Youth organisations around Europe are using various strategies to promote their projects. Some may use social media; others may use traditional media to buy ads or use billboards to promote their activities. However, what usually happens is that youth organisations and other NGOs don’t have enough financial resources to pay for marketing efforts. Therefore, in this article, we will talk about the importance of marketing for youth organisations and the strategies you can use to get free space to advertise your causes.


Why is marketing important?

According to Decker, 2020, marketing for organisations is important for several reasons:

  • It helps raise awareness: with quality use of marketing techniques, your brand awareness and exposure will improve. When an organisation is known in the local community and beyond, people become more attached to the cause and promote it to others.
  • It raises funds: the more people know about your organisation, the more funding you can secure through donations. This is also quite important for private companies and donors – if they hear about your organisation, they will be more likely to support your cause in the future.
  • It attracts new volunteers and members: as people hear about your organisation, they will likely want to get involved. With news travelling about your organisation, you will attract volunteers who can donate their time and expertise to change the status quo. You may also attract new members for your NGO who can be advocates for change in local communities.
  • It promotes your services: when people hear about your services, they get easier access to them and know where they can find additional information.

 Using marketing in your organisation can also help in driving social and political change (Sheikh, 2020). When your cause is familiar to a wider group of people, you can use pressure or advocacy techniques to make a change in legislation or another act. For example, the GOOD initiative from Croatia has gathered wide support from citizens as they were protesting for the quality implementation of school curricula. Two years in a row, 2016 and 2017, protests were held in which more than 70,000 people participated. This is a result of the advocacy work and public outreach of the GOOD initiative, active since 2008. Thus, their presence and the identification of important issues for Croatian citizens were drivers of social and, later, political change. They used marketing techniques, especially social media, to spread awareness of quality education. More information on the protests is available here and here.

 So, using relevant marketing strategies, your organisation can become more recognised and respected in the local community. In order to create a successful strategy, you should define your goal, which should be written using the SMART format for writing goals (this means your goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based).


Digital marketing strategies

After mentioning some of the benefits of marketing, it would be good to think about what your organisation can do in order to reap the benefits. Even though budgets are small, there are some effective techniques you can apply to create better brand awareness.

This is one of the most widely used marketing strategies. It is cheap (or completely free) and can reach out to a significant amount of people. There is the possibility to personalise the messages sent out via email marketing (e.g. entering the name of the person at the beginning of the email). Also, try to avoid selling your products or services with the first email: it’s always a good idea to think about the value you can bring to the people you are contacting (Sheikh, 2020). For example, if you work in a youth organisation and send out emails to youth workers, firstly it would be good to welcome people and explain the purpose of the emails and how they can unsubscribe if they are not interested (remember GDPR rules). Afterwards, you can offer resources for them to work with young people, promote your own activities or invite them to participate in some special events.

One of the tools which can be useful is MailChimp, with which you can build your own mailing list and send out highly customisable newsletters depending on the needs of your organisation. This tool also allows you to see how many people opened your email and gives you detailed statistics so that you can improve your marketing efforts in the future.

Do not forget to include information about your email marketing or newsletter on your webpage, where interested people can sign up.

One of the most useful marketing strategies involves creating your own original and creative content. This is what content marketing is all about. According to Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is a strategy ‘focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience’.

So, one of the best ways to do content marketing is to start a blog for your organisation. Even though blogs seem outdated, they are still relevant and are important for specific target groups (e.g. youth workers, trainers, educators, teachers).

One of the most important reasons to become a blogger is that it can educate target groups and other stakeholders about your cause. Blogs can also help bring new subscribers and visitors to your website. It’s important to note that they can also create some free promotion – and what is more important – content can be reused for other purposes later on, helping to save human resources and time, which are always important in the non-profit sector (Decker, 2020). When writing your blog posts, it is recommended to focus on topics revolving around the cause you promote – some of the ideas you can bring to your blog are:

  • interviews with volunteers, members or experts
  • stories of success (project or activities)
  • stories of people who were directly influenced by your activities (you can show before and after situations)
  • summaries of case studies, analyses or research
  • announcements for upcoming activities

Starting your organisation’s blog is not an easy task – it takes time, but it can bring significant success in terms of your visibility and recognition in the local community.

