Hello Steppers! Today I’m writing about using a Shoestring marketing strategy… for non-profits.
Shoestring101 is known for helping folks start a business, or revitalize an existing one with new sales… but spending NO or LOW dough to get the results.
But lean entrepreneurship isn’t just for business.
These ideas aren’t just useful to make a pile of money for yourself… It’s possible to use today’s Shoestring101 marketing strategy to raise money for your favorite non-profit causes as well.
Why I Use Shoestring Marketing Strategies for Non-Profits
If there’s any ‘business’ that needs to be lean, making use of all its resources without spending unnecessarily, it’s the not-for-profit variety. So any way we can add fuel to the fire without burning up capital is a welcome ‘marketing’ strategy.
Recently, my wife Sabrina and I became “advocates” for a village in Uganda. It’s a cooperative of about thirty single mothers and their families. Many of these moms have been abandoned by their husbands or widowed. Others have children as the result of rape or even human trafficking.
But they are all beautiful mamas in search of a better life for themselves and their children.
We’re teaching them how to be self-sufficient; they learn modern gardening techniques… raise dairy cows and egg-laying hens… build viable shelters… and pump clean well water.
This is through a Christian ministry called Beauty For Ashes Uganda, though single mothers from all walks of life are welcomed into family.
But while we are teaching them to be self-reliant in a very male-dominated society, these ladies do have some immediate needs: medical, shelter and food, school fees for their children. In Abokoro (our village) those needs are urgent.
So here’s what an “advocate” does. Sabrina and I donate from our own incomes to help support the village, yes. But the real juice comes when we are able to recruit others to help as well.
An “advocate” is a voice for the village (as opposed to the Village Voice 😉 ) to invite others to learn about Abokoro and consider donating to this worthy cause.
Why lean entrepreneurship principles for non-profits?
The necessary evil that most ministries and non-profits face is fundraising. Often, monies that could go to the people they’re intended to benefit… need to be funneled back into the ministry for “advertising”.
Otherwise the ministry could wither and die from a lack of ongoing curation of supporters.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
You don’t have to “spend money to make money” in a business… and neither do you have to take money to raise money for a non-profit.
So how do we go about recurring lots and lots of people to donate… without incurring costs that could and should go to the Villagers’ support?
How do we employ the Shoestring marketing strategies for non-profits?
Simple. Sabrina and I use Shoestring101 principles to reach our “target market”, then build and deepen our relationship with others that feel as strongly as we do about our particular cause.
For-Profit Marketing Principles Build Support for Non-Profits
In another post here on Shoestring101, I analyze Noah Kagan’s whirlwind business model in which he kicked off a bona fide business and drove over $3,000 worth of sales, $1,000 of which was profit… in just 24 hours.
No joke. EVERY aspiring biz owner should check it out.
If you’re interested in starting a “real” side business
(not so-called internet marketing, where you make money on the internet by teaching people to make money on the internet, wink wink)
…I suggest that for inspiration you check out Noah Kagan’s “Sumo Jerky” post.
Also, consider checking out the post on this site, Another Case Study: Five Steps to Five Figures to see how I used the Shoestring101 principles to take a capital investment of $62.66 and build a real local business operating at about a $10,000 monthly profit… while you were watching.
But I digress.
Before I send you off to read how Noah and I were able to build respectable incomes very quickly from humble beginnings… stay here a minute and read how those same principles can be used to build a support base for your favorite cause.
Shoestring Marketing Strategy for Non-Profits Step ONE: Identify
A saying that you’ll find all over this site is that it’s EASY to make money: all you need is
1) access to a thing of value and
2) a way to communicate with folks that value that thing.
The thing of value is the act of feeding, clothing and sheltering hungry mamas. I want to find those awesome folks that care about that. We just need a medium: a way to communicate.
So for today’s example I’m going to use Facebook as the medium, although almost any platform… digital or no… can be used with the same order and number of steps.
How to Use a Shoestring Marketing Strategy to Build Your Non-Profit
Here’s a step-by-step progression that I’ve used with Facebook to curate support for Abokoro, “my” village in Uganda:
First, I’ll simply put up a post of one of our byooootiful ladies or their children, or both.
