Finding Purpose in Digital Marketing

Finding Purpose in Digital Marketing


23 August 2022


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


I was recently forwarded a blog post from Cross & Crown, a digital marketing firm based in Pennsylvania whose tagline says they “strive to help educate, advocate, and thrive in a digital world.” The post, Conservation Land Trust Marketing for 2021, is well worth a read if you are considering exploring or investing in digital marketing.

The post is about digital marketing, but it is also itself a digital marketing tool of course, and a very good one. On the surface, it is land trust specific. But subbing out the first few paragraphs with content specific to healthcare and it could just as easily be healthcare specific.

I’ll get into the “new ideas and fresh perspectives” they offer in a minute, but I want to share two things for context first.

  1. Marketing – for what purpose? The land trust mission is a forever mission. The systems we create must be created to outlive us. And that includes systems designed to attract support. Attracting new support for specific programs and projects is good, but we really need members and donors who will go the distance with the land trust. Donors who will support the mission of land conservation and stewardship as a personal value. Who will begin to identify with protected spaces. Who will give year after year and include the land trust in their estate plans.

In several ways, the post leaves room for this idea, but most of it is related to “fighting for likes, page ranks, click-through rates, and shares that capture your audience’s attention and measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.”

I think we should measure the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns based on how many new donors they attract and how long those new donors actually stick around.


  1. Marketing overall versus digital marketing. As most of you know, I have been collecting information from some 40 different land trusts across the country that measure the 5-year value of new donors and members. On average, what is a new member worth over the first five years of their engagement? This is particularly relevant in that it tends to favor land trusts that attract larger first gifts and that are successful in keeping members around for multiple years.

Just about every land trust providing data has some sort of digital marketing program in place – a social media program if nothing else – and many have more sophisticated programs. The median value of the study is right around $800, but the range is $190-$6,000. For the organizations making up the bulk of those with 5-year values GREATER than $800, digital marketing plays more of a complementary role in their overall marketing program.

For the organizations making up the bulk of those with 5-year values LESS than $800, digital marketing IS their marketing program.


The world is changing to be sure, and the authors are correct in saying that “land trust organizations that keep in step with new methodologies are sustaining and growing engagement with new audiences.” But I still subscribe to the premise that just because something is new doesn’t make it better, and just because something is old doesn’t make it antiquated.

What I see in the real world is that face-to-face and paper-based marketing strategies (brochures, mail, and so on) still out-perform digital alternatives in the long run – a point never acknowledged in the post. Digital marketing is a great complement, but should not be considered as a replacement.



With that for context, I’ll reiterate that I found the post thoughtful and useful. Here is a summary:


Conservation Land Trust Marketing Methods Must be Relevant

It takes a person seeing the same message up to 7 or 8 times before the message truly sticks. This is why creating great long-form content and then breaking it down into smaller chunks for social media is an effective marketing strategy for nonprofits.

This is so true and easy to appreciate.


Start with Personas

Personas, also known as customer avatars, are sketches of your ideal customer. While we may agree that everyone needs to be engaged in protecting our national lands, your messages aren’t likely to make a personal connection unless you tailor them specifically to a defined customer persona.

Again – so easy to agree with and applicable to writing appeal letters as much as to designing digital marketing campaigns.


Nail Your Branding and Materials

The authors focus on photo and video content, but also encourage making “sure that your logo, color palette, fonts, and style are reflective of the work you are doing. Then make sure that look and feel appear consistently across all marketing materials—both print and digital—and appeal to the audience you’re trying to reach.”



Conduct Key Word Search

Create Content Optimized for Specific Key Words

The authors have specific ideas about how to do this, but their operating premise is that you are writing digital content that intentionally uses words and phrases that your audience uses when looking for content. This matching work starts by understanding what people are looking for.

The point they make I like a lot is that we should limit content in each post or email to just ONE of those key words. Don’t try to pack everything in all at once.


Promote Blog Content using SEO and PPC Advertising

Frankly out of my depth here, but I will comment that I have heard more than one digital marketing consultant promoting the value of writing blogs over Instagram or YouTube posts. Intuitively, that rings true for me.


Check Your Digital Footprint

They recommend Googling your land trust every so often. I think that’s a good idea. And I would add using the features of the website as well – like making a gift or signing up for a specific program using the website. Report back on your experience. Was it easy and intuitive? Was it more difficult than it should have been?


Build Community Strategically and Intentionally

What they seem to be talking about is designing content to be shared.

Your land trust, conservation efforts, and environmental stories need to be seen and shared. Leverage these digital marketing best practices for nonprofits to reach more people and garner support for your cause.


Maintain a User-Friendly Website

Your website needs to be user-friendly, easy to navigate, informative, and showcase the beauty and environmental needs your work so hard to steward and protect. Ultimately, all the other social media, advertising, and marketing tools will lead people to your website, so make sure it is the very best it can be.




Cheers, and Have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by World Wildlife courtesy of



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1 Comment
  • Jennifer Merritt
    Posted at 11:26h, 23 August

    “The land trust mission is a forever mission. The systems we create must be created to outlive us.” My favorite idea/quote from this blog ever!