connects the organization with its followers on social media. It’s relatively easy and instinctive, because the more important the purpose, the stronger the group’s identity. But brands can connect their audiences to purpose and create the sense of identity and connection that nonprofits create, too.

To do that, businesses should encourage user-generated content and let their audiences be a part of their brand development. Once your business’ purpose is defined and aligned to your brand strategy, it’s critical to connect it to a larger authentic purpose: one that can speak to wider audiences and allow them to actively ideate, criticize, and develop your brand. This will allow followers to evaluate, connect, and rally around your goals and core values.

Nonprofits learned the scientific way to encourage donations: highlight the human angle and identify the person most affected by their purpose and services. The Identifiable Victim Effect refers to the tendency of individuals to offer greater aid when a specific, identifiable person (“victim”) is observed under hardship, as compared to a large, vaguely defined group with the same need. One implication is those identifiable victims are more likely to be helped than statistical victims.

Drawing from the scientific view of empathy, businesses should combine human-interest stories in their digital engagement. Sharing your team and customers’ stories is crucial to creating a community. It can be employee-led storytelling, conversations, research, or written content celebrating customer relationships.

Digital outreach is not just marketing — it’s a community

In 2022, businesses should view their digital presence as an engine that creates multiple touchpoints with their target audiences. Continuing the concept of digital presence as a platform to engage, rather than inform, this omni-front approach takes into account the many advantages that an online presence has.

Nonprofits’ natural incline is to foster a wide net of opportunities to connect. This is critical because networking leads, eventually, to fundraising. This is an easy pattern for businesses to follow. Businesses should create the right environment to drive connections and develop networking opportunities among colleagues, customers, and experts in relevant fields. Whether through roundtables, Slack channels, or online forums, this outreach holds many opportunities to build authentic relationships with users and followers.

The increase in online donations is a trend businesses should follow

Nonprofits are dependent on online communities to survive. That’s not far from what businesses need.

Even if nonprofits have different goals than businesses, the core marketing can stay the same. Whether raising awareness for your brand, fundraising, promoting user-generated content, or inviting prospects into your funnel, in 2022, marketers should adopt a wide, inclusive view of their online presence. This means listening and learning from nonprofits’ best practices and achievements.



Dr. Shani Horowitz-Rozen

Helping companies and executives tell their stories and focus their messages. Framing is everything