At this time, I’m not trying to ask for anything. I just want to see who appreciates the post. That’s all.
Kind of like how Noah, when he was building Sumo Jerky, just pasted up a picture of some jerky and said, “Any of y’all like jerky?”
Again, right now asking for support is kind of “like” repellent; I would rather see my post shoot to the top with a lot of likes than to make an impassioned plea for support at this time.
Just wanna get some exposure… I don’t post about all the deets or ask for money just yet.
What we do want is to find out who is sympathetic.. “likes” our particular cause… and begin a conversation with them.
So after putting up a picture showing the most recent story or result that Beauty For Ashes Uganda is getting… I watch for who “likes” and shares the post.
Shoestring Marketing Strategy for Non-Profits Step TWO: Dialogue
Here’s the next step after getting a little interest: I send a short thank-you to everyone that “liked”, commented, or shared the post. It goes something like this:
Hey there Shelley! I hope everything is going just amazing for you. THANK you for “liking” my post about Abokoro Village. Would you like to see more stories? I can send you a link.
Notice that at this point I’m not gushing about how important this work is (though it is), how much the villagers need prayers and help (though they do), or how much I want Shelley to become a Villager (though she could!) I just want to start a conversation.
How to Contact Sympathetic Followers for your Non-Profit
Here is how I get PILES of these messages out in short order:
Now, the clean water post above got 36 likes. there’s a little snippet that says Nicole Rose, Lynae Thompson, Kelly Sigfrids, and 33 others like this.
- By hovering over 33 others, I get a drop-down list of “likers”.
- By clicking on 33 others I get every single liker by name and profile.
- By hovering over each individual name, a dialog box comes up telling me if we’re friends already and prompting me to send a pm (private message).
- I click on that, write the first message personalized to “Shelley”… but then copy the message.
- After sending to the first, I hover over the next name, follow the pm prompt, and CHANGE the first name to the person I’m writing now.
- Lather, rinse, repeat. After doing this a few times it becomes a rhythm.
Voila! 36 messages sent out thanking folks that liked my post… and asking, would they like more..?
If Shelley writes back, and Bill, and Mark, and Josephine… I can have several pm boxes going at the same time, helping me spread the word.
Shoestring Marketing Strategy for Non-Profits Step THREE: Deepen
In these conversations I have one objective: to get my liker to the next step!
I’ll ask a few, prepared questions:
Would you like a link to the Beauty For Ashes Uganda website?
Would you like to know more about how to get involved?
Also I’ll be responding to questions:
“How did you get involved with this?”
“How can I help?”
Now, though I do have a few prepared answers, it’s not strictly about canned statements and automation. I do want to have meaningful conversations and meet people exactly where they are.
But when you get a lot of the same questions, it’s good to be ready with good answers to those questions. I have a few prepared lines, but I’ll modify them according to who I’m talking to and how our conversation is going.
Next Steps for Marketing Your Non-Profit on a Shoestring
Some folks that I’ve sent only the first message to want to jump on board immediately.
Others might need a bit of coaxing.
Still others will decline, either because they don’t think they have the money or time, or that they are already committed elsewhere. But they almost always wish me well with the ministry.
So here’s how it goes:
Those that are ready to roll, I’ll send a link to the donor website with instructions… but also ask them to coffee if they live near me.
Those that need a bit of coaxing, I ask to coffee.
Those that decline, I say,
“Hey thanks for liking the post though. Every bit helps when I’m trying to get the word out. Would you consider sharing the post?”
They may say yes, or may even ask how to do that:
“You just click ‘share’ on the bottom right of the post and then it goes out to folks you know. Don’t worry, I’ll monitor the post and handle any questions that come up about Beauty for Ashes Uganda.”
Gaining Commitments for your Non-Profit: Even Deeper Conversations
By asking my friend to coffee, I’ve opened the door to discuss how they may know more about my non-profit.
And they know it.
So I don’t beat around the bush. I’m kind of blunt. I don’t ask if… I ask how they will want to be involved.
