If you happen to be a reader of the blog, you can tell that I love to write about offbeat marketing case studies and non-profits. The reason why I focus on non-profits is that while they usually are mission focused and want to improve humanity, marketing tends to fall by the wayside. Non-profits also run a bit differently compared to a for-profit business and the biggest disconnect I’ve noticed is the focus on marketing.

In my experience, non-profits are usually aware that digital marketing is a key component to getting more eyeballs in front of their organization and to grow their mission, but it’s a function that is not highly specialized compared to for-profit businesses. But if you are a non-profit and are looking to ramp up your digital marketing game, make sure you avoid these common digital marketing mistakes non-profits make.

Mistake #1: Not on Google Ad Grants

What is Google Ad Grants? Well, this is the best way to grow your mission at no cost. This isn’t some ‘too good to be true’ scam. Google Ad Grants are completely legitimate and as long as you are a non-profit organization that qualifies, you get to use Google Ads without paying anything!

As long as your organization is eligible, you’ll be able to spend $10,000 per month in AdWords spend to promote your initiatives within the Google platform. The program is designed to help organizations extend their public service messages to a global audience for the greater good.

That feeling when you discover Adwords is free for non-profits

That feeling when you discover Adwords is free for non-profits

Imagine you are looking for more volunteers to join your cause or you have a quarterly event that needs promotion, you can do that at no additional cost. You can keep your funds internally and use them to improve internal operations or boost efficiency in donations.

You are able to share your mission with a global audience with Google Ad Grants.

Don’t Get Too Crazy With Ad Grants

If you are looking to get dive into Google Ad Grants, take a look at my ultimate Google Grants guide that goes incredibly in-depth on how to get started while answering some common questions. While you can no longer create ads and target any keyword, you still need to follow standard Google Ads best practices. If you decide to go gung-ho and try to max out your $10K in free spend, your account will likely be suspended.

I always recommend bringing in an AdWords professional (someone with ad grants experience and a working relationship with Google). While I do like to toot my own horn on getting non-profits off the ground in digital, it is up to your non-profit to decide if it’s worth bringing a professional.

Although in my experience, I have had to clean up my fair share of sub-optimal accounts and generally ROI’s are significantly higher when a professional is on the helm.

That said, the guide is a great resource and if you need any assistance, feel free to contact me.

Mistake #2: Neglecting Facebook

“Facebook is dying”, “I’ve never had success on Facebook”, “I get no traffic on Facebook”, “I want more Facebook fans to grow my business”, you’ve probably heard something similar whenever the conversation shifts to marketing on Facebook. Facebook used to be terrible when it came to ads and organic traffic several years back. But over the last 2+ years, Facebook has significantly improved targeting metrics and audiences to get your mission out in front of an audience.

Messaging & Marketing Need to Be In Sync (or at least exist)

No one is going to like a Facebook page when there are no posts. In some cases, people can’t like a page because a company never bothered to create one. In either case, having a digital footprint on Facebook adds legitimacy to your organization and a way for fans of your brand to interact.

Even if you don’t plan on using Facebook Ads, your messaging and posts need to resonate with an audience. If you aren’t sure about what kind of posts you need to be creating, think about upcoming events, fundraisers, open positions, volunteering, new laws, etc that could be mentioned. Anyone of these topics can drive emotion and is likely to get engagement on Facebook.

If you want to go the paid route (I do recommend this by the way), then targeting the right traffic and promoting your best posts is a slam dunk to gain interest, fans, and have the potential to go viral.

Facebook Results Example

Effective targeting can create lots of interest at a low cost per action

Mistake #3: Traffic Doesn’t Equal Conversions

This is piggybacking off of the first two mistakes; you can have creative ads and have the right audience, but if your messaging doesn’t make sense or you have a poor quality landing page, no one is going to donate/volunteer/sign-up or join your mission.

I’ve had business owners come up to me and say, “we get 10K visitors each month and growing!”. When I follow up with, “how much of that traffic signed up for your newsletter?” or “how much of that traffic filled out a form to get involved?”, I’m often met with a shrug or need to speak to someone who ‘is in charge of numbers’.

Don’t focus on vanity metrics. While they might be indicative of some trends in traffic, they aren’t telling the full story. Vanity metrics such as “total page views, bounce rates, time on site” might sound great on paper, but they don’t tell nearly the whole story.

Focus on metrics that are related to your whole marketing funnel.

Mistake #4: Not Aggressive Enough (Website)

If you don’t have a website, get one ASAP. But assuming your organization does have a website, the biggest mistake I see is that most websites are just glorified pamphlets that don’t engage the reader.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, you leave out any opportunity to build an email list, add potential fans, get more volunteers, etc.  Usually, the easiest way to resolve this solution is to build custom landing pages that have a specific mission and action that a user needs to take when they land on your website.

Assuming you are able to get a Google Ad Grants account and your goal is to get more volunteers for your organization. You have two options:

  1. Send all traffic to your home page where any user can learn about the mission and hope that they are compelled to volunteer.
  2. Send all traffic to a ‘volunteer’ landing page that highlights the benefits and type of work volunteers get when they work together for a greater cause. The page is filled with a primary call to action of filling out a form or calling a phone number for them to get started as a volunteer.

While the second option is more ‘in your face’, it’s what your audience needs in order for them to be bought in as a cause. An often neglected part of this step is that you need the right staff to properly follow up. For volunteering it’s easy, but what about getting donations for your cause or getting purchases for an event? Closing a sale sounds like the most ‘non-profit’ action out there, but it needs to be done.

Some tools I recommend for landing page builders include:

  1. Unbounce (my favorite)
  2. Leadpages
  3. Instapages
Unbounce Case Study Image

Just one example of an Unbounce case study.

Personally, I love Unbounce is it is very functional and a great starting point if you plan to redesign your website. You can test elements & designs on each landing page to see which one performs the best. From there, you can take that knowledge and infuse it with your next redesign.


I wanted to focus on top mistakes as a whole that cover a wide range of digital marketing because all of these are essential to growing your mission online. With proper marketing funnels non-profit friendly programs, growing your presence online can be fairly easy. Hopefully, this article can get you started on building your organization. If you are a non-profit and aren’t sure if you qualify for Google Ad Grants, contact me directly and I’ll work with Google help go you qualified.