Why Non-Profits Need To Know SEO

The non-profit world is full of great organizations working on shoestring budgets to reach people in need, to care for the environment, to bring education to the underserved, and to generally care for the world and the people around us. With so much passion and purpose, and so little funds, many non-profits are learning SEO to reduce their overall advertising costs, to reach the right audiences, and as a part of integrated website and business management.

Reduce Overall Advertising Costs

For-profit business owners use money to manage their time, while investing the bulk of their time in managing their money; non-profit directors, administrators, and volunteers are often in the unenviable position of working with limited budgets of both time and money.

Advertising is one of the processes that many for-profit businesses outsource. Rather than spending so much time learning what type of content brings customers into a business, a corporation will spend significant capital to have experts create a system of advertising and communication to customers.

Since non-profits need to reach the same people that large for-profits do with much less money, SEO provides an attractive alternative to outsourced marketing. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is called organic marketing because it does not require dollars in to equal leads out. Once you build an optimized website, the website will bring in your targeted audience whether you put another dollar of marketing into your website or not.

This is the primary reason non-profits need to know SEO, but there are many additional benefits of a great SEO-friendly website.

Reaching The Right Audience

Getting found is important for any business, getting found by the right people is essential. This is incredibly true for non-profits, and significantly more complex than for-profits. For a for-profit company, the primary audience is always potential customers, because they pay the bills. Secondary elements are employees and then shareholders (unless the shareholders are customers, like in a mutual fund).

For non-profits, the different audiences are those in need, are the donors, and are volunteers/employees. Each of these appear to take on the importance of a customer because a non-profit often has to convince each audience why they need to join the non-profit. Each of these audiences are essential to running a non-profit and all of them need altruistic reasons to join your business, outside of traditional profit and market motives. A website needs to be designed in such a way as to present to donors and employees and volunteers and people in need. A tall order, but good SEO planning manages the website to do just that. 

SEO takes the most important ideas behind your website and presents them in such a manner and to the right locations, to get your website found by people looking for it. For example, a homeless shelter needs to be found by people looking up housing solutions in the local city it serves. These searches could be from the indigent (library computers and cell phones are both options they have) or from potential donors or volunteers. So to optimize it, the content on the website needs to be primarily about homelessness and solutions for it, and your website needs to be attached to all the place listings for your shelter (Google, Bing, Apple Maps). (For more on this, check out our post on creating local SEO content.)

Because the need you are trying to fulfill is what ties all the various audiences together, an optimized site will provide information that is relevant to donors, volunteers, and the recipients of your care because they are all looking at the need. Donors and volunteers want to help fill the need, while recipients need to fill it.

Integrated Website and Business Management

A good website provides many business management tools that a non-profit may use to automate business systems and reduce the costs of running business. SEO plays an important part in designing business systems on the website and in determining what content to put on the website.

A website provides tools to manage communication with various audiences like calendars, forums, and internal email systems. It also provides access to documents relevant to your business processes, and it even is a useful tool in managing donations, accounting, income and outgo, and more.

The more complex a website becomes, the more costs it will incur in both time and money, so determining how integrated you want to make a non-profit website with business systems is a matter of some care. Great website-business systems integrations will save time and money long-term even though they cost more upfront. For a non-profit leader, the question to ask is whether you can more afford to keep managing things the way you are or whether you need to build a business system in your website.

Regardless of how integrated the website becomes with your business systems, it is an essential part of managing your constituencies, and SEO management is core to that process.

SEO marries internal coherent content with external information to get your website as visible as possible. A non-profit needs SEO to be found, and the simplest aspect of SEO is to make certain that the content on your site (including tags and metadata) is relevant and listed in such a way that search engines can understand what your main thing is.

Why do non-profits need to know SEO? Because non-profits focus on the relationships and needs that influence peoples’ lives, and people are looking for these needs online. While most people think SEO is just focused on the search engines, at its most basic, SEO is all about the people using the search engines, and that is where Google and your local animal shelter meet: the people who love animals.

Henry Green is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas who helps small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their online presence through marketing, social media, and website optimization.

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