After a few minutes of catching up if we’re old friends, I’ll open up my laptop right in the coffee shop and take them to the Beauty For Ashes Uganda website.
After explaining the medical needs program… the school fees for children… the mosquito net initiative… the dairy cows and egg-laying hens… the entrepreneurship training for single moms… and the “Become a Villager” option…
…it’s GO time.
I don’t ask,
“Would you like to donate?”
…which has a yes-or-no possible answer. Instead it’s
“How would you like to be involved today?”
Then smile and shut up.
And almost always, walk them through the steps on the computer screen. We get out their debit card right there and everything.
So far everyone that’s agreed to coffee with me has also become a Villager, or more.
(A Villager is either, well… a Villager living over there in Uganda… or stateside it’s a donor that’s committed to giving $23 per month to match the average monthly income of one of our single mothers.)
Some folks have gone the extra mile and given one-time or recurring donations to specific programs.
For example, one young lady I met with that loves animals gave dairy cows.
Another that is involved in the medical field here in the U.S., gave toward medical needs in Uganda.
My mission is to match people with their mission. What they are most happy to support.
Shoestring Marketing Strategy for Non-Profits Step FOUR: Follow Up
Finally, after recruiting folks to help with this most worthy of causes… the care, feeding, and education of widows and orphans… the job isn’t anywhere near done.
We’ve got to follow up with these helpers and let them know about the difference they’re
Beside the general “Beauty For Ashes Uganda” page on Facebook, Sabrina and I also post in a group page on Facebook called “Abokoro Village”.
This shoestring marketing for non-profit strategy costs: ZERO dollars, but a bit of time must be invested to keep the page updated.
This lets us stay in touch with our stateside Villagers as well as our Villagers in Uganda. We all get to contribute posts and share news.
The Final Shoestring Marketing Strategy for Non-Profits
This final shoestring marketing strategy for non-profits is to create a culture that celebrates sharing.
We (Sabrina and I) like to encourage Villagers to share posts that we put in the Abokoro Village page and on our personal Facebook walls.
We “like” and share with each other… and that gives Abokoro top of mind awareness with our stateside Villagers.
It also encourages them by example to multiply our efforts in getting the word out.
Shoestring ‘Marketing’ Strategy for Non-Profits SUMMARY:
So here’s a quick rundown of all that we’ve covered above^:
Post images of your non-profit’s work with just the purpose of getting a few likes at first.
Establish personal contact… private message,
then ask to refer others.
Go deep, not wide at first.
Then lather, rinse, repeat.
Stay in touch with your donors.
And ask them to share as well.
How YOU Can Help
Finally, no good blog post would be complete without a “call to action”. Usually, in most blog posts this is an invitation to:
Comment on the blog;
Provide your email address for deeper content;
Buy a product.
But today may call to action is to consider sending a one-time, or even ongoing support to my village in Uganda.
- Go to the “Join Our Village” page on Beauty For Ashes Uganda.
- Select “One Time” or “Recurring” donation.
- On the “Purpose” drop-down menu, choose “Abokoro Village”
- Complete with your debit card information.
- Print out a receipt for your taxes; BFAU is a 501(c)3 organization
An alternate way to support Beauty For Ashes Uganda is to make your Amazon purchases on the “Smile.Amazon” site.
If you already buy stuff from Amazon, here are the steps:
- Instead of straight-up Amazon.com, go to smile.Amazon.com
- Sign in with your normal account information. If it’s stored on your computer or phone this should be automatic.
- Just under the search bar, look for the “Supporting” prompt. This will
- Choose or search for “Brandi Lea International”. Brandi is the founder Beauty For Ashes Uganda
- Make whatever purchase you were gonna make in the first place. Amazon will send a percent of your purchase to the charity of your choice… in this case you have chosen Beauty For Ashes Uganda. Thank you.
- Just remember to go to Smile.Amazon instead of plain vanilla Amazon. Save it and anything you buy will accrue a percent toward BFAU.
Okay, Steppers! Thanks again for making it to the bottom of another blog post. If you have questions about how to apply the steps I’ve outlined above to YOUR special cause, write me in the comments.