The program, which has been operating since 2018, offers area nonprofits the chance to receive a variety of free marketing services over a period of six months. For organizations with limited staffing, budgets, and time, this is a powerful opportunity to improve their digital presence and reach a wider audience.
The heart behind free marketing
Part of 9 Clouds’ manifesto includes the belief that everyone has an equal opportunity to be heard. Additionally, the company states a commitment to building and supporting a community with digital resources.
Every year, the team goes on a retreat during which they conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. At the 2017 retreat, they identified an opportunity for more community involvement.
“We volunteer in the community, but we started thinking about how we can leverage our unique skills and abilities,” Carnes said.
At 9 Clouds, employees are allocated a certain amount of goals time every week—hours set aside to pursue professional development.
As they discussed opportunities for community involvement, employees agreed that they could each offer a portion of their goals time to an area nonprofit. By setting aside these hours, 9 Clouds would be able to offer free marketing services to a nonprofit organization for six months.
Thus, Marketing from the Heart was born.
“This is an opportunity for us to help add volume to a voice that maybe isn’t as heard or doesn’t get as heard as it should,” Carnes said.
How does it work?
The knowledge and training offered by 9 Clouds is different for each nonprofit. Previous participants have received everything from content strategy to email marketing or project management.
“It’s unique to each nonprofit how our services manifest,” Carnes said.
At the outset of the program, the 9 Clouds team sits down for an initial meeting with the nonprofit. They discuss the organization’s pain points, determine areas of focus, and develop a strategy for optimization.
For most nonprofits, hiring a digital agency to manage their website, email campaigns, or social media is financially impossible. 9 Clouds is keenly aware that most applicants would be unable to continue as paying customers after the six months of free service.
Because of the program’s short-term nature, longevity is key when the team sits down to make their selection. Applicants should display a desire to learn and a commitment to applying that knowledge long-term.
“Everything we do for these organizations, we then train them to do,” Carnes said. “If we didn’t do that it wouldn’t be maintained, and that’s an important element.”
Additionally, 9 Clouds won’t set organizations up with any systems or tools they couldn’t afford to use on their own.
“We may offer recommendations for tools that would make their lives easier, but there are a lot of ways to do what we do with free technology,” Carnes said.
While only one organization can be selected, Carnes says nonprofits shouldn’t hesitate to apply again at the next round. In the meantime, she also encourages organizations to look into Google’s grant program. Qualifying nonprofits can receive up to $10,000 per month in Google Ads advertising.
“It’s a really cool opportunity, and the paperwork isn’t hard,” she said.
How to apply
The application for Marketing from the Heart is short and simple. Nonprofits will be asked to explain their current marketing efforts, their goals, and how they envision 9 Clouds’ assistance impacting their organization.
Carnes describes the ideal applicant as someone who recognizes their pain points but has gone a step further to determine their specific needs.
“People love free anything, but if they’ve gone a step further and said, ‘This is a specific thing we need to be better at,’ whether it’s struggling to get volunteers or improving their branding, they’ll get the most out of the program,” Carnes said.
Applications are open through Friday, December 13, and a selection will be made by early January. Fill out an application here.