Nonprofit marketing isn’t all about the ask – thoughts from Gary Vaynerchuk


In a recent post by Gary Vaynerchuk entitled “Nonprofit Marketing: The Same Rules Apply” had us thinking about what is missing in many nonprofit’s marketing strategies. We often focus on “the ask” or the part where we ask for money to keep our nonprofit going. Although enticing your client act/purchase might be the goal of all your marketing efforts, it can’t be the sole focus. What comes before you encourage readers and site users to donate is building their trust.

How do you build this trust? One rule that comes to our minds is the 80 / 20 concept – 80% of content should be helpful to your audience (answering their questions about your field as a whole and providing them with tools) while 20% of content can be more salesy, or in a nonprofit’s case, donation-focused.

Gary uses a boxing analogy to describe two types of user engagement with your content.


For context if you haven’t read my books, jabs are the value you provide your customers with: the content you put out, the good things you do to convey your appreciation. And the right hook is the ask: it’s when you go in for the sale, ask for a subscribe, ask for a donation.

In the nonprofit world, you probably have a little more permission to throw more right hooks more frequently than a regular business does. However, I am reluctant to even say that statement because the biggest problem in this world is that many nonprofits are only in the right hooking business.

– Gary Vaynerchuk

Even if this strategy seems obvious, it’s one that most nonprofits forget. It is hard to prioritize “helping” and informing your audience, when ultimately you need them to help you via a donation. There’s never enough time to execute these marketing campaigns.

Gary mentions a few nonprofits in the post including Charity Water and Pencils of Promise. Both of those nonprofits have a lot more resources and influence so they do a lot of storytelling and marketing campaigns – often driving more donations.

So how can your nonprofit make progress?

  • Take a look at your messaging across channels. How much of it is oriented towards driving donations vs. helping inform your audience and spread the message about your cause?
  • Create audience personas and make sure you are engaging each of them in the various points of the buying / donation cycle
  • Tell your nonprofit’s amazing stories (like this nonprofit did!) as well as incorporate data and news from the field, so that when your audience is in donation mode, you’re top of mind.
  • Take advantage of free content management tools to ensure you stay on top of consistent social publishing.
  • Use marketing automation software to keep track of your audience and recognize how you can meet them where they are.

If you need help with the “before the ask” our team can set up a digital strategy with you. Contact ArcStone to learn from our experience with other nonprofits.