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How Inbound Marketing Helps Ministries and Nonprofits Connect More Authentically

Mar 10, 2017
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The internet has transformed every area of our lives. I remember as a child in school doing writing assignments on “what will the world look like in the year 2000?” Most of us talked about flying cars, watches that made phone calls and the ability to have video conversations with anyone, anywhere and at any time. Well, it’s 2017 and two of those three “dreams” are now part of our daily lives. (Flying cars are here too, just not mainstream.) Technology is moving faster and faster each day, due in large part to the connections made from the internet. Technology is moving so fast, that many industries can’t keep up, especially nonprofits and ministries. With so much opportunity to connect with people in real time and build deep relationships online, ministries and nonprofits have a lot to gain by staying in front of the technology curve.


For nearly a decade, SAAS companies, agencies, and forward-thinking businesses have been using inbound marketing to build deep and lasting relationships online. This has lead to growth not just in revenue for these companies, but growth in engagement, referrals, and trust as well. The reason is simple. Instead of nagging and begging people to buy their products and use their services, they used the digital channels available to them to educate, engage, and inspire them. Ministries and nonprofits can learn a lot from the companies already having success online by applying the same strategies to connect deeper with their congregations, followers, communities, and charities.


When I look at most ministries' or nonprofits' digital strategies, they are usually a combination of requests to share their page or an ask of some sort. This quickly becomes noise, even to your most devoted members. We are constantly bombarded with online ads, clickbait, and news stories and we’ve learned to ignore most of it.

We live in a time where the average attention span is 8 seconds. The reason the attention span is so short is not due to the fact that we can’t pay attention, it’s due to there being so much for us to pay attention to. We have less time than ever to choose what is worth our time. The key is giving your community content that provides value to them. Using your blog or website to share ways for people to get involved in the community, educate people on your core mission and beliefs, and provide helpful guides that will increase the value of their lives is a great way to build trust and credibility.


Social media is all about being social. It’s more than just a message board to promote events, giving, and your next service time. Yes, social media can be used in this way, but the real gain is when you engage. People have more relationships and more interactions with friends, families, and groups through online channels than any other medium. Ministries and nonprofits can benefit greatly from engaging with their communities online. It shows that real people are behind these organizations and that they care about the people who take the time to interact with them.


One of the best ways to use digital channels with your ministry or nonprofit is by inspiring your community in creative ways. Simon Sinek has a powerful quote from his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” While ministries are not selling goods or services, they do need buy-in from their congregation if they are going to make an impact.

Too often we get wrapped up in "what we do" and forget the “why" behind it. Inbound marketing is really all about telling the right story. It’s about sharing with your people why you are doing what you are doing. A well-crafted message can inspire people to engage and create lasting change in their communities. People are tired of hearing about projects, building plans, and fundraising. They want to connect to a purpose that is bigger than them. Using inbound and digital marketing, you can help share your passion and purpose in a more powerful way.

As you can see, inbound marketing is for more than just tech companies and marketing agencies. It's more than just a form of marketing, it's a better way to tell stories online that get people to take action. If you want to learn more about how your ministry or nonprofit can benefit from inbound, I’d love to connect with you. As someone who spent 15 years in ministry and is still active in helping nonprofits, I'm passionate about helping them grow effectively.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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