Read more on how to create interesting blog content here

Social media is all around us and we use it daily. Some estimates show that more than half of the world uses social media every day; organisations should therefore build their presence on a variety of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or Twitter.

Besides sharing stories of your projects, photos of activities or infographics or videos, it is good to use the free marketing options available on social media to promote your activities. 

The following are some examples for Facebook: 

  • Buying ads on Facebook is not expensive and, for a small cost, you can reach a significant number of people.
  • Facebook also allows you to add a ‘Donate now’ button to your page, where people can donate directly to your organisation. 
  • If you start a fundraiser, you can also add a fundraiser sticker, which increases visibility. 
  • Another option is connected to birthday fundraisers. You may have seen that some people can create fundraisers, where their friends donate money to an organisation, rather than buying them gifts for their birthday.
  • In order to enable these functions, you need to sign up for the service. More information is available at Facebook Social Good.   

If you are using Instagram (owned by Facebook), you can use similar options for social media marketing. You can apply for a donation button or give people permission to add donation stickers to their Instagram stories. More information is available on the Instagram help page.

Don’t forget to use your unique voice, choose hashtags that can be easily associated with your organisation and post regularly. Follow what other users have said about you (user generated content). You can use applications to do this, such as Hootsuite, where you can monitor hashtags that include your organisation. For example, if you are celebrating International Human Rights Day and use the hashtag #HRD2020, you can use the application to follow what was published by other users who have included the same hashtag in their posts. Sometimes, thinking about a suitable hashtag can be challenging – luckily, there is a tool that can help you with that: Hashtagify. Be sure to try it out.

Additional marketing tips and tricks

The three marketing strategies above are quite useful, but there are several more tips and tricks your organisation should follow and be aware of when implementing promotional activities. Those tips and trick are as follows: 

  1. Use the Google Ad Grants programme: According to Whitney, 2020, the Google Ad Grants programme gives a significant amount of money to non-profit organisations for ads on their platforms. In order to apply, your organisation needs to have a Google Ads account, a Google non-profit account and a customer ID, which can be obtained from the Google Ads account. Follow this link to find out more.
  2. Use emotion, not fact: According to Murray, 2013, research implemented in the field of brain activity (e.g. functional MRI – fMRI) shows that when evaluating brands, people primarily use emotion (personal feelings and experiences), rather than information. So, it would be wise to use emotion in communicating your messages, not only information. When creating your ads, it is also important to use storytelling in combination with emotion. Smilovitz (2020) says that emotionally charged storytelling creates a rush of dopamine in the brain. This is important as it is linked to memory – people will remember you more easily after seeing your ad telling a story through emotion.
  3. Use video materials in your social media marketing: Using videos for marketing purposes can significantly benefit your organisation. Videos are material that can engage target groups, enhance emotions and start discussions. As people are visual beings, this marketing strategy is something you need to use.

When thinking about videos, according to the 2019 Video in Business Benchmark Report, you should definitely think about the lengths of the videos. Around 52% of viewers will watch the video all the way through. It needs to be short and concise; therefore, 73% of videos were two minutes long or shorter. Definitely consider the content of your videos – the most published videos consisted of webinars, demos and videos for social media.

Sometimes, creating a video can be intimidating and quite stressful, especially if you want to make it in a quality way. You will likely have little or no budget to hire a film crew for shooting your videos, but there are some good tutorials that can help you navigate the video world. Be sure to check out this blog with several basic tips on creating high-quality videos

All in all, there is no formula or recipe that fits all youth organisations. We recommend that you think about a marketing plan that will include your target groups, cause, activities, channels and resources. Think about success metrics as well. See what is suitable and manageable in your own context. In the end, we encourage you to try out most of these marketing strategies and see which ones fit you best. It’s all about experimenting and learning. All of this being said, may the marketing force be with you!


Domagoj Moric
Domagoj Morić

Facilitator and a trainer in the field of youth. He holds MA in Communication Sciences and currently is attending PhD in the same field. For the last ten years, he has been working as consultant for public relations for different NGO’s and has implemented several campaigns related to civic education and sustainable energy. He regularly works as a trainer in the field of youth and school education. Domagoj is member of the trainers’ pool of Croatian National Agency and SALTO SEE and is also working with other NA’s and other institutions such as European Parliament and Council of Europe, as well as private companies and NGO sector.